Clarke Stadium was used for more than just football. It had a track and in 1947 Edmonton hosted the Canadian Track and Field Championships. The Edmonton Bulletin took lots of photographs, including this action in a women's hurdles race. In the late 1920s, a number of Edmontonians began a campaign to convince the federal government to give up a large 95 acre tract of land in east central Edmonton for a new athletic park. The land had been used briefly for a federal penitentiary until World War I, when the prison closed, and for the next decade the land and buildings remained largely unused.
The city acquired 26 of the 95 acres on a long-term lease in 1930. A plan of the area from 1930 shows baseball diamonds, rugby football and soccer fields, a cricket pitch, and sports ground with a cinder running track on the land. Joseph A. Clarke led the campaign for the sports field, and by 1935 as mayor of Edmonton, he was in a position to push an even more ambitious plan for a stadium and athletic park forward.
This plan required considerable funds and a lot of lobbying to secure support from different sports organizations. Newspaper reports in 1938 indicated that the city had spent about $46,000 on the various facilities in the park, including recent expenditures of about $7000 for a football stadium with bleacher seating for 2,040 people, dressing rooms for home and visiting teams, and parking for spectators' cars. The following year City Council paid for floodlights, and the Edmonton Eskimos' first home game under the lights in 1939 brought in a gate of $800 – 16% of which went to the city!
The new stadium was named Clarke Stadium after the former mayor who had done so much to make the athletic park possible.
The popularity of football continued to grow, and after World War II, a largely professional football league, the Western Interprovincial Football Union, attracted teams from several cities in western Canada. In 1949, the Edmonton Eskimos joined this precursor to the West Division of the Canadian Football League.
Football was the most popular sporting activity at Clarke Stadium and the Eskimos were Edmonton's team. This dramatic photo was taken at a 1954 game between the Eskimos and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. In the early 1950s, seating at the stadium was expanded almost every year. In 1954, a new west grandstand was built raising seating capacity at the old stadium to 20,667. In 1961, the stadium was expanded again when the east grandstand was built, raising total capacity by another 5,500 seats. Unfortunately the stadium which also hosted track and field events, high school football games, and other sports, was showing its age. When Edmonton was selected to host the 1978 Commonwealth Games, brief consideration was given to completely refurbishing Clarke Stadium before a decision was made to build a completely new, significantly larger venue beside the old stadium. Work began on the new Commonwealth Stadium in 1976, and the Eskimos played their last game at Clarke Stadium (a 14-8 victory over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers) in August 1978.
A smaller, refurbished Clarke Stadium continues on in use as a secondary sports venue hosting high school and amateur sports teams literally in the shadow of its larger neighbour, Commonwealth Stadium.