Of all the outdoor venues for sport in Canada, the International Ring at Spruce Meadows, on the outskirts of Calgary, stands out as a diamond in the rough.

To many it is a revelation.

Spruce Meadows is an under-appreciated jewel where, since its opening in 1975, millions of people from around the world have flocked. Experts agree that this venue has few, if any equals on the face of the earth.

The grounds at Spruce Meadows had their beginnings as a cattle feed lot more than 30 years ago, but steadily the place has blossomed into horse heaven and the final word in show jumping. It is the closest thing Canada can claim to baseball’s iconic Wrigley Field in Chicago.

Toronto has historic Maple Leaf Gardens and the retractable roof at Rogers Centre. Montreal boasts the most expensive white elephant in the country in the Olympic Stadium. Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium claims the greatest permanent seating capacity of more than 60,000 as well as real grass.

But Spruce Meadows is much more impressive.

Comprised of 360 acres including two indoor and six outdoor competition rings, it has stabling for 1,000 horses. The place stages three seasonal tournaments and each year attendance approaches and often exceeds 500,000. The record one-day total in the showcase International Ring is 65,000, recorded last September as the Olympic medallists from Canada returned home to take on their rivals at the Spruce Meadows Masters.

There is an immense clock tower flanked by sprawling grandstands and a giant natural grass bank where families rush to sit on blankets and watch the spectacular horses jump on the immaculate turf. The grass is always groomed to an emerald green in spite of the precocious foothills weather and luxuriates over the space of four full football fields in the shadow of the majestic Rockies.

Spruce Meadows can take your breath away.

There is also a magic goes beyond the competition it fosters. At Spruce Meadows it has always been about accessibility. Admission for the day is five dollars per family and if you don’t have the coin they’ll let you in free.

All of which makes the International Ring at Spruce Meadows a masterpiece stadium not to be missed.

– Scott Russell is the Host of CBC Sports Weekend seen Saturday afternoons. He has covered professional and amateur sports including nine Olympic games and numerous world championships.

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