Officials with the Pacific National Exhibition are still working on early-stage plans of the much-needed renewal of Playland, which has seen relatively limited major upgrades and expansion over the last few decades.
In 2016, the PNE unveiled early concepts of a complete revitalization of the existing 15-acre footprint of Playland, while also expanding the amusement park’s footprint northwards by seven acres to a total footprint of 22 acres. In the process, the amusement park would gain heavily themed areas and new rides.
According to a recent project update, a preliminary analysis indicates the intensiveness of this early design concept remains the preferred redevelopment scenario due to its revenue and attendance potential.
At the moment, PNE staff are working towards a completion of the redevelopment’s business case, which may be done by 2020. Previous construction cost estimates peg this project at $120 million; staff are currently in the process of updating the cost and evaluating funding and alternative financing options.
After the approval of the business case, detailed planning and design could follow through 2022 — the possible start date for construction. It is anticipated the entire Playland renovation and expansion project will not be completed until 2028.
The update also states one identified challenge with the scope of Playland expansion concept is the need for an additional 990 vehicle parking stalls, given the expected growth in attendance and the loss of parking space at the northeast corner of Hastings Park to allow for the expanded amusement park.
To address this problem, transportation demand management strategies could include new parking lots at other locations, new carpool-only lots, new bicycle storage and valet, more small car spaces, and a potential shuttle service from SkyTrain.
For years, since Vancouver city council’s 2010 approval of the Hastings Park master plan, PNE officials have been planning for new and renewed event and gathering facilities that will provide Hastings Park with a significantly improved capability to host programming during The Fair at the PNE and other periods of the year.
An analysis of Playland’s market penetration, commissioned by the PNE, compared Canada’s Wonderland in Toronto and Six Flags’ La Ronde in Montreal, and it found that Vancouver’s amusement park underperforms in all market categories.
For instance, Wonderland and La Ronde have a penetration of 38% (1.29 million annual attendees) and 35% (900,000 annual attendees), respectively, for the primary market of the population that lives within a 30-minute-long drive from the amusement park. Playland’s figure, in comparison, was just 15%, translating to an annual attendance of 270,000 from this close-proximity market.
Wonderland and La Ronde also have a markedly higher tourist appeal; the Toronto attraction has a tourist penetration of 11% or 690,000 annual tourists, while the Montreal attraction’s penetration is 3% or 200,000 annual tourists. Despite having a similar tourist population of about six million, adjusted for season, Vancouver’s amusement park tourist penetration is just 1% or 6,000 annual tourists.
With overall annual attendance, Wonderland sees 3.79 people, La Ronde sees 1.81 million people, and Playland sees 420,000 people. All three amusement parks operate seasonally between May and October.
However, the analysis concludes there is demand for the Playland expansion based on regional tourism growth trends, industry performance, and Playland’s own performance, which has seen a higher attendance growth rate (outside The Fair period) than Wonderland and La Ronde between 2014 and 2017.
Of the three amusement parks, Playland’s rides had the lowest ride quality ratings. Its average attendance per day during the operating season is also far lower at about 4,700 people, with Wonderland at an average of over 31,300 people and La Ronde at 17,100 people. But in terms of footprint, Playland is 15 acres, Wonderland is 330 acres, and La Ronde is 146 acres.
When it comes to amusement park capacity, Wonderland can accommodate up to 42,200 people, La Ronde can fit 27,800 people, and Playland can pack 17,800 people.