Big changes will be coming to the Pacific National Exhibition over the coming years, as identified by Vancouver City Council’s 2010-approved master plan for the future of Hastings Park, which includes a significant expansion of Playland.
One major existing purpose-built event space that is geared for renewal is the aging outdoor amphitheatre, which has in recent years seen growing utilization for concerts both during The Fair and other periods of the year.
This event venue currently has a capacity for up to 7,000 people, including 4,500 in bench-style seating and 2,500 standees on the amphitheatre floor.
In the 2000s, this space was even used for monster truck demonstrations as one of the programming offerings during The Fair.
Possible future condition
A recent planning update for the amphitheatre renewal provides a first glimpse of a preliminary design concept for rebuilding the venue into an attractive location for events.
There could be an expansive roof structure to cover the entirety of the outdoor venue’s grandstand and floor area to protect spectators from the elements. Such a roof that extends the operating season could be crucial to the venue’s financial success.
Other desired features include new power and water connections, washrooms, food and beverage concessions, catering and reception areas, box office, VIP suites, back-of-house facilities, and a covered stage.
There would be flexibility to the stage size, seating configurations, and floor plans to allow for the venue’s use by a wide range of events.
According to the PNE’s market research, there is significant demand for such a rebuilt venue with event-hosting capability enhancements, given the region’s growing event industry fuelled by rising event attendance and tourism.
In fact, in an event industry survey, local event organizers expressed concern over a lack in supply of suitable local venues. Within Metro Vancouver, there is a shortage of affordable venues with a lower capacity of 2,000 to 5,000 people and a higher capacity of 5,000 to 7,500 people. Such venues have been deemed in “high demand” by event organizers.
Over 70% of survey respondents expressed interest in renting the amphitheatre after major renovations are completed.
Similar covered amphitheatre-style venues can be found elsewhere in the world. For instance, downtown Toronto’s waterfront has the 420-seat Harbourfront Centre Theatre and the 16,000-person capacity Budweiser Stage at Ontario Place, and downtown Singapore has the 450-seat Outdoor Theatre at Marina Bay.
The Plaza of Nations, built as the BC Pavilion for the Expo ’86 World’s Fair, on the edge of False Creek in downtown Vancouver, had an impressive glass roof covering its amphitheatre. However, a decision was made by the property owner in 2007 to demolish the roof due to its deterioration, as it was meant to be a temporary structure.