Vancouver Park Board approves temporary ban on hosting new for-profit events

May 21 2019, 10:28 pm

The Vancouver Park Board (VPB) has voted to put a moratorium on new commercial events until they have updated their special event guidelines.

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Existing events will be maintained, but the board has been directed to halt the introduction of any new commercial initiatives until after the guidelines — which were last updated in 2003 — have been updated and approved.

This could mean that if popular commercial events like lululemon SeaWheeze Half-Marathon’s Sunset Festival, Diner en Blanc, and Skookum music festival were proposed this year on park lands, the board would not entertain the application until after the guidelines are updated.

According to a presentation to commissioners by Octavio Silva, manager of business development with VPB, although these events do provide quite a bit of value, and make some of the legacy improvements to their facilities possible, “there is a clear need for an update to the guidelines.”

The decision was approved based on the need to “address current issues and ensure alignment with the values and principles of the Park Board, and to better support Vancouver’s event community.”

Silva’s presentation also mentioned that the inventory of large event spaces in Vancouver — including Northeast False Creek and Larwill Park — have significantly decreased due to development and new uses, so event planners are increasingly looking at park spaces as potential event venues.

Without the ability to use parks as venues, many events would struggle to find a home in Vancouver.

Artistic rendering of Concord Pacific’s redevelopment design on its portion of the Northeast False Creek. This site was previously key to the now-defunct Molson Indy Vancouver race, and it is the frequent home of Cirque du Soleil and other special events. (Concord Pacific)

New Vancouver Art Gallery

Redevelopment of the Larwill Park city block: The new Vancouver Art Gallery (right) and two office towers (left). This site has been used for Live City festivities during the 2010 Olympics, the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup fan zone, and the City of Vancouver’s Canada 150+ festival. (Vancouver Art Gallery)

Paul Runnals, an owner of BrandLive, the event production company behind the annual Celebration of Light fireworks festival and last year’s Skookum Festival, also spoke at Monday’s meeting to urge the board to allow commercial events to proceed while the board reconsidered the guidelines.

“We support the need for an updated and balanced strategy towards the hosting of public and private events, which is respectful of the rich and historical importance of certain sites to the local First Nations, while still making space available for free and community events,” says Runnals.

“However, this strategy must also facilitate private events that support the meeting and convention sector, as well as commercial events that bring in significant cultural, economic, tourism and employment benefits to the city, to local businesses and to local residents.”

According to Silva, however, the update needs to be comprehensive: “If we move in this direction, it’ll better address park board public and industry needs going forward.”

Events that are organized by non-profit organizations will not be affected by the temporary ban.

The update is anticipated to take 12 to 15 months to complete.

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