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City considering $64.8 million renewal of PNE amphitheatre

The expansion would see capacity increase by more than 2,300.
AmphitheatrePlan
A rendering of what an updated PNE amphitheatre may look like.

The City of Vancouver wants to turn the amphitheatre at the Pacific National Exhibition (PNE) into "a world-class outdoor space."

The time has come to "renew" the amphitheatre, according to the city's Hastings Park/PNE Master Plan, and administration is looking at growing the live entertainment venue. While estimates are still early, per a report going to the city's committee on policy and strategic priorities, the project is estimated to cost around $64.8 million.

Right now they're looking for approval of $7.1 million to begin the planning, design and preliminary work to move forward with the plan. It's expected to cost $15.4 million; $8.3 million has already been allocated. 

"The renewal and upgrade of the Amphitheatre venue will create a world-class outdoor space enabling growth of community and commercial events, establish a vibrant, year-round cultural space, and increase revenues to make the site financially sustainable," states administration in the report.

The master plan was approved back in 2010, which directed staff to make the park greener, accessible and economically vibrant.

Updating the amphitheatre is seen as a major step in achieving those goals. The current structure was built in the 1960s and has a capacity of 7,000 (4,500 on benches, 2,000 standing).

"The existing open-air Amphitheatre is now in poor condition and no longer meets the needs of performers, artists and guests. The venue lacks permanent back-of-house facilities and cover for guests. The venue includes out-of-date concession areas, limited washrooms, and poor accessibility for guests, hindering the venue’s ability to leverage the space to its potential," notes the report.

An updated venue would improve on all of those issues, they add, and would allow for an increased capacity. The upgrades, in turn, would allow for increased revenue, notably with larger crowds and an extended operating season. Currently, the amphitheatre sees around 5 events a year outside of the PNE's fair. With upgrades the city estimates that'll increase to 49.

"The Amphitheatre is envisaged to be used by the PNE to present its own shows and events, as well as being offered for rent to individuals, associations, and corporations who will promote, organize and deliver community events," notes the report.

Staff have put together three options for upgrades, ranging from a minimal choice that would cost around $41.8 million to a high-end upgrade that would cost around $82.4 million. The third option is recommended by administration, costing around 64.8 million.

It would include increased capacity to 9,340, new front and back of house facilities, a covered stage (and seating) and additional flex space. City staff estimate it would take 12 years to pay back, with revenue increasing from $1.4 million a year to $9.7 million.

Right now the city is still in the planning stage; construction isn't expected until 2024 at the earliest - that's if council approves the motion for a planning and development budget.

Other upgrades to Hasting Park being discussed is a 'Heart of the Park' project which would see the "forgotten" Hastings Creek redeveloped to be "daylighted" on its path to the Burrard Inlet.

"The Hastings Creek stream restoration is intended to be part of a larger watershed analysis that will meet drainage needs while improving biodiversity and water quality to Burrard Inlet," states the report.