The Pacific National Exhibition’s amphitheatre will get a major facelift, after council directed staff this week to upgrade the venue to allow for expanded capacity and year-round operation.
The amphitheatre renewal project, which council approved unanimously, will feature a covered stage, floor and bleachers, allowing the venue to host concerts through the rainy months.
The total PNE amphitheatre project is estimated to cost $64.8 million over the next five years. At Wednesday’s meeting, council approved city staff’s request for $6 million for planning, design and preliminary infrastructure upgrades associated with the amphitheatre project, as well as another $1.1 million for other infrastructure renewal at the Hastings Park site.
The upgrade will expand venue capacity from 7,000 to 9,340, seeking to “fill a major gap in the local venue market,” a city staff report says, and increase the number of events outside the annual PNE Fair from five to 49, boosting annual revenue from $1.4 million to an estimated $9.7 million. The project is forecast to pay for itself within 12 years.
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Over the last six decades, the existing amphitheatre has hosted touring acts like Hall and Oates, and local legends like Doug and The Slugs. But, the report says, the open-air concert venue is “is now in poor condition and no longer meets the needs of performers, artists and 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 … The venue includes out-of-date concession areas, limited washrooms, and poor accessibility for guests, hindering the venue’s ability to leverage the space to its potential.”
The upgrade will also introduce permanent back-of-house infrastructure and improved guest amenities.
In a city press release, OneCity Coun. Christine Boyle called the amphitheatre project “a public investment that will benefit Vancouver for decades to come.”
Independent Coun. Sarah Kirby-Yung said: “Seeing concerts and shows at the Amphitheatre is quintessentially Vancouver. … The business case is strong with full payback of city-fronted capital, but what can’t be quantified are the priceless experiences and memories that will be created for new generations of music lovers.”
Kirby-Yung asked staff to endeavour to expedite the project, aiming to have the venue operational earlier than the original 2026 completion date.