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HomeBusinessPlayland’s new rollercoaster costing more than originally announced 

Playland’s new rollercoaster costing more than originally announced 

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Bob Mackin

The most-expensive ride in Playland history, to debut in 2024, is costing more than originally announced. 

Last November, PNE management said Italy’s Zamperla would design and build Canada’s fastest launch rollercoaster for $9 million.

The siting of Playland’s new rollercoaster complicated plans for the new PNE Amphitheatre, according to documents released by Vancouver city hall under freedom of information. (Mackin photos)

But when it revealed the ride’s ThunderVolt name on Wednesday, the project price tag was $16 million, a 77 percent difference. 

PNE spokesperson Laura Ballance said that the $9 million figure was the cost of purchasing the “tracking and trains of the physical coaster” in early 2021.

“We knew at the time, obviously, there’s going to be construction costs, there’s going to be theming costs, and as well as other soft and hard costs related to ultimately delivering a project of this size, scale and scope,” Ballance said. “But we didn’t know what those were going to be. We didn’t know what our theme was going to be. So we didn’t have accurate numbers.”

Ballance said the PNE’s business case for the new ride ranged from $7 million to $25 million. The $16 million budget will also include landscaping, irrigation and fencing.

Asked why the PNE did not disclose the total budget originally last year, Ballance said the PNE decided to release “the numbers as we actually knew them, rather than putting them out as we guessed at them.”

“What we’re trying to do is ensure that we’re giving as accurate numbers as possible along the way, rather than guessing back in 2021, what the construction costs, what the geotech costs, what the theming costs, because without a theme, we really didn’t feel we were able to more accurately pinpoint it,” she said.

In 2021, the PNE was struggling financially due to the pandemic. It even announced cancellation of the annual summer fair on May 5 of that year but reconsidered almost two months later and decided to go-ahead with a scaled-down version. 

The City of Vancouver-owned organization is a not-for-profit that normally relies on ticket sales, food and beverage sales, venue rentals and sponsorships at Hastings Park. In the fiscal year ended March 30, 2023, the PNE reported $17.4 million revenue from pandemic-related government grants. It finished the year with a $21.6 million surplus. 

In July, Vancouver city council revealed the budget for the new 10,000-seat PNE Amphitheatre had ballooned by 53 per cent, from $64.8 million to $103.7 million.

A staff report cited additional features, market conditions, soil remediation, an archaeological assessment and relocation of an underground pipe. 

But a project update for a meeting last February about the Hastings Park-PNE Master Plan, obtained under the freedom of information law, said the new thrill ride conflicted with the amphitheatre’s footprint. 

There were three options proposed: rotate the coaster 180 degrees, reduce amphitheatre seating or shift the amphitheatre west. The rolllercoaster was shifted just 10 metres northeast, but that caused a $1.5 million increase due to additional site servicing and piling work for the final location. 

Labour Day’s PNE Fair-closing Blue Rodeo concert was the last for the existing, 59-year-old amphitheatre. Completion of the new one is targeted for spring 2026 so that it can be the centrepiece of the city’s FIFA Fan Zone for the 2026 World Cup.

PNE chair Sarah Kirby-Yung, a member of the city council majority ABC party, did not respond for comment. 

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