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HomeBusinessCity hall wants to transform the PNE Amphitheatre to fill Vancouver’s concert venue gap

City hall wants to transform the PNE Amphitheatre to fill Vancouver’s concert venue gap

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Bob Mackin

Vancouver city hall is looking for a partner to redevelop the Pacific National Exhibition’s Amphitheatre into a destination outdoor live music venue.

Artist’s rendering of the new PNE Amphitheatre (City of Vancouver)

The Nov. 1 request for expressions of interest has a Dec. 12 deadline for bidders and seeks “potential successful, innovative, and forward-thinking commercial or non-profit partners with expertise in event venue partnership arrangements for the proposed redevelopment of the PNE Amphitheatre.”

The current 7,000-capacity amphitheatre, which hosts nightly concerts during the annual PNE Fair and a handful of shows at other times, was built in 1966. It is failing to “meet the market’s requirements for accessibility and guest amenities.”

“This, coupled with an identified gap in the supply of venue space in Vancouver and an increase in market demand for events, has triggered consideration to redevelop the Amphitheatre venue,” the tendering document says.

Besides the PNE Amphitheatre, Vancouver’s only outdoor venue for touring shows during summer months is the 2,000-capacity Malkin Bowl at Stanley Park. Many touring shows that play outdoor venues in other markets during summer months end up inside at Rogers Arena.

Artist’s renderings of the new PNE Amphitheatre show covered seating, similar to what once existed at the Plaza of Nations on the old Expo 86 site. Vancouver’s only dedicated outdoor concert venue was the Expo Theatre, which was demolished three years after the world’s fair. Concord Pacific turned down four proposals for a buyer, including one from concert promoter Perryscope, which wanted to take it down and reassemble it at Surrey’s Tynehead Regional Park. The Plaza of Nations was a frequent concert venue after Expo 86, but landlord Canadian Metropolitan Properties let the complex fall into disrepair. The distinctive canopy and half the buildings were demolished in 2007. 

Expo Theatre, which was demolished three years after the fair (Expo 86)

The PNE foresees the new amphitheatre holding as much as 9,820, including a mix of floor seats, bleachers and VIP seating in lounges and suites. It would have three permanent structures for washrooms, concessions, offices, dressing rooms, lounges and suites and flex meeting space. There would be a covering for the floor and bleachers, and a stage with sound that would minimize the impact on neighbours.

PNE wants to increase year-round programming and revenue, with allowance for not-for-profit programming and First Nations while continuing PNE Fair exclusive access during the Fair period every summer. It also aims to boost the local music industry and honour all-site-wide union contracts.

Ideally, city hall wants bidders who can book successful programming, secure and manage venue naming rights, balance commercial and public goals within the public site, finance and build with public sector partners, and maintain facilities that meet safety and guest requirements while allowing access to diverse groups.

Not only does the PNE want to make it more accessible, with pedestrian and bicycle connections to New Brighton Park and the waterfront, but it wants the amphitheatre to form a new “Heart of the Park” with the neighbouring festival plaza and livestock building. 

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