Park board committee supports larger venue for Bard on the Beach Festival

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Bard on the Beach tent, 1990

Last night the Vancouver Park Board’s planning and environment committee declared its support for a proposal from Bard on the Beach Festival to expand its Vanier Park venue by 400 seats over the next two years.

The decision came after a presentation by Bard artistic director Christopher Gaze and managing director Robert Barr, in which the two cited growing numbers, technical deficiencies and audience discomfort as reasons for the upgrade and expansion.

“The whole thrust is trying to make Bard more available to more people,” Gaze said. “We’ve been playing to capacity audiences for about the last five or six years. We have reached the moment where we must change to address the fact that more people want to come, and we must get them in.”

The festival requested permission to increase the number of seats in the main stage tent by 240 in 2011 and the studio stage tent by 160 in 2012. The stages will be covered by custom-designed and purpose-built tents and be reconfigured to fit in an area only six per cent larger than the existing space. The cost of the new tents is an estimated $2.5 million.

As part of the pitch, Gaze and Barr presented the results of two surveys conducted between Aug. 1st and 20th. In a neighbourhood survey mailed to 1,206 households in a catchment area identified by the park board, more than 85 per cent of 122 respondents either had no concerns about Bard’s proposed expansion or were in favour of it, provided impacts on parking and site access are addressed as needed. Just under 15 per cent of respondents were opposed to the expansion.

Those who opposed cited use of park space, parking and traffic as concerns.

The committee’s recommendation will be carried over to a regular board meeting on either September 20th or October 3rd, when it is expected to receive official approval.

Last modified: September 10, 2010

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