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newflyer Jun 22, 2009 3:23 AM

Assiniboine Park | Winnipeg | Development
Park facelift pitched
Conservancy prices works at $180 million


Last Updated: 20th June 2009, 4:18am

A redeveloped polar bear-friendly zoo, splashy new conservatory, treetop zip-line and man-made recreational rushing river are among the attractions that will come to Assiniboine Park for $180 million.

The Assiniboine Park Conservancy has set that price tag for an ambitious makeover of Winnipeg's primary green space, and said yesterday it wants 75% of the cost covered by the three levels of government.


In announcing the project at the park's Lyric Theatre, Conservancy chairman Hartley Richardson and president Margaret Redmond said they're seeking $45 million from private donations and the corporate sector, and the same sum from each of the city, province and federal government.

Their plan is to complete the decade-long transformation in stages as the cash comes together.

Among the slated improvements to the 105-year-old park are a "family centre" building, a new conservatory with rock and waterfall features, a zip-line, a river-style water facility, a vastly expanded duck pond and a renovated zoo with improved entrance off Corydon Avenue.

"The vision and plan for Assiniboine Park is both exciting and achievable," Richardson told a crowd of park stakeholders. "It is inspiring, it is dynamic and it will take the park to a whole new level."

Assiniboine Park Zoo would see dramatic upgrades -- particularly to its polar bear enclosure, with an underwater viewing area added -- as well as a polar bear conservation and research centre.

Though the zoo has had no polar bears since last fall, Richardson said "at least two" such animals would be sought.

Other park and zoo makeover proposals in recent years have gone nowhere, but Redmond said this project's business plan makes it credible.

A first phase to possibly open within two years is a children's "nature playground," Redmond explained, "with tree forts, a children's garden and beautiful rolling hills and swings in the trees," as well as a larger duck pond for "interacting with the water" via islands, stepping stones and miniature boats.

The "family centre" in that area will include a small eatery. As well, Redmond said, the project calls for a "rushing river running through the forest, where you can ride inner-tubes."

Senior Manitoba MP Vic Toews and a spokesman for Premier Gary Doer, said they look forward to seeing more details.

Coun. Grant Nordman (St. Charles) said that while the cost sounds daunting, the city's share of perhaps $4.5 million annually for 10 years might be found by shuffling cash within current budgets.

"How do you feed an elephant?" Nordman said. "With one bite at a time."

Source: Winnipeg Sun

newflyer Jun 22, 2009 3:35 AM

From what I have seen and heard this sounds like a very interesting project, which would do alot of good for the city. This 105 year old park has been needing an updated look for a long while and reviving this premier city park will be great for the residents and visitors of Winnipeg alike.

$180 million is a sizable price tag, but it will result in one hell of an upgrade.

nordique Jun 22, 2009 3:40 AM

i was wondering what was taking so long for this to show up here.

colour me excited.

Wpg_Guy Jun 22, 2009 5:04 AM

If the Feds can pony up millions for Chipmens Mooseplex they best be making plans to release some that stimulus money to the park.

1ajs Jun 22, 2009 5:13 AM

indeed would be sweet the zoo could realy use it

Boreal Jun 22, 2009 5:45 AM

I really and truly believe the Assiniboine Park Zoo has to raise entrance fees. I'm not trying to shut out the poor, but if all we are trying to do is cater to the lowest common economic denominator, then we will get nowhere. It doesn't have to be an atrocious rise, but a modest increase could, should and would do wonders for the entire property. I doubt the masses take in the zoo itself more than a handful of times a year. I'm guessing 4-5 trips per annum would be considered a frequent goer. Under the assumption that this is true, a modest increase in gate fare wouldn't reflect hard on the people who go. That is to say that people will continue to go even with a price increase of X percent (say 50% for example) because going to the zoo is something people do because it is an outing and not because it is cheap.

I recognize there are many ways one could steer this argument, but if we are fundamentally looking to readically transform the Assinboine Park and Zoo property, then I think this would be an appropriate way to put dollars in the bucket.

I certainly hope the project moves forward with no scale backs.

1ajs Jun 22, 2009 5:54 AM

so ur saying it should go up to 15-20$ per person?

wags_in_the_peg Jun 22, 2009 2:07 PM

180 million over 10 yrs is 18 million a year. divide that b/w feds, prov, city, public that is only 4.5 million each...i think it is very very doable

Boreal Jun 22, 2009 4:13 PM


Originally Posted by 1ajs (Post 4319334)
so ur saying it should go up to 15-20$ per person?

I'm not trying to throw out a concrete figure as I admittedly haven't done the math, nor do I have the numbers for current attendance, projected future attendance, and what the long term plan is, beyond that which is detailed in the Free Press (which is more rehabilititation than long term future planning). I whole-heartedly believe that we should be emulating the successes seen by the zoos in Calgary and Minneapolis. Whatever their business plan is, and arrangement with governements are, it is clearly radically superior to ours. I'm not advocating that we can play on the same scale as Minneapolis with a monorail running through our establishment, but on a smaller scale, I'd like to see similar grandeur. So, if that does mean ADULT fare is $15 with kids at $12, then perhaps that is the route we need to take.

How many people in this city currently don't go to the zoo on purpose, because it is an utter embarassment? I'd argue that the number is fairly significant. Some things - like zoos, and water parks, and amusement parks, etc. - you cannot cater to the lowest common economic denominator. Or, if you do, as is exhibited by the Assiniboine Park Zoo, you get a run down, dilapidated and decaying venue. I'm all for assisting those who don't have much. Absolutely. Food, shelter, internet access, transportation, education, green spaces, etc. However building an 'affordable' zoo is not something I believe to be a social project. It is an entertainment venue (in addition to being a centre of research and education - much like the Human Rights Museum, and that isn't going to be catered to the lowest common economic denominator by any stretch of the imagination. We shouldn't settle for a 9th rate Zoo, just so every person can 'afford' to go. Like the Human Rights Museum, like the ROM, like the Calgary Zoo, if you can't afford to go, then you simply do not go. It is not social oppression. It is economic and entertainment reality. I want a zoo of high calibre. I'm positive the same goes for many others. If that means I have to pay 15, 16, 17, 18 dollars for the experience (with say a 30-40% reduced rate for children 12 and under or whatever arbitrary amoutn one wishes to use), then I would gladly do so.

Andy6 Jun 22, 2009 5:29 PM

The zoo always seemed fine when I was little and there was no charge to enter. I'm not sure that we want a $20/ticket zoo. Can't we just get some of the cheaper animals and not worry about copying Calgary? Everyone just heads straight for the prairie dogs anyway. Bring back a polar bear or two and everything should be OK. I would have it at $2 per adult and kids free or something. There are hardly any zoos left anyway, so even if Winnipeg's does nothing it will soon be world-class due to lack of competition.

The Jabroni Jun 22, 2009 5:35 PM

This is what happens when you neglect the park and the Zoo. You will have naysayers sh*tting on this proposal, but I think this 180 million dollar proposal is well overdue. Everything in that park seriously needs a facelift, especially the zoo.

I would gladly go to the zoo more often than before if this goes ahead. I don't care if I pay 20 dollars, or 50 dollars to get in. If it means the "less fortunate" won't be able to get in, then that's too bad. Don't get me wrong, as I too support social development for everyone. Then again, it really shouldn't have been that way in the first place, being a "relatively easy" access to the zoo.

The zoo desperately needed renovations from the get-go, and from what I'm seeing in this proposal, it will definitely be worth the bang for the buck if this whole thing goes through.

1ajs Jun 22, 2009 5:40 PM

the zoo needs upgrades its a fact but our zoo is more of a breeding center more then a show house. the zoo makes extra money from events like boo at the zoo.........

Only The Lonely.. Jun 22, 2009 8:04 PM


Originally Posted by Andy6 (Post 4319902)
The zoo always seemed fine when I was little and there was no charge to enter. I'm not sure that we want a $20/ticket zoo. Can't we just get some of the cheaper animals and not worry about copying Calgary? Everyone just heads straight for the prairie dogs anyway. Bring back a polar bear or two and everything should be OK. I would have it at $2 per adult and kids free or something. There are hardly any zoos left anyway, so even if Winnipeg's does nothing it will soon be world-class due to lack of competition.

Having a beer gardens at the Zoo wouldn't be a bad idea either...

Boreal Jun 22, 2009 11:53 PM

Absolutely. Assiniboine Park should have an urban makeup in addition to the giant Green Space, much like Stanley Park in Vancouver (the Aquarium, etc.). A spring/summer/fall beer garden would be interesting. Administratively, I suppose there would be challenges regarding policy on over-consumption, litter, etc. It is the type of outside the box thinking that I hope our administrators start to actively consider.

Andy6, I don't mean to come across as saying we should copy Calgary, but their zoo is unquestionably a very successful operation that we would be foolish not to consider as a model. There aren't many zoos operational, but that is even more reason for us to look after ours. To say a rundown zoo is better than no zoo and perhaps something that we should accept seems strange to me. Whether I'm in competition with 1 or 100,000, my goal is to be the best. For Winnipeg to be last or near last of a small group (metros with zoos) is not something I take pride in. I don't want to throw around the term world-class, but I want something to call our own, and not just to say we have but to be proud of what we have. If that takes a few dollars, then I hope we follow through instead of the coming stance of wondering how the poorest of the poor will afford to go.

A society is to be judged by how it treats its most unfortunate. With that being said, accessibility of a zoo is not in any way a measure of the condition of the financially disadvantaged people of Winnipeg.

chrisallard5454 Oct 26, 2011 2:52 PM

Donation from Richardson's
Rihardson's give a 5 million dollar donation to bear exhibit.

chrisallard5454 Jan 23, 2012 5:13 PM

The Polar Bear Centre is slated to open today.

pollswpg Jan 24, 2012 12:23 AM

I went to the zoo last week and it's looking pretty bare bones. They've taken down the old barn and build up a new one nearby, but it hasn't opened yet.

I tried to peak through the wooden fences to look at the polar bear exhibit but couldn't see anything. The zoo is going to look fantastic once it's all sounds as though it'll be a lot more comfortable for the animals too - which is great.

Tower Crane Jan 25, 2012 4:39 AM

Zoo part of city fabric
Do whatever you can too keep improving the zoo. Every kid loves a zoo visit and Winnipeg has a great diamond in the ruff.
Since i currently call edmonton home i can say Edmonton's zoo sucks and I really see and feel its like something missing, like some missing city fabric.

I fully support any improvements or upkeep to the Assiniboine park or zoo.

J-MAN Jan 25, 2012 5:32 PM


Originally Posted by Tower Crane (Post 5563067)
i can say Edmonton's zoo sucks

no offence anyone but I totally agree. Winnipeg's zoo kicks edmonton's zoo's but!

wags_in_the_peg Dec 19, 2012 12:41 AM

Assiniboine Park’s new Conservatory is getting international help.

Winnipeg’s Smith Carter and Toronto’s KPMB Architects will work with Stuttgart, Germany and Cinncinatti-based firms to design the $30-50 million building

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