History of the Park

The history of Hastings Park has been quite colourful and political. Here is information about major milestones to date:

Timeline of Hastings Park

Despite its historical designation as green space for the east side of Vancouver, Hastings Park has served as a venue for horse racing, boarding and training, concerts, professional sports, conventions, trade shows, movie shoots, parking lots and the annual 17 day fair for more than a century. As a result, the northeast sector of the city has almost no greenspace that is larger than the usual one-block field.

Hastings Park of Yesteryear


1888-89: City Council requests that the Provincial Government grant land to the City for a park in the Hastings Townsite. In 1889, the Provincial Government grants 160 acres of land “for the use, recreational and enjoyment of the public” by way of a Trust.

1892: Horse racing made its first appearance in Hastings Park, when City Council leased 15 acres of land for a racetrack.

1908: City Council leases 60 acres of land (which included the racetrack) to the Vancouver Exhibition Association (VEA) in the northwest corner of the park.

1910: the lease was expanded to include the whole of Hastings Park.

1920s: The amusement park, called “Happyland” is built.

1930s: The Livestock Building, the Pure Foods Building, Rollerland, the Forum, Showmart, and the Garden Auditorium. The stream through the park is filled in.

1942-46: Hastings Park is used for military purposes during World War II.

1950s: The B.C. Pavilion opens. Empire Stadium is christened by the famous “miracle mile” at the 1954 Empire Games, and then becomes home to the newly formed B.C. Lions football club. Happyland is demolished, and the new amusement park, Playland, is built.

1960s: The PNE makes an unsuccessful grab for New Brighton Park thanks to local residents. The Agrodome (1963) and the Coliseum (1968) open, with the Vancouver Canucks playing their first NHL hockey game in 1970. The B.C. Sports Hall of Fame opens in the B.C. Pavilion. The Racetrack is upgraded and expanded. The stadium in Callister Park is torn down and made into a park. The Beatles perform at Empire Stadium in 1964.

1980s: Neighbourhood residents set upon reclaiming the alienated Hastings Park, according to the terms of the original 1889 Legal Trust by which Hastings Park was created. The Hastings Park Restoration Society and the Friends of Hastings Park Community Coalition triumph when, in 1994, the City agrees to return the site to parkland.

February 1996: the principles that would inform future development are published in a document entitled “The Greening of Hastings Park Restoration Program.” (View the document in PDF format)

Both the Park Board and the City Council unanimously approve the program and set money aside in subsequent capital plans to start the project.

1997-98: Park Board remove five exhibition buildings to make way for the Park (the B.C. Pavilion, Food Building, Showmart, Display Barn and the Poultry Building).

1998-99: The first section of the Sanctuary is built.

2000-01: Italian Gardens and Playing Fields at Empire Bowl constructed.

2001: Newly elected Liberal provincial government cancels PNE move to its new home in Surrey and decides to keep it in Hastings Park, putting the rest of the ’96 restoration plan in limbo.

October 2003: In anticipation of the transfer of the PNE to the City of Vancouver, the provincial government passes Bill 83 a.k.a. The Pacific National Exhibition Validating and Enabling Act, to permit past, present and future commercial and “non-conforming” activities on the site and avoid being liable for contravening the terms of the Trust.

January 1, 2004: Ownership of the PNE is transferred from the Province to the City.

June 2004: Council instructs staff to solve major issues around governance and parking in order to adopt something between plan 3 & 4 submitted by staff, after a mock “visioning” process held in January 04. (To date, staff has failed to complete this planning and report back to Council).

July 22, 2004: Against public opinion, City Council approves a resolution to enact a by-law amendment to permit the use of slot machines at Hastings Park.

Oct. 4, 2005: Council enacts Bylaw No. 9119 rezoning Hastings Park to permit the use of slot machines.

Fall 2005: HPC initiated a judicial review of the City of Vancouver’s procedures and right of governance which was not successful. The Supreme Court of Canada declined to hear the case.

2007-2008: Marnie McGregor, hired as Hastings Park project manager, was replaced in 2008 by Dave Hutch, project manager #4. A Key Stakeholders Group, composed of 1/3 each city-wide, on-site and community interests, is advisory only and provides non-binding recommendations for the future of Hastings Park. The real power lies with the Steering and Technical Committees where there is no community representation and little support or sympathy for the community.

2009: Mock “public consultations” are held. Council approved a Master Plan which includes only 35 acres of new green space, an above ground parkade, yet another convention centre, a 30% increase in a fenced-off Playland and long delays in the Hastings Stream and the New Brighton Park connector projects.

2010: Empire Bowl playing fields were taken from amateur users for a 2-year period while BC Place reconstructed, and given to professional sports, once again without community consultation.

June 2013: City allows PNE and Freshwater Fisheries of BC to convert the Sanctuary into a local fishing pond.

August 2013: After finally undertaking the promised governance review of Hastings Park, City Council formally assigns the PNE Board as permanent governor of Hastings Park, despite community opposition.

September 2013: Creekway Park project is officially completed, to highlight daylighting of stream connecting Burrard Inlet with Hastings Park Sanctuary.

June 2015: City Council formally removes Park Board representation from the PNE Board in a restructuring of the board.

July 2015: Official opening of newly constructed Plateau Park, near Empire Field.

August 2015: the City in conjunction with Port Metro Vancouver announce New Brighton Shoreline Habitat Restoration Project, with community consultations scheduled in early September.

All this in a city with a “Greenest City” initiative … just not in East Vancouver!

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