CITIES

Expo’s uncertain legacy

PAT ANNESLEY March 9 1987
CITIES

Expo’s uncertain legacy

PAT ANNESLEY March 9 1987

Expo’s uncertain legacy

CITIES

A final, triumphant burst of fireworks on Oct. 12 flared over the site of Expo 86, dramatically illuminating the Canadian pavilion’s 200-foot wooden hockey stick and other landmarks of the fair. The dazzling six-month party in the heart of Vancouver ended the next afternoon, and organizers turned their attention to future uses of the 173acre site, including plans to build offices, recreational facilities and housing for 4,500 people. But the fairground, partially dismantled and almost deserted, is making an uneasy transition to life after Expo. In December, B.C. Economic Development Minister Grace McCarthy announced a three-month halt to redevelopment to review the project. And last month she said that she was considering a further delay of five weeks to allow private developers to submit proposals.

But meanwhile, British Columbia Place Ltd., a provincial Crown corporation in charge of disposing of the assets and developing the site, tapped

a lucrative source of revenue to offset Expo’s deficit, which B.C. Finance Minister Melville Couvelier estimates at $349 million. In a series of auctions and liquidation sales from November to late February, it discovered a widespread demand for Expo’s relics. More

The Expo 86 site, partially dismantled and almost deserted, is making an uneasy transition to life after the fair

than 100,000 nostalgic bargain hunters snapped up anything from $9 Expo-emblazoned baby strollers and $25 jackets to entire buildings. B.C. Place’s original plans allocated $54 million to demolition costs. But buyers paid $500, plus all of the dismantling and relocation expenses, for each of more than 60 international pavilion modules.

Jack Helps, president of Delta Sea Products, bought the colorful Norway pavilion to use as a fish processing plant. He said that when he pays for relocation of the building to Delta, a Vancouver suburb, he will not save any money compared with building a plant from scratch. “But I like the look of it,” said Helps, “and it’s part of Expo.”

As a result of the sales, Expo’s buildings are scattered as far away as Granada, Spain and New York state, and its permanent legacies are few. Among them is the Canadian pavilion with its roof of white glass-fibre sails, which will reopen in May as a convention centre. But the hockey stick, one of the fair’s best-known symbols, will soon be gone. At a cost of up to $60,000, officials of the municipality of North Cowichan and the city of Duncan on Vancouver Island are planning to erect the huge stick in front of their local arena—once they have figured out how to get it there. Still, while the site wavers between its glittering past and an uncertain future, one group of people is taking advantage of the eerie hiatus: Walt Disney Pictures begins filming Earth Star Voyager, a science-fiction mini-series, on the Expo grounds on March 23.

— PAT ANNESLEY in Vancouver