Assiniboine Park goes big to block free views of Blue Rodeo concert

Visitors to Assiniboine Park will notice a big fence around the Lyric Theatre area in advance of tonight's Blue Rodeo concert, and there's a reason for that.

Event organizers putting up 1.8-metre fence around Lyric Theatre area

Spirit of the West performs at the Lyric Theatre as part of the Sound & Sky benefit concert at Winnipeg's Assiniboine Park on Friday evening. (Pat Kaniuga/CBC)

Visitors to Assiniboine Park will notice a big fence around the Lyric Theatre area in advance of the Blue Rodeo concert tonight, and there's a reason for that.

The Assiniboine Park Conservancy is selling $24.95 tickets to the Sound & Sky concert, which features Blue Rodeo and special guests Spirit of the West on the park's outdoor stage.

Proceeds from the concert will benefit the park's free summer concert and movie series, said Trevor Clearwater, the conservancy's director of visitor services.

"It is a fundraiser event in support of our summer entertainment series, which we run annually, where we offer over 30 free shows to the public every summer. This is a way to help pay for them," Clearwater told CBC News.

“We had a slight shift in funding about 14 months ago for the series, so this seemed like the right opportunity to give it a try.”

Clearwater said about 7,000 tickets have been sold as of late Thursday, and staff are going to great lengths to keep non-paying patrons from catching a free glimpse on Friday evening.

“Most visibly noticeable … would be the fencing that we've had to install," said Clearwater.

But some Winnipeggers questioned the decision to erect a fence.

“When I first heard about it I thought there's no way, like what are they going to do, not let you come into the park,” asked Kirsten Petzfraser. “Now that I see they have the fence around, it seems a bit extreme, like, it seems like a lot of work.”

Petzfraser said she thinks some Winnipeggers will probably just stay on the other side of the fence to catch the show.

The barrier around the Lyric Stage also includes screens to block the view.

"It's basically a six-foot-high construction-style fence, but it will be woven with a material as well so that it's not only … a physical barrier, but it's also a visual barrier," said Clearwater.

But once people trying to sneak a listen outside hear the concert sounding up, they’re bound to want to pay to come inside, said Clearwater.

“It's a fundraiser so there's got to be a price attached, and we kept the fee as low as we could, $25 for these two bands is about the best deal you can imagine,” he said.

Grant Nazarko visited the park to check out the stage and field Friday, willing to pay the fee to see some great entertainment.

“For a concert, when you consider if you want to go see a show in Las Vegas, you're paying $200 a seat? So, this is nothing,” said Nazarko.

Clearwater said without charging a nominal fee, the summer series wouldn't be possible again next year.

Crooners Spirit of the West kicks the night off.

Officials hope to raise $50,000 from the concert. Tickets can be purchased from Assiniboine Park's website or at the gate.