St. John's city councillors have voted to preserve the brick bandstand in Bannerman Park from demolition, despite complaints that the structure is used more often for urination than entertainment.
At council's regular meeting on Monday evening, Mayor Dennis O'Keefe led a vote that effectively means the 72-year-old bandstand will stay in the park, forcing a change to a $6-million park redevelopment.
"I've had it said to me, 'yeah, but it's butt-ugly.' Well, ugly and beauty are in the eye of the beholder," said O'Keefe. "We'd better think twice about using that as a standard for preserving our history and our heritage."
The redevelopment plan for Bannerman Park, which has already begun with a new fountain and garden at the gate off Rennie's Mill Road, calls for a Victorian-style pavilion as well as a skating trail.
It's not clear how council's vote will affect the change.
With only three councillors voting to stick with the demolition plan, O'Keefe was able to carry the vote that he called for last week. O'Keefe said the park's identity was at stake. "When people think of Bannerman Park, they think of that bandstand," he said.
The demolition plan had prompted a sharp debate in the city, with some describing the building as a nostalgic part of their memories of growing up, but detractors pointing out that the bandstand is never used for performances, but is the site of delinquent behaviour.
"As far as I'm concerned, it's a waste of taxpayers money to keep it there," said Coun. Wally Collins. "It's only a piss-pot, really. It's useless."
Coun. Sheilagh O'Leary said the argument that the bandstand is the oldest structure in the city's oldest park was not persuasive. "The one that is in existence there has a lot of memories for people, but it has no use," she said.
The Bannerman Park Foundation, which has been raising money to pay for half of the park's overhaul, said last week it will accept council's decision.