Assiniboine Park Conservatory nearing end of its life, slated to close permanently April 2

Assiniboine Park visitors have just a few more months left to enjoy the conservatory before it closes permanently, ahead of construction of Canada’s Diversity Gardens.

The demolition of the conservatory will make way for construction of $75M Diversity Gardens

The Assiniboine Park Conservatory is slated to close permanently on April 2, 2018. (Warren Kay/CBC)

Winnipeggers and tourists will have one less hot spot to visit in the city — and warm up in — after this spring.

The Assiniboine Park Conservatory will close permanently in April.

The lush, humid — and importantly for many Winnipeg residents and winter visitors, warm — indoor horticultural attraction, which is more than a century old, has exceeded its lifespan and must be demolished to make way for the final phase of the park's $200-million redevelopment, the Assiniboine Park Conservancy says.

That redevelopment includes the new Canada's Diversity Gardens.

The conservatory building was constructed in 1914 and remodeled in 1968. Its last day open to the public will be Easter Monday, April 2.

Starting March 27, the conservatory will hold an open house-style celebration for its last week of operations. Visitors are invited to submit written, photographic and video memories by March 2 to be included in a slideshow presentation.

The open house will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily during the conservatory's final week.

Some of the smaller plants might be moved to the Toucan Ridge exhibit in the Assiniboine Park Zoo. (Warren Kay / CBC)

Demolition will commence in the spring, followed by construction of supporting greenhouses for the Diversity Gardens. Eventually, the site will be redeveloped into green space for public use.

"We understand that the conservatory has been a favourite gathering place for Winnipeggers and Manitobans alike for over a century, and we recognize the significance of the loss for members of our community," said Bruce Keats, chief operations officer for the conservancy.

"The closure of this building is the next step in bringing Canada's Diversity Gardens to life."

Plans for the eventual closure of the conservatory were made as far back as 2009. In recent years, problems with the building have grown, and conservancy officials say it is only a matter of time before a major failure forces the immediate closure of the facility.

Canada's Diversity Gardens, as seen in this artist rendering, is the final major phase of the $200-million redevelopment campaign to revitalize and rejuvenate Assiniboine Park. (

Problems with the exterior of the building, as well as heating and ventilation systems, have been mounting due to the high humidity and the need to maintain a warm internal temperature, coupled with extreme temperatures outside.

"Even this past six weeks, we've experienced a boiler failure and some other failures that really confirm that decision that makes spring the right time to do this," said Archie Pronger, head of facilities and capital projects for the conservancy.

It has committed to recycling at least 80 per cent of the building materials, including concrete, metals and wood. However, most of the plants inside cannot be transplanted. 

"The larger material, like the trees, they're too big to move. Their roots are all growing into each other and they're of a size that they're not transplantable," said Gerald Dieleman, project director for Canada's Diversity Gardens.

Most of the plants, including the trees, are too big to be transplanted. (Warren Kay / CBC)

Instead, the conservancy is working to partner with woodworkers to turn some of the trees and plants into mementoes of the conservatory. Some of the smaller plants might be moved to the Toucan Ridge indoor exhibit in the Assiniboine Park Zoo, Dieleman said.

"It's a good thing. We're sad to see this go, but we're building a bigger future and we're really excited about that."

Canada's Diversity Gardens is estimated to cost $75 million and is expected to open in 2019.


Cameron MacLean is a journalist for CBC Manitoba living in Winnipeg, where he was born and raised. He has more than a decade of experience reporting in the city and across Manitoba, covering a wide range of topics, including courts, politics, housing, arts, health and breaking news. Email story tips to