Massive outdoor festival site proposed for downtown Saskatoon

Saskatoon city councillors will be discussing a proposed $12.85 million permanent festival site at a committee meeting next week.

$12.85M proposed site to be built over multiple phases

An architect's rendering of what a summer market could look like at the Phase 1 entry bosque area of the festival grounds. (City of Saskatoon/Submitted)

Saskatoon city councillors will be discussing a proposed multi-million dollar permanent festival site at a committee meeting next week.

The site, which would be built at Friendship Park and River Landing Park between the Broadway Bridge and the River Landing spray park, would eventually include a large main plaza, a bus rapid transit station and several other smaller stages. The total cost of the project is $12.85 million.

"From music festivals to celebrations of local food and record-setting snowball fights, the amount, variety and scale of events in the city is important to the cultural, social and economic life of Saskatoon," said Lynne Lacroix, general manager of community services with the city of Saskatoon. 

"Against the backdrop of the South Saskatchewan River, a permanent site will allow events four seasons of the year and provide event planners and the tourism industry stability in planning world-class events."

A permanent site for festivals has been discussed in the city for years. In 2019, parks officials raised the alarm about the health of Kiwanis Park near the Bessborough Hotel, which had become heavily damaged after years of festival use.

The new permanent facilities would give festivals a place to set up in the city without damaging the Meewasin Valley park system.

"Part of the overall plan was to ensure that all of the significant heritage trees were protected and preserved through all of this," said Lacroix. 

"It also imagines the addition of some trees in and around the newly landscaped areas."

An architect's rendering of a food vendor area set up along the River Landing Trails on the proposed festival site. (City of Saskatoon/Submitted)

Phase 1 of the plan would see the creation of an entry bosque area, as well as a festival headquarters building and studies to deal with the more ambitious parts of the project. Last year, council successfully applied for $2 million under the Government of Saskatchewan's Municipal Economic Enhancement Program to complete the phase.

It's still not clear when other parts of the project will be completed.

"We don't have a definitive timeline," said Lacroix.

"It will all be based on securing the appropriate funding to complete the remaining phases of the work."

Councillors will discuss whether to accept the large concept plan that has been written up for the project, and whether to put the Phase 1 construction out for tender.

The governance and priorities committee will meet on Tuesday, Feb. 16.


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