August 28, 2013 4:01 pm
Updated: August 28, 2013 5:15 pm

Vancouver’s iconic wooden roller coaster gets recognition from heritage foundation


It’s been part of Vancouver history for 55 years.

The iconic wooden roller coaster at the Pacific National Exhibition is getting recognized as a ‘place that matters’ by Vancouver Heritage Foundation today.

The 1958 roller coaster is one of the most beloved rides at Playland, despite facing tough competition from the latest adrenaline pumping additions.

But it is not for the faint of heart either.

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The 2,840-foot long roller coaster has no inversions, but can reach speeds of up to 76 km/hour at the steepest drop, attracting over half a million visitors every year.

PNE president and CEO Mike McDaniel says the wooden roller coaster is one of his favourite rides.

“I usually get on the roller coaster at least once a year, and sometimes more than that. It is a fantastic ride,” says McDaniel.

McDaniel says one of the questions they get asked a lot is – how long the wooden roller coaster is going to be around for.

“One of the great things with wooden roller coasters is that they are re-built all the time because you replace the wood, so it really has an infinite lifetime here at the Fair.”

McDaniel says the wooden roller coaster is part of the Playland master plan that will see the amusement park expand in the future, and will be re-structured to make it more visible to guests.

“The plan is to keep it because it is the last remaining wooden roller coaster built by designer Carl Phare,” says McDaniel.

“You talk to a lot of people, no matter what extreme rides we get, you know what their favourite ride is – it is the wooden roller coaster. It is something that is still relevant today, and part of our history.”

He says they are seeing a bit of a Renaissance for the wooden roller coaster in the industry.

“Back in the 80’s and 90’s, things went the way of steel coasters. Although those are still popular and you can do a lot more with steel, wooden roller coasters seem to have regained quite a bit of nostalgia, because they are still quite an extreme experience.”

The wooden roller coaster is one of the 125 sites and places in Vancouver that will be recognized as part of the ‘Places That Matter’ initiative.

Pacific Coliseum is also getting a nod from the Heritage Foundation.

The landmark has been around since 1968 and has hosted a number of pop culture and sport events, including some of the 2010 Winter Olympics events.

But, it is not the first time PNE landmarks got recognition from the Heritage Foundation.

Last year, the Livestock Building was also honoured with a plaque to commemorate its historical significance as the temporary detention camp for residents of Japanese descent during World War II.

“So in Hastings Park, out of the 125 landmarks, we have three,” says McDaniel, “Which when you think about it – is not that surprising, because this site and this Fair really started almost at the infancy of Vancouver. So it has taken shape as Vancouver has taken shape.”

The ‘Places That Matter’ project began two years ago during the celebration of Vancouver’s 125th anniversary to raise awareness about the lesser known venues that make up the history of the city.

In 2011, Vancouver Heritage Foundation asked Vancouverites to submit their nominations for ‘places that matter’ and an independent committee singled out 125 entries.

Each of the 125 stories will be celebrated with a special plaque.

See the map of all 125 sites (Courtesy Vancouver Heritage Foundation) :

The foundation has already handed out 66 plaques and plans to wrap up the project in a year.

“We are slowly working our way through presenting all of those plaques. So the wooden roller coaster and the Pacific Coliseum are the 67th and the 68th plaques,” says Karen Estrin with the foundation.

Estrin says they are looking into expanding the project once they acknowledge all 125 sites.

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