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Richmond remembers Minoru Park icon

Minoru Sports Pavilion opened its doors for the first time on May 16, 1964. - City of Richmond archives
Minoru Sports Pavilion opened its doors for the first time on May 16, 1964.
— image credit: City of Richmond archives

It cost just $115,900 to build, and it was booked solid for six months before opening day in 1964.

Fifty years ago Minoru Park Sports Pavilion opened with a ball packed with pomp and circumstance. Now the venerable rectangular building is set to welcome the community for one last dance—if only in spirit.

It was May 16, 1964 when the pavilion opened its doors for the first time. The Richmond Day Ball was a show of local celebrity, attracting the who’s who of a community whose population was just a quarter of what it is today. Among the honoured guests was Arthur Laing, Canada’s minister of northern affairs and former Richmond school board chair.

The event also marked the debut of the Richmond Highland Association, whose members played numbers from the pavilion’s balcony during dinner.

“On this historic occasion it’s a beautiful sight to look out upon all these beautifully gowned women,” said Henry Anderson, Richmond’s mayor at the time, according to a story in the May 20, 1964 Richmond Review.

A few days later, at the popular Richmond Days parade, Anderson formally cut the ribbon around a building that would become an important part of Richmond’s sports scene, and social and cultural life. The building played a key role in major sporting events, from the 1979 BC Summer Games to the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. Upstairs, the banquet room has hosted countless dances, fundraisers, wedding receptions, fitness classes and community forums.

This summer, between July 15 and Aug. 15, the pavilion will be demolished to make way for a new $80-million building that will house a new pool and seniors centre.

Richmond Museum staff will salvage a few pieces from the pavilion before it’s completely flattened—a light fixture, part of the original parquet flooring, a portion of its concrete block walls, a section of its mesh windows.

Museum curator Rebecca Forrest said the building became a need in the ‘60s as Richmond’s population surged and residents transitioned from farm life to a suburban lifestyle. With that came a growing demand for sports facilities.

“With tennis courts and track and field, there was a thought that we need to provide washrooms, change rooms, functional space for the community,” she said.

What architect Frank Tofin designed was a modernist, functional building that had an unusual style, with contemporary block walls and rooflines that showed Japanese flair. The lower floor boasted change rooms, washrooms and an office, while the entire upper floor was dedicated to the banquet hall, complete with stage and kitchen.

“Many people remember going to weddings in here. There were dances. A few people I’ve talked to said: I was in a band who performed here,” said Forrest.

Richmond Coun. Bill McNulty remembers being among the first runners to use the pavilion’s change rooms during a 1964 provincial track meet for a junior Olympic track program.

“I walked across the swamp where the artificial turfs are,” he said. “We were bussed in from all over British Columbia. I slept on the hard floor of Richmond High with a sleeping bag.”

McNulty said it’s a shame to see the building torn down.

“It has really served (Richmond) well. If I had my way, I would not demolish it. I would keep it and put the change rooms around the outside. It still has, in my opinion, life.”

Residents will be able to say goodbye to the pavilion at a celebration and farewell event Saturday, July 5 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Minoru Sports Pavilion

•The city is welcoming pavilion-related stories, photos and videos at LetsTalkRichmond.ca to help mark the building’s 50th anniversary

•A public celebration and farewell event takes place Saturday, July 5 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; demonstrations and presentations from groups that have used the pavilion are welcome to share their talents by responding to a performers’ call at LetsTalkRichmond.ca by Monday, June 23

•Donations of pavilion-related artifacts and photos are also welcome; contact City of Richmond Archives at 604-247-8305 or archives@richmond.ca for photos, and Rebecca Forrest at 604–247-8331 or rforrest@richmond.ca for artifacts

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