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The once and future Pavilion

Plans are still being finalized for what sort of shiny new performance space will replace the iconic all-ages venue.

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SARAH CRONSHAW
  • Sarah Cronshaw

It’s Saturday night at the Pavilion and music fans of all ages have gathered for the kind of performance most of the young crowd wouldn’t usually be able to attend if it was at any other space in town.

In a bar-dominated city like Halifax, most performance venues tend to be 19-plus. For youth who love live music, all-ages venues like the historic Pavilion on the Halifax Common are an essential part of the city.

Which is why recent discussions about tearing down and replacing the brick building have caused concern that the city is losing one of its most iconic venues.



The Common recreation building is over 60 years old and, according to HRM staff, is at the end of its life. Research on what to do with the site and other facilities is currently being undertaken for the new Halifax Common master plan.

Councillor and former music promoter Waye Mason says the plan is to very deliberately figure out a replacement for the Pavilion building over the next couple of years, but assures all-ages crowds “there’s no plan to bulldoze it and leave the kids with nothing.”

“My dream...would be that we build a new building that’s all ground floor, has good washrooms, good changing rooms, a bigger pool and that the building be designed to kind of complement the Oval building across the road, and it still has a multi-purpose room that could do shows—preferably one that has more than an eight-and-a-half foot ceiling.”

The timeframe for all that is still “being explored.” Three public consultations on the new Common Plan have already taken place and city staff say a report with recommendations on the future of the Pavilion is expected back at council this fall.

Based on city council’s direction, staff will then figure out how the current programming at the Pavilion be transitioned to other
locations until the new facility is ready.

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The venue is no stranger to shutting its doors, having closed down operations twice over its 20-year history.

The Pavilion opened for all-ages shows in 1998, operated by promoter Condon MacLeod and funded by HRM. In 2003, city council shut the site down for electrical and fire-code renovations. It reopened the next year under the management of Chris Smith with a concert from Joel Plaskett.

Four years ago the location closed down as a full-time venue, but has since survived thanks to the efforts of the Pavilion Youth Association and other organizers.

All of the history soaked up by those walls over the decades might be lost if the Pavilion is replaced, but Mason says it’s worth the trade for a new venue actually built for bands to perform in.

“Having a room that was designed to be a multi-purpose room that actually could do that properly would be awesome,” says the councillor. “I put on a lot of [those old shows], but you know what? Having a higher ceiling and some thought to acoustics would be awesome.”

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