A Look Through Time: the History of Beban Park

Jan 15, 2019

From farmland to parkland

Beban Park has a rich history beginning as a 160-acre farm property acquired by Frank and Hannah Beban in 1930. The Beban family built the mansion known today as Beban House on the property and over the next 20 years developed the property with gardens and a horseracing track.

Beban HouseBeban House - photo courtesy of the Nanaimo Community Archives

Frank Beban 1940Frank Beban circa 1940 - photo courtesy of the Nanaimo Community Archives

Horse Race Beban Estate 1935Horse racing at Beban Estate circa 1935 - photo courtesy of the Nanaimo Community Archives

In 1953, after Frank’s death, the City of Nanaimo purchased the estate. In the early days, the park was known as Exhibition Park. It was, and still is, the site of the Vancouver Island Exhibition (VIEx).

City Acquiring Beban House May 1953City acquiring Beban House May 1953 - photo courtesy of the Nanaimo Community Archives

Changes through the years

Beban Park has seen many additions and changes throughout the years.

In 1958, the Centennial Building, a number of livestock barns and the Grandview Bowl were built. The Grandview Bowl, a renown race track that remained open until 1985, was considered one of the most up to date stock car racing tracks in Canada at the time and was even visited by Queen Elizabeth II during a visit in 1959! 

Grandview Bowl 1970Grandview Bowl circa 1970 - photo courtesy of the Nanaimo Community Archives

From 1973 to 1990, ownership of the park transferred to the Regional District of Nanaimo. The Beban Pool, Frank Crane Arena and Social Centre opened to the public under the name “Beban Park” in 1976, and the Agriplex was constructed in 1987.

Beban 1976A brand new Beban Park circa March 1976 - photo courtesy of the Nanaimo Community Archives

Beban Agriplex

In the early 1980’s, the local Kinsmen Service Club built the 23 acre Participark – a treed wellness loop inspired by the federal government’s ParticipACTION program to motivate Canadians to get outside and exercise.

Other amenities added to the park over the years include the opening of a BMX park in 1991, the Cliff McNabb Arena in 1994, a Pitch and Putt golf course in 1999 and the Beban Park Community Gardens in 2010. The Altrusa Playground and a dog off-leash park are other popular spots for park-goers. The park also features two artificial turf fields, on the site of the old Grandview Bowl, as well as the Beban Park Four Fields, a project funded by community groups. 

Beban pool

Frank Crane Arena

Altrusa playground

Numerous renovations and upgrades have taken place over the years, including a significant renovation in 2010, funded in part through $1 Million of federal funding through the Canada Action Plan RinC Grant Program. The Cliff McNabb Arena was also refurbished in 2012.

More recently, in 2017 the Steve Smith Bike Park, named after the young professional cyclist from the Nanaimo area who tragically lost his life in May of 2016, was opened to the public. Featuring a pump track, dirt jump and return trail, this addition to the park has been very popular with riders of all ages.

Steve Smith pump track

Another addition in 2017 was a new greenhouse built by the Nanaimo Community Gardens Society – this volunteer-led group runs the Beban Learning Gardens, located next to the VIEX grounds.

Looking ahead

There are a number of exciting plans in store for this park, some of which are outlined in the Beban Park Master Plan. The City of Nanaimo is dedicated to ensuring that Beban Park continues to serve our growing community for many years to come.

Beban Park has been a community gathering space for 60 years and is Nanaimo’s largest city-owned recreation centre.

Beban breezeway

Want to explore more parks in your area? Check out the City of Nanaimo's park search!

Historical information courtesy of "A Place In Time: Nanaimo Chronicles" by Jan Peterson. Historical photos courtesy of the Nanaimo Community Archives.

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