Fredericton / News / Officers square
Early conceptual design of rain covered stage.

Why is a new rain-protected stage part of the Officers’ Square plan?

Early conceptual design of rain covered stage.

Some have asked why there’s a new rain protected stage included in the Officers’ Square plan. It’s a good question with several answers.

Let’s start with what’s being proposed.  The stage was conceptually designed by renowned New Brunswick architects, Acre Architects.  Although it’s a reasonably simple structure, because of the desire to be sensitive to the heritage of the space, the City hired one of the best architectural firms in the Province.  The foremost consideration was fitting into the space, so the scale, form, and roof lines of stage align with the predominant roof lines of the Officers’ Quarters (Fredericton Region Museum).

It’s not too big and not too small, but it won’t fit every use. It’s not for Cavendish Beach or Magnetic Hill size concerts. But it will be large enough to accommodate all the events currently taking place in the Square.

A decision early in the design process determined that attempting a faux-heritage structure would not to best for the site, given the heritage considerations.  This approach was endorsed by local heritage groups and others who reviewed the plans before they were presented to Council.  The walls of the stage would be made of Cor-ten Steel, designed to weather, giving a pleasant rust-like finish.

The unique design opens the top half of the backstage wall to the sky, intentionally softening the impact on the skyline.  The foundation of the structure would be stone, creating a continuity with the Officers’ Quarters building and stone perimeter walls in the Square. 

The location is off in a corner of the Square, almost entirely in what is now a parking lot.  Obviously, we couldn’t put a roof on a stage directly in front of the museum, blocking the view. But the view of the museum as a visual backdrop is a delightful part of community concerts in the Square. By placing the new stage off to the side of the museum, allowing space for a future walkway to the Library, the stage is pulled back from the Square while keeping the Officers’ Quarters in the wider view as we enjoy performances.

By setting the stage back from the grass, allowing for an area of hardscape paver stones, the grass is better protected during larger concert and festival events.  Having hardscape behind the stage allows equipment to be delivered.

Why not have a stage facing the river? Basically, two reasons.  One is that it’s a National Historic Site and placing a stage the Square proper would seem counter to heritage values, puting performance programming ahead of heritage considerations. The other reason is that a stage on the riverside allows much better access for service vehicles. This reduces the potential damage to the Great Lawn grass.

But do we need a new stage at all?

After considering this question, our design team thinks the answer is yes. Here’s some of that thinking:

Current Stage on Last Legs - The current stage is at end of life. The wood structure is rotten. The stone steps are becoming loose. The electrical system needs of a major rebuild. Musicians have received mild shocks. The City has had electrical contractors in several times already this summer, as the electrical system has been giving off sparks. Continuing with band aid fixes won’t do much longer.

Fewer Concerts Get Cancelled - Fredericton Tourism is forced to cancel or postpone many (20% or more some years) summer concerts because of rain or the threat of rain.  If it’s raining at 3pm or if the forecast calls for rain, we are forced to cancel the concerts on Tuesday, Thursdays and Saturdays. Sound equipment can’t be put at risk.  It’s not uncommon for weather to improve later in the evening. Sometimes it’s blue skies by 7:30pm. Let’s just say we get messages of “disappointment” from frustrated concert-goers.

Multiple Uses, Including Live Broadcasts – It’s not just for concerts. With a drop-down screen, we can also show movies. With rigging in the roof, digital screens can be easily installed for live broadcasts of major events like World Cup Finals or major league sports finals.  In the detail design, unique considerations for these uses as well as dance, theatre and music performances will be addressed.  

Protect Sound Gear, Get Better Sound – To protect expensive sound equipment from the possibility of rain damage, the City uses smaller systems that can move easily. With rain protection, better quality, larger systems could be used. Concerts will sound better. Plus, with a loading bay built into the rear of the stage, it will be much easier to load gear.

Lower Costs for Events – Having plug & play infrastructure reduces production costs   That makes performances, particularly annual events run largely by non-profit groups, more sustainable. It makes it easier to create new events and means more dollars can be spent on artists.

Green Room, Artist Washroom & Storage – One advantage of the proposed stage is that for the first time there would be a “green room” and washroom for artists to prepare before concerts. It would also have a small storage area.

Flood Protection - The stage should really be protected from the flood zone. The new stage would put all electrical systems out of reach of potential flood waters.

Let it Snow - A rain protected stage is also somewhat snow-protected, creating more opportunities for wintertime events, like FROSTival, to have winter concerts while people are skating. We think that’s just cool.