Assiniboine Park and Assiniboine Park Zoo are open year-round.
There are no admission fees for Assiniboine Park, the Assiniboine Park Conservatory, or the Pavilion Gallery Museum.
In 1904, the City of Winnipeg purchased 283 acres of woodland and prairie along the south side of the Assiniboine River. Termed the "Suburban Park" for the first ten years, Assiniboine Park, as it was later named, was the first of the City's Regional Park system.
The Park quickly became the "jewel in the crown" of the City's growing park system, and the social "hub" of outdoor leisure and major events; and, has retained this status to the present time, almost a century later.
Prominent landscape architect, Mr. Frederick G. Todd, was commissioned to develop plans for Assiniboine Park. Having studied and worked for Frederick Law Olmstead, Todd created the Park using an English Landscape Style.
This style of design, developed in Britain in the 19th century and popularized in North America by Olmstead, features large open meadows and lawns flanked by border plantings of natural woods, naturalized plantings of shrubbery, free form or serpentine shaped water bodies, tree lined drives, and broad vista type views.
It also has a strong emphasis on horticultural variety and flower gardens of all styles. Now referred to as "the Olmstead model", this style has been used to create parks such as Central Park in New York City.
Moving through the entrance gates, the Olmstead model treats visitors to an experience of broad curvilinear roadways and pathways, separate and distinct from one another. Quiet, secluded pathways are restful contrasts to rigid urban street planning and elaborate geometrical flower gardens, flanked by naturalized shrub plantings as transition, characterize major park entrances. Botanical gardens, conservatories, and zoological gardens are onsite to provide educational interest and enjoyment.
Offering a wide range of activities for all interests, Assiniboine Park and its use of this revered park design has become a significant "historical landscape" in Winnipeg, worthy of preservation.
Rapid development in the early 1900's resulted in the completion of all the Park's major roadways, path systems, buildings, and landscaping including planting and developing open lawn areas. Winnipeg was growing and Assiniboine Park offered people with the opportunity to participate in a variety of outdoor activities in a concentrated area.
The Park's growth continued until 1915, when the War brought an unexpected halt to the progress. Suffering from increased labour and material costs, decreased revenue for the Parks Board, and a national necessity for a rigid economy, the Park experienced little development.
With economic conditions improving in the 1920s, the Parks Board was challenged with an increasing demand for park and recreational facilities, driven by a rapidly growing city. The creation of Kildonan Park (1910), Sargent Park (1911), Kildonan Park Golf Course (1921), Windsor Park Golf Course (1924), St. Vital Park (1929), and numerous smaller parks, necessitated a dispersion of the parks' budget over a much greater system.
The Great Depression in the 1930s forced any major development of the city's parks to a standstill. Just as the parks were beginning to recover from another economic crisis, the disastrous 1950 flood occurred. Many parks, particularly Kildonan Park, suffered extensive damage.
After the flood, until 1972, Assiniboine Park began to see improvements. Greater funds were now available to the Parks due to the Parks' system turning over to the Metropolitan Corporation of Greater Winnipeg in 1961. During the ten years of the Corporation's existence, virtually every facility in the park was either reconstructed or renovated.
From 1971 to 1990, capital improvements in Assiniboine Park were virtually non-existent. However, during the 1990s, a committee of citizens took the initiative to design and raise the capital to build Phase I of the Leo Mol Sculpture Garden. Taken the attraction through three development phases in the decade, the funding committee evolved into "Partners in the Park". This organization also redeveloped the Pavilion and constructed the Lyric Stage, significantly broadening the activities and events that occur in the Park today.
Assiniboine Park entered a new era in 2008 with the establishment of the Assiniboine Park Conservancy (APC), a private/public, not-for-profit, charitable organization with a mandate to develop, govern and manage the overall Park and its amenities. APC has a 50-year lease with the City of Winnipeg, which owns the property and assets.
The last significant capital investment in Assiniboine Park by the City of Winnipeg was over 40 years ago. Refurbishment of the Pavilion and the creation of the Leo Mol Sculpture Garden (all three phases) were undertaken by the private sector based on the need and opportunity that presented itself. Faced with aging facilities and the growing challenge of maintaining them, APC was charged with the task of charting a course for the future of the Park and all of its entities that would ensure its long-term viability.
The creation of the Park was a visionary and bold move on the part of the City Council of the day. Protecting, enhancing and redeveloping it for the next century will require the same kind of leadership and acumen.
In June 2009, following extensive consultation with community stakeholders, APC unveiled a $200 million redevelopment plan for Assiniboine Park & Zoo to be completed over 10 years in three distinct phases.
Assiniboine Park is unique, and its redevelopment plan pays tribute to its many features and its position in the community. Community leadership, in a public-private partnership, is what will make the vision a reality, with the focus on a one-park concept.
With an emphasis on being a leader in conservation and environmental education, the Assiniboine Park Conservancy is implementing aggressive and creative strategies to revitalize and transform the Park into a world-class attraction. With over four million visitors a year, the Park is already one of the most frequently visited attractions in Manitoba. APC’s mission is to make it the best it can possibly be, a Winnipeg destination that because of its compelling excellence, becomes a national and international “must-see”.
The Assiniboine Park Conservancy’s Imagine a Place Campaign was launched with the goal of raising $200 million in capital, with additional funding required for programming and endowments. The private sector goal is $60 million for capital.