For fans of The Queen’s Gambit, a Netflix miniseries, Grand Boulevard Park may be a new favourite hangout spot.
A once old, forgotten giant concrete chessboard located at the park between 13th and 15th streets, that the City of North Vancouver estimates may have been installed 30 years ago, has been given new life just in time for summer.
“The concrete pad with the chess board markings has been in place for many years, but there haven’t been pieces to play with, and the markings faded long ago,” said Pardeep Purewal, the city’s manager of communications and engagement.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, Purewal said the city had noticed more people were spending more time outside exploring the city’s diverse park system, and city staff were always looking at new (or in this case old) ways of activating those spaces for everyone’s enjoyment.
“Chess is going through a bit of a resurgence in popularity and staff thought it would be fun to repaint the old chessboard and provide some pieces to make it functional,” she said.
The chess comeback was sparked by the Netflix show The Queen’s Gambit, which was released back in October 2020. The bingeworthy miniseries is set during the Cold War era and follows the life of an orphaned chess prodigy named Beth Harmon. While it’s about chess, this miniseries is anything but boring and it has had viewers hooked as it dives into the intricacies of the game and follows Harmon as she struggles with addiction in her quest to become the greatest chess player in the world.
While we can’t all be chess prodigies, the now shiny and new chessboard, which is about three square metres in size, is ready for use at Grand Boulevard Park, for all those inspired by fictional character Harmon to sharpen their skills or just have a little fun with friends. The chess pieces can be found in a storage box next to the board, which is locked from dusk to dawn.
“We ask users to make sure they put the pieces back in the box when they’re done so they can be also be enjoyed by others,” Purewal said.
With pandemic restrictions easing up, Mayor Linda Buchanan said it was clear people were eager to get outside and reconnect with their friends, family, and the community, and the city was committed to ensuring the parks offered a wide range of interesting activities.
“I know that we are all hoping for a summer filled with fun and relaxation,” she said. “This pandemic has reaffirmed the value of adding vibrancy to our shared public spaces such as our parks. We are committed to delivering a range of programming and infrastructure, such as the oversized chessboard at Grand Boulevard Park, to make space for all people."
Plus, she’s also a bit of chess fan herself.
“I know that I will be out there playing a game or two, having been inspired by The Queen’s Gambit,” Buchanan said. “Let the summer fun begin!”
For those who aren’t that into chess, there are a number of other parks across the city with fun features. See the list below for ideas.
Other fun park features to check out with your mates
Calling all golf fanatics. At Sam Walker Park, sometimes referred to as Walker Triangle (because the park is shaped like a small triangle), at East Eighth and East Ninth at St. Andrews Avenue, you will find a putting green.
The community petitioned the city for this fun edition back in 2013. Completed in the summer of 2016, the park now boasts an artificial turf multi-use space that can be used as a putting green, a yoga or exercise area, or simply a green space to enjoy.
Those who like a puzzle may enjoy trying to find their way through the labyrinths mowed into the grass at Waterfront Park and Mahon Park.
The city installed its very first labyrinth in Mahon Park, near Fen Burdett Stadium, back in 2019 and has since mowed a new one into the grass at Waterfront Park. The city says the Cascadia Society has used the Mahon Park labyrinth as a therapy tool, but it's there for all to enjoy.
At Moodyville Park, located along the Spirit Trail north of East Second Street and east of Moody Avenue, visitors will find an outdoor foosball table.
As well as a foosball table, the park has a number of facilities including a bike pump track, sports court, ping pong table, picnic areas, walking paths, a large playground, public art and natural areas.
Table tennis (ping pong)
If you fancy a game of outdoor table tennis (ping pong) there are a number of parks with tables. You’ll find them at Rogers Plaza (mid-100 block on West 1st Street), Moodyville Park, and at The Shipyards.
At Eastview Park, which sits on the eastern border of the city in the Cedar Village neighbourhood at Rufus Drive and Cedar Village Close, a disc golf course can be found among the trees.
The disc golf course is short, but the obstacles make up for its lack of length, according to the Professional Disc Golf Association.
You’ll find the first tee at the entrance by Cedar Village Close (the hole number is on the cross beam). There are course maps with lengths at two locations, but most of the baskets are easy to find along the way.
With the weather this good, it seems a waste to spend time in the gym – Fen Burdett Stadium field at Mahon Park at Jones Avenue between West 16th and West 17th streets offers the best of both worlds with a bunch of outdoor exercise equipment.
The city has completed a range of renovations at the stadium, which was first opened in 1914. The park now offers an artificial turf sports field, a rubberized community track, a recreational running track, and pods of adult fitness equipment.
It’s the perfect spot to enjoy the sunshine and burn some calories at the same time (for those who classify exercise as “fun”).
More park features can be found on the city’s interactive parks map.