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New venue means event will be bigger and better than ever

By Linda Stewart

It was a wrench moving from its traditional showgrounds in south Belfast, but the Balmoral Show has done it.

After more than 100 years at the same site, Ireland's biggest agricultural show has made the move from the King's Hall to the site of the former Maze prison at Lisburn.

Only a couple of watchtowers and a single H Block remain as most of the prison buildings have now been razed to the ground.

The rubble has been recycled into aggregate to construct the roads, foundations and arenas in the new Balmoral Park.

While Royal Ulster Agricultural Society chief executive Colin McDonald says the show was doing well in its south Belfast home – and was one of the top 10 events in Ireland in terms of visitor numbers – he had warned it faced a slow death unless it moved to a less constricted site.

Around 600 members of the RUAS gathered at an extraordinary meeting in spring last year to debate the move and an overwhelming majority voted to give the move the green light.

The move means this year's show will feature many classes and events that couldn't be included before.

And a new King's Hall pavilion will go up next year after it has been relocated from the south Belfast site. There are plans for a new Adrenalin zone alongside the children's farm, a major shopping village area that is bigger than the King's Hall and vast areas of exhibitor parking.

Huge marquees will be used to house livestock, with a total of 24,000 square metres of canvas at Balmoral Park this spring. The site is designed to be carbon neutral with an energy park featuring wind turbines, photovoltaic solar panels and a biomass plant powered by willow and miscanthus.

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