Belfast Telegraph

New Balmoral Park centre 'to attract UK and Irish trade shows'

By John Mulgrew

Northern Ireland could play host to major UK and Irish events amid plans to build another exhibition centre at the home of the Balmoral Show.

The new expansion at the former Maze prison site, which is located outside Lisburn, would see a new 5,000 sq metre building erected to complement the current Eikon centre.

And according to Colin McDonald, chief executive of the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society (RUAS), which is behind the scheme, it would allow large-scale UK events to come to Northern Ireland.

The new building will sit adjacent to the Eikon centre at Balmoral Park.

He said some events have already shown an interest in setting up. And it could be ready in time for next year's Balmoral Show - the largest agricultural event here.

"It's a new building, which is the same size of Eikon, and will double exhibition space," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"The exhibitions and events which have come from Belfast down to the Balmoral Park site have enjoyed increased attendances, mostly from the Republic of Ireland.

"Most are saying if they had additional space, they would increase the size.

"There are UK events which would need the size and have expressed the interest."

Mr McDonald said that the new space could also be used for other RUAS events.

The latest development is the third phase of the Balmoral Park scheme and has already gone through a public consultation process.

"It's another example of the funds being ploughed into Balmoral," he said.

"We would like to have it all ready for the Balmoral Show for 2018."

Around 100,000 visitors attended this year's event.

The event also added a fourth day this year, helping increase numbers.

The Eikon centre has also played host to a number of other major events over the last few months.

These included MCM Northern Ireland Comic Con, in which Flash Gordon, actor Sam J Jones, topped the bill.

Eikon was also the home of two counts for the snap general election in June.

RUAS also owns the King's Hall, which formerly played host to the Balmoral Show.

The show moved from the King's Hall in Belfast to the former site of the Maze prison in 2013.

Meanwhile, the King's Hall itself is facing its biggest transformation yet, being turned into the largest healthcare facility of its kind in Northern Ireland, worth £100m.

The huge 16-acre site in south Belfast will include a care home, hotel and leisure areas and is aiming to be a "one-stop shop" for healthcare.

It is being run by Benmore Healthcare Developments.

Belfast elderly care providers Abbeyfield will operate the care home facility at the site.

The scheme will include 32 apartments, made up of one and two bedrooms, designed "specifically for the elderly, to ensure the comfort and wellbeing of every resident can be met to exacting standards", the developers have said.

Belfast Telegraph

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