The past weeks have seen the foundations laid, literally, for the future plans which the RUAS hope will deliver that all-important future for the organisation and, of course, the Balmoral Show.
“Ground work has already started at Balmoral Park on the development of our new Eikon Exhibition Centre,” confirmed the society’s chief executive Colin McDonald.
“This will provide us with in excess of 6000 square metres of exhibition space, which will have an associated parking area with a capacity of over 2,000 vehicles.
“The completion of the Eikon will entail the relocation of the existing Balmoral Pavilions, to which will be added a bespoke front façade. The facility will be the new home for all the exhibitions organised by the RUAS. It promises to be the premier events venue in Ireland and will be officially opened later this year.”
The next stage of development at the Maze will entail the establishment of a Renewable Energy Park. This will be driven forward by the RUAS, under a co-operative aegis, and a yet-to-be appointed business partner.
It will entail the development of a biomass plant, which will be fuelled by locally grown willow chips. This venture will be complemented by a solar energy initiative with the required panels strategically located on the southern aspect of the Balmoral Park site. The green energy electricity produced in this way will be used, in part, to meet the energy needs of the Eikon with the remaining sold to the grid. It is envisaged that the entire Maze project will have a Zero Carbon Footprint.
Colin McDonald has always made it clear that developments at the Maze will be funded on the back of the RUAS business plan for its Balmoral site in South Belfast. And the week just past has been of significant importance in this regard.
“We have just signed off on the final agreement with Hillmark Blue Horizon, the developer building the proposed 140 homes at the Harberton Park end of the site. Construction of the first 19 houses will get underway this summer with the first nine of the new dwellings ready for market next Spring.
“The housing development will take in 16 acres of the King’s Hall Complex.
I can also confirm that the King’s Hall and the remaining 16 acres are being actively marketed at the present time.”
Turning to the future development of Balmoral Park, McDonald confirmed that plans remain firmly in place to develop a Centre of Rural Excellence at the Maze site. He envisages organisations such as AFBI supporting this initiative.
“It may also include an International Equine Centre,” he added.
The RUAS Chief Executive is quick to confirm that he had not envisaged DARD committing to the centre of rural excellence concept at the Maze.
“That was never part of the plan,” he stressed.
“Obviously, the Farm Minister has made it clear that Ballykelly will be the new home for the Department of Agriculture.”
Looking ahead, the RUAS chief executive envisages further growth in the popularity of Balmoral Show.
“One of our core objectives is to encourage more visitors and commercial exhibitors from the Republic of Ireland. Our proximity to both the M1 and A1 should make this a feasible target.
“This is our third year at the new site. What gives me tremendous pleasure is the fact that the commercial footprint of the show continues to expand. Trade space is up 10%, compared with 2014, and, obviously, we want to build on this for the future.
“And we also want to ensure that livestock exhibitors are catered for in the best way possible. They are the very heart of Balmoral Show. And this will always remain the case.”