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Northlands Park - Memories Worth Keeping
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Relocation (1910-1914)

Between 1910 and 1914, the Edmonton Exhibition Association (EEA) experienced a period of relocation. Following the official sale of Rossdale Flats to the City of Edmonton, alternate exhibition land in Northeast Edmonton was secured.

Livestock Pavilion hockey rinkMuch talk, some of it secret, ensued around where the EEA would move. Resolution on the issue occurred when the City of Edmonton purchased James Kirkness' lake property for $24,000 CDN. In a continuing gesture of partnership, the City of Edmonton set out terms for a lease whereby the land would be rented by the EEA at a nominal fee of $1 CDN a year. The association, which undoubtedly benefited from this open-ended arrangement, accepted the generous terms. With the stability of land tenancy, the organization could now strive to expand without inordinate risk.

After contractual details were settled, there was another matter to be addressed—the transformation of a large soggy property into an exhibit space. Kirkness Lake was vast, and encompassed what is now the adjacent Borden Park. An EEA design competition ensued, with the $250 CDN winner, Edmonton architect Peter Rule, being challenged to envision how and where facilities such as the racetrack would be constructed.

Peter Rule's "Grand Design" A skilled professional, Rule reframed challenges posed by the irregular land and incorporated the terrain into his design, placing the racetrack on an oval hump of land. With $75,000 CDN allocated for the creation of permanent facilities, there was plenty of potential. Despite initial concerns about the triangle shaped location, it became a permanent home to the association now known as Northlands Park.

Unlike previous locations, the racetrack, grandstand, stables, and livestock barns were all beautified with permanent embellishments such as gravel walks, flowerbeds, groves of trees, and manicured lawns. Crowning glories for what was coined the 'Grand Design,' were the Livestock Pavilion and the Manufacturers Building.

During the relocation period, the EEA was run by an increasingly sophisticated board of directors who were considering making the exhibition grounds accessible throughout the year for other activities. By leasing facility space to interested parties in the community, the organization could secure revenue from ongoing events, while establishing further partnerships.

As a bonus, the latter would yield ongoing engagement with community members such as hockey aficionados. By expanding its involvement in various activities, the EEA reinforced its relevance in the community.

Cattle lined upThe perfect segue into this venture was building the Livestock Pavilion. Built in solid brick, the building's size and presence provided a perfect location for Edmonton's various hockey teams to take centre ice. A fire had consumed the previously popular Thistle Rink, but fans and players alike were impressed with the new world-class hockey rink.

On Christmas Day 1913, about 2,000 people made their way to the new 66-metre long ice surface to watch the Dominion Furriers face off with the Edmonton Eskimos. Unbeknownst to the board, the introduction of hockey into their facilities would increase the organization's presence in the community and develop strong ties with future hockey teams.

Alongside the EEA development strides made during the relocation period, Edmonton's population was experiencing voluminous growth. By 1910, attendance figures for the exhibition had doubled from past years. In fact, the impact of growth on the association was exemplified by the transportation scare that took place at the exhibition that year, when a car-railway was forced to turn hundreds of people away, leaving some of them in a panic. In response to increasing demands for services, the volunteer-run exhibition was extended to a six-day event in 1912.

Kirkness Lake exhibition groundsThe period of relocation's hallmark was the acquisition of a permanent site. Through the Kirkness Lake property, and the terms under which the city had leased it, the Edmonton Exhibition Association had a clear opportunity for growth.

Featured Video: Connelly tells about his earliest memories of Northlands Park William James Connelly (seated left of Rupert McConnel-Claire) tells about his earliest memories of Northlands Park. Watch Now

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