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Northlands Park - Memories Worth Keeping
community events

Expansion Period

Celebration of the new construction

Following the difficult period imposed by the First and Second World Wars, the Edmonton Exhibition Association (EEA) moved into a period of expansion that lasted from 1950 until 1999. Previous to this time, structural development of EEA facilities had stagnated, but renewed energies gave association members and directors a new found impetus for growth.

In the organization’s history, buildings have guided the types of activities it organized or hosted. Thus, what lay in the EEA’s future during the expansion was intertwined with the demolition of old buildings and the birth of new ones. Innovative sites ushered in previously unsought possibilities that would further EEA diversification and visibility in various facets of culture and commerce.

Edmonton Flyers programBoosted EEA investment in hockey created the Edmonton Flyers franchise, and resulted in more local fanfare that necessitated increased seating for perpetually sold out games. In response, the association made an addition to the south side of the Livestock Pavilion, inserting an additional 12,000 seats, and creating a new façade. Such dramatic changes to the building were signaled by a new name, the Edmonton Gardens. Eventually, the organization would become host to the Edmonton Oilers.

More expansion happened in 1950, when a new 21.5-metre structure replaced the old grandstand for the EEA racetrack. The new structure provided room for 8,000 spectators, and featured two tiers of fireproof seating where horse racing could be comfortably enjoyed.

WHL prairie finals game programIt wasn’t only physical structures that were being altered after 1950. With post-war changes, a strong shift had taken place in Edmonton and its surrounding communities. Increasingly mechanized farm practices had promoted rural movement towards urban centres, with respective population declines and increases. This ushered in a larger city audience that was not only growing, but also experiencing more leisure time and disposable income.

Though the EEA no longer considered itself to be primarily an agricultural society, its activities still reflected the importance of the industry to Alberta’s prosperity while increasingly integrating consumer oriented programming. Signalling this shift, the Sportex building replaced the historic Manufacturers Building in 1962, providing a multi-functional, year round sports exhibition facility.

The last quarter of the 20th century demonstrated an uphill swing for the EEA. Jack Bailey, Harry Hole, and Ted Mildon, three dedicated EEA volunteer board members, offered up large amounts of their time to realize 1974’s feature attraction, the Coliseum, that replaced the memory-filled Edmonton Gardens.

Farmfair InternationalCelebrating its 100th anniversary in 1979, Edmonton Northlands had much to be proud of. Their involvement in a myriad of North-central Alberta activities was both valued and visible to the public. Superodeo in its various incarnations, the Canadian Finals Rodeo (CFR), Farmfair International, and an annual Klondike Days themed summer exhibition were among the activities debuted during the expansion period. These and other areas of work maintained the organization’s agricultural and community-oriented tradition, while carrying impressive development to the fore.

Consumer showWith the completion of the Northlands AgriCom building in 1984, the last block of the expansion period was cemented into place. The building’s importance could not be underestimated as business direction was steered by its availability. With its completion came new and long-term business in trade fairs, exhibitions, agricultural shows, and sports events—activities that would continue to keep Northlands Park a lively community organization.

Contributors to Northlands Coliseum constructionAn increased capacity to host an even wider range of activities allowed Northlands to secure contracts for national events, bringing in more business to the city. To honour the importance of its contributions, the last decade of the expansion period was capped with a new name for the pioneering association. Reflecting the region of Alberta it continues to serve, the new name was Northlands Park.

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(2000 onwards)

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