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Northlands Park - Memories Worth Keeping
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Horse stablesHorseracing has been a part of Northlands Park since the organization’s start. The amount of energy and care put into the sport and its key athletes remains hidden from the view of most race spectators. Large facilities are needed to accommodate the horses. To meet this need, stables were constructed as part of the 1910 Grand Design of the permanent exhibition grounds.

Wooden stablesNorthlands' original stable structures consisted of wood, and surrounded a large portion of the racetrack. Animals were brought in for the racing season, even kept over the winter months with rudimentary heating. Although this arrangement seemed to function well enough, the threat of fires became a looming issue.

View of the stablesWith the support of the Western Canadian Racing Association, horse owners, and architects, the EEA began work on the new facilities. Diamond-Clarke and Associates, Reed Jones Christoffersen, and Angus Butler and Associates began construction of the new stables complex in 1959. While construction was underway, animals remained in the old stables. As new ones were completed, the animals were transported. The new facilities were much safer, but as they were close to being finished, a fatal fire occurred.

New StablesOn 26 June 1960, a large blaze swept across the old stables. A lack of onsite water reduced the ability to contain the flames and led to multiple deaths. Rex Ireland, a horse owner and trainer, as well as 25 horses, lost their lives in the incident. The fire was a demoralizing blow to the EEA, especially because the loss came so close to the completion of new fireproof buildings.

Much thought had been put into the details of the new stables. They were made from reinforced concrete and concrete masonry that addressed fire hazards. Concrete was waterproof, created smooth walls that would prevent accidental horse injuries, and had the density to absorb noise that might infringe on the needs of neighbours.

The new stables were winterized for sub-zero weather so that the horses could comfortably occupy the space year-round. They were also heated and had appropriate water access. Lining the stables' perimeters were metal panels to provide some colour and keep the animals better protected.

By 1961, 725 stalls, 126 tack rooms, and an exercise paddock were finished and ready for use. Despite the calamities that wreaked havoc on the stable grounds, the EEA was successful in creating new and adaptable stables that remain in use.

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