January 28, 2016 3:59 pm
Updated: January 28, 2016 6:48 pm

Exhibition Centre saved from wrecking ball has official re-opening

WATCH ABOVE: Halifax's Exhibition Park was in need of costly repairs and the province just couldn't afford it. Just before the facility was slated to close, the building was sold to a private developer. Thursday, the facility was officially re-opened with a new name and a new plan for the future. Global's Natasha Pace reports.


Just two months after being saved from the wrecking ball, Exhibition Park is back with new owners and a new name: Halifax Exhibition Centre (HEC).

“Just a short time ago we were challenged with the closure of this building and today we have something positive and new,” said Wendell Howes, president of Master Promotions Ltd.

READ MORE: NS government to close Exhibition Park due to winter damage

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In need of 9-million dollars in renovations, the facility changed hands in November when the province sold it to a private developer.

“The ideal thing has happened,” Mayor Mike Savage said at the venue’s official opening on Thursday.

“This is what we all want to see happen in our community. Which is the private sector stepping in and saying ‘you know what, we will invest in this. Not only save it, but invest in this.'”

“At the end of the day, it’s better for job creation, it’s better for private sector growth and its ultimately better for all us as Nova Scotians,” said Deputy Premier Diana Whalen.

The new owners won’t say how much money they’ve spent so far on renovations, but do say repairs to the roof are half done, which was the most expensive endeavour. The Centre also boasts new lighting, new electrical and new signage throughout.

Centre welcomes first exhibition

The first exhibition to take place in the newly-renovated venue is the RV Show, which is happening this weekend.

But the facility is hoping that with a face-lift they can not only rebuild the exhibition industry in Nova Scotia but also become more competitive with neighbouring provinces.

“We are about half the size if the industry in Moncton, which is about a third the size of Halifax and there’s something wrong with that picture,” said Jim Gourlay with the Exposition Managers Society of Nova Scotia.

Although the facility has been known for three decades as primarily holding exhibitions, the new owners want to make some changes.

“We’re diversifying our clientele so that we can fill our calendar with a variety of other uses in addition to the exhibition uses,” said HEC general manager Norman Nahas.

Those changes include hosting more weddings at the site and utilizing the 4,000 seats within the exhibition centre as a concert venue.

Big plans for future

The developer admits although he wants the exhibition centre to be successful, his primary interest is the 147 acres of land that came with the purchase of the building.

“I am a developer so I always like land because God does not make it anymore,” said Basem Helif, Owner and Developer.

“Had there not been the land and just the exhibition, would I have bought it? Probably not.”

Helif hopes to start the initial stages of the development within two to three years, but admits the entire property is likely 10-15 years away from being fully developed.

Despite the construction of the Halifax Convention Centre in the core of the city, Helif isn’t worried and believes the two venues will attract a different audience.

© 2016 Shaw Media

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