The East of England (EoE) Showground has begun a massive expansion programme and is planning to stage a two-week “equestrian extravaganza” during August 2008.
The EoE Agricultural Society, which owns the showground, is spending a total of £8million on building an exhibition centre within the 260-acre plot in Peterborough.
A new 70x40m indoor surface is being installed, with grandstand seating, commentary boxes and a sound system, along with 500 indoor stables and hardstanding parking for 2,000 vehicles. The complex will have air-conditioning, with extensive hospitality facilities, toilets and showers.
“The society has discussed the project for about 15 years, but it’s been properly in the pipeline for the past two,” said EoE Agricultural Society chief executive officer Andrew Mercer.
The work began on 8 January and is expected to last 11 months. It has been funded entirely by the EoE Agricultural Society — a registered charity. An 18-acre plot on the showground has just been sold for a housing development, which is helping to fund the project.
“We attract 800,000 visitors each year, mostly between March and October, so we wanted indoor facilities to enable us to do more all year round,” explained Mr Mercer.
The showground is already home to the British Show Pony Society’s (BSPS) Summer Championships, the Shire Horse Society Spring Show, the Festival of Hunting and the East of England Show, as well as a range of other events, including the Kennel Club Dog Agility International Finals and National Tractor Show.
The first major equestrian events in the new development are planned for March 2008, with a show jumping event kicking off the year.
“We want to increase the quantity and quality of major equestrian events we hold,” said Mr Mercer. “We’re planning a big show in August, bringing together a number of different events and using the indoor arena for evening galas. It’s all still in planning stages at the moment.”
BSPS chairman Jim McTiffin told H&H he is delighted with the plans.
“None of the other showgrounds is advancing like this. I’m pleased to see investment in the future — we’re thrilled to bits,” he said. “We have a very good relationship with the East of England, and we feel our members deserve the best. Not a lot of children get to HOYS, so if we can recreate that atmosphere in some small way, all the better.”