There was lots of activity at Northside Downs Saturday, and there will be for years to come.

“It’s not necessarily a done deal yet, but it’s certainly a major hurdle over with,” said Donnie MacNeil, a member of the Cape Breton Exhibition Society. “We will begin negotiations for the final sale for the facility.”

On Thursday, the Cape Breton Richmond Federation of Agriculture’s board of directors voted to select the local group’s bid to keep the property in the community, which means the more than 105-year-old Exhibition will live on.

“There’s such a history here, and there’s just no way we could stand by with the potential of it maybe going away and getting sold for any purpose other than what it’s been designed for,” said MacNeil.

Jennifer MacNeil is with the Cape Breton Western Riders Society, which has more than 200 members and has been using this facility for nearly 50 years.

“To know that there is an exhibition grounds still standing, we have a future here again. This is going to continue to be our competition center and now we’re moving forward to plan our season for this year and for years to come for our next generation,” she said.

The initial two bids to buy the facility by the Cape Breton Exhibition Society were turned down; leaving many here wondering what could be next.

MacNeil says for the local horsing community, losing the exhibition grounds would mean having to travel off-island to compete.

“This is the only facility east of Antigonish that would hold the amount of horses that come to our competition. Any weekend we could have 60 to 90 competitors coming in here,” she said.

Donnie MacNeil says the community has been behind their bid, and that support will need to continue to make this venture successful.

“We have a few sources of financing in place, but there’s so much here in the line of infrastructure improvements that need to be done. It’s going to be an ongoing thing even after we purchase it,” he said.

The financial details of the deal have not yet been made public.


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