Nova Scotia

Farmers' exhibition costing Antigonish Arena $60K in possible revenue, manager says

Organizers with a farmer's exhibition say the Antigonish Arena doesn't want it to hold its regular fall fair there because it might interfere with the start of the hockey season.

153-year-old Eastern Nova Scotia Exhibition will most likely end if agreement can't be reached

There's lots to do at the exhibition, but officials with the Antigonish Arena say the event is costing them money. (Eastern Nova Scotia Exhibition)

Tradition and recreation are butting heads in a big way in Antigonish, N.S.

On one side is the Eastern Nova Scotia Exhibition, which has been running for 153 years. On the other is an arena that that would like to give paying hockey players ice time earlier in the season.

The exhibition features farm animals, rides, games and produce. It generally attracts about 10,000 people a year and doesn't pay any rental fee to the Antigonish Arena because it has a lease agreement with the town and county. 

Eats up 1 month

But hockey players are willing to pay in order to have ice in the arena for practices starting at the beginning of September, according to Bud MacInnis, the arena's manager. MacInnis said things have changed in the arena industry and there's demand for ice time 12 months of the year. ​

The ice has to be removed to accommodate the exhibition, which starts five days before Labour Day. 

MacInnis said it takes a month to remove the ice, put down tonnes of earth for the exhibition's animals, clean that up and then make new ice. 

"When you consider a month of lost revenue, like, we could be talking $60,000."

$15K to set up

He said just to taking the ice up and putting it back down for the exhibition costs $15,000 in staffing and electricity. 

"I could use that $15,000 to pay the electric bill for a month and half just to maintain the ice, so we would be in money before we rented the first hour."   

The arena's manager worries the newly renovated rink surface might be damaged by the activities at the exhibition. (Eastern Nova Scotia Exhibition )

MacInnis suggests the exhibition be held just outside the arena in a riding ring.

'Conflicts with other exhibitions'

But Bruce Thomson, president of the Eastern Nova Scotia Exhibition, said the arena isn't losing $60,000 because of the exhibition. 

"That's potential income, in the the almost 50 years the rink has been there they have never once had that income, not once. We have always had the exhibition on those five days," said Thomson. 

"They have 49 weeks to make their income and always have." 

He said arena management wants them to hold the exhibition sometime between July 1 and Aug. 15.

"There would be conflicts with other exhibitions for exhibitors. The other reason is that in Antigonish County at least, and I'm a farmer so I know this, most farmers are in the fields and very busy at that time of year and we just don't have time to exhibit."

It costs about $15,000 to remove and replace the ice at the Antigonish Arena, according to manager Bud MacInnis. (Antigonish Arena)

Thomson says the local Federation of Agriculture has a lease with the town and county to use the arena for its exhibition, but the lease doesn't contain any specific dates.

"For something that has been going on for 153 years, why would anybody think the date would be different? So it seems like someone is looking for a loophole in the lease."

High cost of replacing ice

The arena's management and the organizers are meeting Monday to see if there's any kind of compromise can be reached.

"The 153-year-old Eastern Nova Scotia exhibition will most likely end, if we can't reach an agreement," Thomson said.