The Royal Ulster Agricultural Society, owners of Balmoral Park and the Eikon Exhibition Centre, have a long history steeped in tradition, inspiration and development which began over 150 years ago in 1854.
In June 2012 the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society members voted to purchase and develop a new venue, Balmoral Park. Balmoral Park is a 65-acre events campus located in Sprucefield, Lisburn, around 10 miles from the previous venue of the Society, the King's Hall.
The Balmoral Show was relocated and opened on the 15th May 2013, the Show is now one of the largest events in the province of Ireland with 115,000 attendees in 2017.
Northern Ireland’s largest exhibition and events centre, the Eikon Exhibition Centre opened in December 2015 and has hosted a range of exhibitions, festivals, conferences and outdoor events.
Further building development is scheduled for 2018 which will increase the indoor capacity to over 10,000sqm, by far the largest in Northern Ireland.
The King's Hall was the largest exhibition venue in Northern Ireland and was the only large concert venue in Northern Ireland until the turn of the century. Many acts and bands such as the Beatles, U2, Bruce Springsteen, Tina Turner and PINK just to name a few have performed at the venue. The King's Hall building was designed by Leitch and Partners, Glasgow, built in 1933 by J & R Thompson, Belfast and opened by the Duke of Gloucester on 29th May 1934.
In 1891, the Society had appealed to its members and the general public for funds to purchase new premises as they had outgrown their current site at Belfast Corporation Markets. Suitable land sites were considered at Bloomfield, Fortwilliam Park, Andersonstown, Turf Lodge, Ulsterville, Castlereagh Road, Ballymacarret, Ormeau Road and Antrim Road. However the most favoured was the land at Balmoral.
Agreement to purchase the 32-acre Balmoral site was made in 1894. Work on the site began in 1896 and was finished for the opening of yearly Annual Show on the 30th June 1896, which was subsequently renamed to Balmoral Show.
The main King's Hall building closed its doors on 30th June 2012, 116 years after the very first Balmoral Show at the venue.
The origins of the Society are during the time of the great famine which subsequently led to the formation of the North-East Agricultural Association of Ireland on the 21st September 1854. The general objectives of this newly formed Society were:
The first Show of the Association was held in Belfast Corporation Markets on the banks of the River Lagan on the 23rd and 24th August 1855. This first Show was regarded as a success and was attended by the Lord Mayor of Belfast and many prominent businessmen of that era.