Resident looking to "give back" to Fort St. John with new rodeo grounds

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McLeod recently purchased the Wiles Farm just outside of Fort St. John, with the intention of building a facility on it that he argues many other communities already have.

"We need a new facility, there is no doubt in my mind. It seems everybody has a private arena at home, so we need one for the community. An indoor arena, a rodeo ground and also somewhere to sit and watch a rodeo."

McLeod says there are a number of benefits a new, modernized rodeo ground can provide the city, including allowing local clubs to be able to host a hometown rodeo.

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Organizations such as the Fort St. John High School Rodeo Club have to host in neighbouring cities such as Dawson Creek due to a lack of sufficient arenas in the area.

He adds his new facility would also address a lack of stabling options within the city as he plans to build a stable big enough to accommodate residents in search of one.

McLeod feels that there are enough riders in the area to support a new and improved facility and even went as far as saying the brand new fairgrounds could help in attracting newcomers to the sport.

Plans for a new fairground have been run by Fort St. John Mayor Lori Ackerman, as well as Agricultural Land Commissioner Jim Collins, both of which McLeod said were supportive of his idea.

The land on the Wiles Farms stretches through two quarter sections, with each section measuring approximately 130 acres. McLeod says the venture is a pricey one, but one he feels that will be beneficial to the City.

"My own personal private estimated costs will be over $3 million once I’m done building my own private indoor riding arena."

The new land owner says he plans to ask for help with some of those costs from the city, particularly when it comes to the essential services, such as sewer, water and power.

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He will also be holding fundraising events, such as local rodeos, to help raise money for the fairground.

The new grounds are east of the Swanson Lumber Road, bordering the Fort St. John Airport, and west of the Northern Lights Drag Racing track.

Location is also important when building a new fairground, a factor that McLeod already considered when he purchased the land.

"I looked at some other acreages, but the problem with the other acreages was that they were kind of land-locked, there was no way for public access. The City, the Regional District and everyone else looks at access for trailers, trucks, horse trailers and people turning off the highway. This is an ideal property because it’s a half mile off the Alaska Highway, yet it’s quiet enough. "It’s a wide road and it’s good for the public."

When considering a name for Fort St. John’s new fairgrounds, McLeod says he hasn’t come to a decision just yet, but the task of naming the grounds is on his mind.

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He says the Fort St. John Fairgrounds is probably at the top of the list, but says he will include Doug Wiles’ name, the original owner of the land, is one of the arena’s titles, to pay homage to the former land owner.

McLeod takes possession in mid-November and says he would like to begin clearing the land by the spring.

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