By Erika Mathieu
Westwind Weekly News
Lethbridge & District Exhibition’s CEO, Mike Warkentin, gave a delegation to Lethbridge County council on Sept. 15 to provide updates on the new Agri-Food Hub and Trade Centre at Exhibition Park in Lethbridge.
Although the building is located in the City of Lethbridge, Warkentin’s update touched on the significance of the partnerships between the County and Lethbridge & District Exhibition, and how their relationship will strengthen as agriculture-related events are held at the venue in the future.
Warkentin said, “there is a significant opportunity to attract new ag events to showcase what is going on down here, refocus the Ag Expo, and position it for growth within the agricultural industry event schedule.”
The existing sites date back to 1912 and have been home to a number of Lethbridge-County-centred events. He added, “for over 100 years, we have celebrated the activities that happen out in the county, the agricultural activities, and Lethbridge serves as that hub, but we certainly understand the importance of showcasing the region and the county.”
Warkentin said the facility allows for an elevation in operational standards which has not previously been possible in the existing pavilion. The new space will serve to position Lethbridge as a viable event space among the likes of Calgary and Banff, as well as a major marquee space in the province, and is expected to contribute more than $90 million to the regional economy each year.
The new infrastructure will offer more revenue opportunities due to the increase in floor space and features plenty of design elements to ramp up the scale of the Ag Expo, including consideration for a large piece of farming equipment.
Four trade halls at 26,000 square feet each, will provide, “significantly different opportunities to showcase the industry that primarily functions in the county,” said Warkentin
The existing pavilions represent 115,000 square feet. The trade halls alone in the new facility represent about 104,000 square feet along with an ancillary space in the culinary campus of nearly 12,000 sq ft, a conference and salon space which is 13,000 sq ft, four 11,000 sq ft meeting rooms, and The Lake View salon which will span over 6,000 sq ft.
Although there are no current plans for the construction of an ag building with a dirt floor, Warkentin said it isn’t off the table and the new buildings will enable sections of dirt flooring to accommodate things such as 4-H events.
“We absolutely are hoping to still hold (4-H) events in the building, however, they will look different (…) we do anticipate having livestock in these buildings but we will likely look at other solutions to move livestock in and out and having dedicated areas with dirt in the buildings as opposed to having at dirt across the whole space.”
The tall ceilings and other design elements, “have been implemented to drive the Ag industry and push GDP growth in southern Alberta.”
Warkentin added a number of the existing pavilions are slated for decommissioning and demolition in the Summer of 2023. Budgeting for construction has, “not been without its challenges due to supply chain,” but said the project is on track for the grand opening in the Spring of 2023.