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New Agri-Food Hub and Trade Centre marries tradition and tech in new facility

Posted on July 13, 2023 by Vauxhall Advance

By Erika Mathieu
Vauxhall Advance

The new Agri-Food Hub and Trade Centre in Lethbridge has found plenty of ways to honour its long history.

During a recent presentation before members of the Coaldale Chamber of Commerce, Sydney Koppe, director of community engagement at the Lethbridge & District Exhibition, and senior manager of marketing and communications, Paul Kingsmith provided updates and an overview on the new facilities slated to open later this summer.

Lethbridge and District Exhibition began as an agricultural society in 1897. The new Agri-Food Hub and Trade Centre has been in the works for over 15 years, and is now nearing completion. The $78 million project includes 268,000 square feet of event space, which has been designed to attract world-class conventions and better situate Lethbridge and southern Alberta as the epicentre for showcases and agricultural events given its proximity to Canada’s premier food corridor, the highest concentration of agri-food processing plants in Canada, leading industry research and agricultural institutions, and irrigation districts. 

Koppe said, “We have an active sales team right now looking at events and conferences,” which would be a good fit for the venue in the future, “particularly when it comes to the agriculture industry.”

Recognizing the immense opportunity for hosting these large-scale events with the agriculture industry, as part of a larger funding announcement to support tourism in southern Alberta, Prairies Economic Development Canada (PrairiesCan) committed over $3.5 million to the Lethbridge & District Exhibition.

The funding has allowed the Agri-Food Hub and Trade Centre to implemented a state of the art audio-visual package, which otherwise may not have been possible. Koppe said the digital assets were recognized by PrairiesCan to give the new facilities, “that competitive advantage,” with its functionality. 

Although no decisions have been made, the Lethbridge & District Exhibition is currently working alongside the City of Lethbridge on what to do with the older, city-owned buildings on site. A feasibility study is currently underway to determine the next steps for the old buildings, and while the City initially floated the idea of decommission and demolition, they are now exploring the possibility of repurposing them for alternative uses.

“They are city-owned buildings at the end of they day, so we want to work with them and make sure that we are doing what is best for the community and the City has been proactive in taking steps to make sure they are exploring all options,” explained Kingsmith. 

In addition to the state of the art technology, the facility has adopted high efficiency heating and cooling systems with more announcements on the way in the coming months. 

“A lot of technology has gone into this building and we can hint that there are some future projects that are coming as well on the environmental side that will be tied into this building as well,” said Kingsmith. 

“Sustainability is big, both in business practices and in terms of environmental impact and being with stewards of the land that we’re on,” said Kingsmith. Development of the land required clearing out 225 established trees to allow for the building’s construction. 

“Obviously these are tough to replace, but we made sure that when we took those trees down, number one, we took pieces of them off so that we can grow them and replant them. We’re committed to replanting one for one every tree that was taken down. In addition to that, we were able to turn the 225 trees into over 10,000 board feet of wood which is now being used in the facility itself.” 

The pavilion previously on site as part of the old campground has also since been up-cycled and incorporated into the site’s grand stairway in the entryway, with historical elements such as the wooden bleachers, from the south pavilion, being salvaged and used for seating throughout the facility’s new corridors. 

“You’ll actually see the old numbers printed right on those benches. We wanted to make sure that while we are moving into the future, we are maintaining that tie to the past and holding onto that historical part of what we have been doing for 125 years. This isn’t starting over this is something this building and the region has been doing for a long time,” added Kingsmith.

The new venue’s first event is scheduled for July 22, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and grand opening expected in early August and open for Whoop-Up Days programming Aug. 22-26.

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