LETHBRIDGE, ALTA. -- Lethbridge's Exhibition Park is set to double its current hosting capacity with construction kicking off Wednesday on the city's new 268,000 square foot Agri-food and Trade Centre.

The project will create roughly 400 construction jobs over the next 20 months and as many as 50 full-time jobs when the facility opens in early 2023.

"With additional capacity for events and opportunities for local producers, businesses and students, the hub is an exciting example of the bold, ambitious and forward-thinking projects powered by Alberta’s Recovery Plan," said Premier Jason Kenney.

"This development will help position Alberta for prosperity by creating jobs, attracting investment, and showcasing our province’s growing value-added food sector."

When the project is wrapped up and the facility is able to open its doors, it's expected to contribute more than $90 million annually to the regional economy.

"The Agri-food Hub and Trade Centre is going to ignite economic growth, not just Lethbridge and the southern Alberta economy, but also for Canada`s agricultural industry," said Lethbridge Mayor Chris Spearman.

"It will attract more traffic both from within the community, but more importantly from throughout the world, to come to Lethbridge. This will generate more direct flights to our city, increase demand for hotels and generate new investment in our community."

The facility is funded by the province's recovery plan and the City of Lethbridge which will continue to own the land.

Both provincial and municipal governments say highlighting the region's rich agriculture sector is vital andwill  play a key role in Alberta's post-COVID-19 recovery.

Being able to host up to 7,000 people in the new Agri-food Hub and Trade Centre will allow for larger national and international events to come to Lethbridge.

"A trade show or festival attendant will spend between two to three times more than a leisure traveller," said Chief Executive Officer for Travel Alberta David Goldstein.

"I would say this is the next jewel of the Alberta crown and part of the Alberta experience."

The Lethbridge Exhibition Park hosted its first fair way back in 1897.