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Tradex has $84.6 million economic impact, hoping to expand

Tradex has a total economic impact of $84.6 million, according to a study performed for the local trade and exhibition centre.

The figure was made public Wednesday morning as Tourism Abbotsford hosted its annual Christmas breakfast for the city’s movers and shakers.

Vali Marling, Tradex’s director of operations, informed the crowd that the trade and exhibition centre annually generates $27.5 million in wages and 846 person years of employment.

When it first opened in 1991, the facility hosted 22 events. In 2011, more than 90 events took place.

Originally, Tradex was built in 100 days for $4.5 million. In the past 20 years, five million visitors have passed through the doors and over 1,000 events have been hosted, making it one of busiest mid-size exhibition centres in Canada.

“Once again it’s been an incredibly busy year at Tradex,” said Marling.

Expansion was one of the main topics on organizers' minds. Marling said the facility consistently has to turn away events.

“The reason we are looking at expansion? Frankly we’re full ... We are really looking for space,” she said.

While expansion has not been approved, a set of floor plan concepts were on display for visitors to examine.

“Twelve events have outgrown Tradex ... currently our clients are paying to rent tent space,” said Marling, adding that four more shows are about to outgrow the facility.

In order to host more shows, multiple bookings will become necessary. In 2012, the plan is to separate the two halls so events can run simultaneously.

Marling said the next step is to prepare a business case.

Currently, the facility has 123,000 square feet of floor space. While nothing official has been developed, Dan Stefanson, executive director of Tourism Abbotsford, said a 100,000-square-foot expansion is an option.

Tourism Abbotsford is in the process of creating a series of scenarios, and the cost of each one. The scenarios range from doing nothing, capitalizing on every possible demand, and options between those two points.

“Our own internal concept would be two additional halls. The halls would be two storeys. And the halls would be 50,000 square feet,” he said.

Originally owned by the BC Pavilion Corporation, owners of BC Place Stadium, Tradex was taken over by the city in 2002. That means the city would have to expand the facility, not Tourism Abbotsford.

“We are helping them understand the merits of expansion of a city asset,” said Stefanson.

Until a plan has been completed, Stefanson said it is difficult to estimate the cost. However, the 100,000-square-foot expansion could cost between $15-20 million.

He said federal and provincial funding would be sought, as well as a private partner and funds from Tourism Abbotsford.

There is no timeline on when or if expansion will occur.

Tourism Excellence Award:

Each year, as part of the Christmas Breakfast event, Tourism Abbotsford hands out its Tourism Excellence Award. Thus year’s recipient was the Reach Gallery Museum Abbotsford.

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