12/15/2017 07:37 EST | Updated 12/15/2017 07:41 EST

Halifax convention centre officially opens five years after first proposed

HALIFAX — The convention centre portion of a massive $500-million construction project that dominates downtown Halifax has officially opened its doors, several years behind schedule.

Built with $169 million in taxpayer funding, the 120,000-square-foot Halifax Convention Centre is to host its first event — the Canadian weightlifting junior nationals — on Jan. 20.

Convention centre CEO Carrie Cussons says 90 events are already booked for the first year of operations.

Cussons says that number includes nearly three times more national and international events than have ever been hosted at the city's much smaller convention facility.

First announced in 2012, the entire one-million square foot development known as the Nova Centre, includes a hotel, office tower and public plaza.

Construction began in January 2013, but the timetable was dealt setbacks after developer Argyle Developments had to make design changes and mechanical upgrades to the building.

Joe Ramia, Argyle's president and CEO, says construction is about 98 per cent complete with the finishing touches expected to be ready by March.