FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — Northern Arizona Healthcare is planning a major expansion on the southern end of Flagstaff, including a new state-of-the-art hospital, ambulatory services, and a future health and wellness village.

The health care system operates the only Level 1 trauma center in northern Arizona at Flagstaff Medical Center, serving 700,000 people across 50,000 square miles (129,500 square kilometers). The downtown Flagstaff campus last expanded 25 years ago and has no more room to grow, hospital officials said Friday.

A new campus is planned off Interstate 17 near Fort Tuthill, a popular Coconino County park that's close to the Flagstaff airport. Flo Spyrow, the president and chief executive of Northern Arizona Healthcare, said the move will help meet future needs and better serve patients, more than half of whom come from outside Flagstaff.

“Equally significant is that this exceptional level of care will be right here, close to home and negating unnecessary travel for those who count on us every single day,” she said in a statement.

The coronavirus pandemic underscored some of the challenges the hospital faced with ventilation, negative pressure environments and not having the space to separate patients, hospital officials said.

The hospital, like others across the country, also struggled to fulfill staffing needs during the pandemic. Officials said they've been working on plans to better recruit and retain nurses and offer more attractive salaries.

“We want to create an environment that's really easy to do care in, and we think that's a competitive advantage in the future," said Josh Tinkle, the chief administrative officer for the health care system.

The new campus on 190 acres (76 hectares) will include more single-occupancy rooms at the hospital, more natural light, modern infrastructure, a community gathering space and residential development, and will emphasize wellness and innovation, officials said.

The project that will start with the new hospital and ambulatory clinic is in the zoning phase, and won't be complete for several years. A contractor will be selected in June, said Steve Eiss, vice president of construction and real estate development. Construction is expected to create hundreds of jobs over a few years.

Northern Arizona Healthcare said it will work with the city of Flagstaff to redevelop the downtown campus.