“On the Map’ for Conferences

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Ian Ross, Northern Ontario Business, February 2017

Renovated Kenora High School is magnet for meetings (excerpts)

The pull of the tourism magnet to Kenora has gotten a whole lot stronger. Since the opening of the Manidoo Baawatig Event Centre in September, the venue has hosted “hundreds” of concerts, training seminars, and conferences and conventions ranging from groups of 20 to delegations of 300, according to facilities coordinator Mark Duggan.

The Event Centre is located at the Seven Generations Education Institute in Kenora, where the former Lakewood High School has been renovated floor by floor to provide updated classroom space for Indigenous adult learners. The expansive space inside the 80,000 sure foot campus is also leased out to other organizations such as the Keewatin-Patricia District School Board who generate their own conference traffic.

Solid Construction handled the $2 million renovation project which involved converting a high school gymnasium and the adjoining change rooms into a state-of-the-art premier meeting space. The multi-purpose venue features retractable seating for 220 and room to seat 240 at round tables on the main floor. An upper mezzanine seating and dining level tops out capacity at 400. “We have a 19-foot projector screen so people can see what’s going on, ” said Duggan. “The facility’s flexible, that what I like about it.”

Duggan gave his input on the venue’s design. “We worked very closely with the architect (David Nelson, Nelson Architecture) on the whole thing. I wanted to make it acoustically perfect. That was a big thing with different conferences. We want to be able to put on a variety of different functions.”

The Wi-Fi enabled and licensed facility includes a sound system that can hook up 12 microphones for events like political debates. A separate room just off the main floor holds a 25-person tech centre with an 84-inch Smart TV that’s used for training and meetings. “Technically, the conference centre is set up exactly for what people need,” said Duggan.

The former gymnasium windows, installed in the 1950s, were uncovered to provide a sun-splashed environment with the ability to raise or lower the blinds. Duggan said the feedback he’s gotten from people who’ve toured the venue indicate “we did it right”. “People have been looking for a place like this for a long time,” acknowledged Duggan. “Kenora people have always gone out to different meetings in Ontario and Canada. Now we can say, why not come to Kenora, we have the facilities to do that.”