Diverse options for housing events abound in central Ohio.
Diverse options for housing events abound in central Ohio.
A successful event can help an organization launch a new product, enhance its brand, motivate employees and reward or celebrate success. Central Ohio companies and not-for-profit organizations can choose from an array of experiences and venues. Local hospitality and event planning professionals offer ideas on how to make the most of that next affair, whether it's for a dozen people or several hundred.
Destinations by Design
6000 Venture Dr., Suite D
If you don't know where to begin, full service meeting and event management companies like Destinations by Design can help you get started. It manages events locally and across the country.
"We're a one-stop shop in that we coordinate all of the activities for an event, and we help clients bring home the message behind it," says President Chris Curry.
The key: asking a lot of questions.
"The clients' answers help refine what it is they want to achieve through the event. We need to get to know the client and understand the reasons why they're hosting it. We also need to know who the event is for and who is attending because those demographics matter a lot," Curry says.
So a business meeting for C-suite executives would have a much different feel than a motivational seminar for millennials. Because business meetings, educational conferences, trade shows and social events all require a different approach, Destinations by Design utilizes a national network of professionals.
"Our goal is to be a partner with every client to achieve the desired results of the event," Curry says. "We match the personality of the client, the event itself, the attendees, food and activities, so it all meshes together at the best venue for it."
Curry also is president of George Kun Travel and Incentives. "This service is directed to national companies. It's much more travel-oriented and tends to be grander in scale," he says of the various packages that incent and reward customer loyalty and employee performance.
Regardless of the type of event, Curry acknowledges the need for a return on investment. "Smart companies are measuring the event outcome against the purpose. Even with the technical metrics, though, it can be a moving target," he says.
Grand Event Center
820 Goodale Blvd.
Grandview Heights 43212
Just opened in the fall of 2016, the Grand Event Center is one of the newest venues in the trendy Grandview Yard.
"The center is open and airy with natural light everywhere, so it's not what you usually think of for conference space. It's a whole new vibe for the city," says Bryan Wright, senior director of catering.
"Grandview is a great place to be, and our guests like the proximity to Downtown Columbus and the many other nearby attractions," Wright says. Guests can take the shuttle service offered by the adjacent hotels, Courtyard by Marriott and Hyatt Place, to travel to locations within three miles of the center.
"Our niche is a weeklong conference of 60 to 80 people with overnight accommodations. They usually take over the entire space with their business meetings and evening receptions and dinners," Wright says of the property, which is managed by Columbus Hospitality.
The center accommodates everything from a gala for 300 to a board meeting for 10. Its 4,000-square-foot ballroom and 1,600 square feet of meeting space can be broken down into smaller spaces.
"Technological amenities are important here. Mills James operates our state-of-the-art audio visual system for all of our clients, so there's no worry about it not working or getting flustered before a presentation," Wright says.
Guests are assured of a culinary experience that lives up to the venue name from the Grand Event Center's executive chef. "People remember the food," Wright says. "Our chef customizes the menu, and it changes with the seasons. We use local vendors when possible and our guests like that. Honestly, the food is one of the big reasons clients keep coming back."
Amelita Mirolo Barn
(Operated by the Upper Arlington Parks and Recreation Department)
4395 Carriage Hill Lane
Upper Arlington 43220
When the city of Upper Arlington began planning Sunny 95 Park in 2007, it called for an all-season indoor facility. The development also became an opportunity for historic preservation when attention turned to an 1838 barn with hand-cut oak timbers that originally stood near Reed and Fishinger Roads.
"The barn itself was disassembled and stored while the Upper Arlington Community Foundation raised the money to reassemble it at the park. The community really came together and supported the effort," says Recreation Supervisor Jodi Osborne.
"It was amazing. When the barn went up at the park, a good old-fashioned barn-raising lifted the old timber frame by hand," she says.
The foundation gifted the facility to Upper Arlington to manage. It opened in 2011 and is named after a prominent resident.
The city augmented the historic structure with a modern addition, so the combined structure offers 3,700 square feet of event space. It seats 150 or 200 when the outdoor patio space is utilized.
"It's popular for retreats, training and holiday parties. Nonprofit groups also have their fundraising events here," Osborne says.
The site offers a catering kitchen and alcohol is permitted when using an approved caterer. Resident and non-resident rental rates are available.
"From the organizations that are contacting us to rent the barn, word is spreading beyond Upper Arlington and even central Ohio about what a unique facility it is. We're proud of that," Osborne says.
Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens
1777 E. Broad St., Columbus 43203
With a reconstructed barn of its own, the verdant 88-acres of the Franklin Park Conservatory is an oasis.
The Conservatory's newest venue is The Wells Barn. The 12,000-square-foot facility was created from the hand-hewn timber frame of a 200-year-old structure relocated from Richland County. It can host conferences and celebrations and also offers lower level meeting rooms. Depending on the setup, it can accommodate 320.
"The Conservatory is such a jewel, because its natural beauty isn't offered anywhere else in the city," says Senior Sales Manager Brandon Flory.
The Grand Atrium is the Conservatory's largest indoor space. It seats 250 or accommodates 500 for a reception, but is available only after business hours.
Natural light pours into the John F. Wolfe Palm House. After dark, an LED light display by artist James Turrell transforms the Victorian-era space. It is a frequent setting for luncheons, dinners and receptions from 170 to 250 people.
The Veridian, suited to smaller gatherings, seats 130 for dinner and up to 200 for receptions. The outdoors come inside with the tropical plants, a stone wall and wood coffered ceiling.
The Conservatory's Board Room seats up to 14 meeting participants.
"When companies are planning their event, we're seeing more and more of them want a little extra something for the agenda, so we also offer experiential packages. They can choose from culinary, glassblowing and horticultural demonstrations and activities. Some companies purposefully schedule their event during our annual Blooms and Butterflies exhibition. It's very popular with visitors, too," Flory says.
Lisa Hooker is a freelance writer.