Functional event space demands flexible layouts that can be customized to fit a full range of needs.
In the same week, a club or resort property may go from serving as a corporate retreat for business professionals to hosting a large-scale wedding reception for hundreds of guests, all using the same designated space.
Versatility and adaptability are essential when it comes to designing banquet space. As more properties supplement income by growing the event side of their businesses, these facilities require functionality that can make set-up a seamless process. Having the ability to transform banquet and event spaces effortlessly can help to solidify properties’ reputations as a one-stop shop for members and guests.
|Summing It Up
• Changing up lighting styles and acoustics can make ballrooms livelier for entertainment purposes.
• Keeping up to date with technological advances is a major advantage when serving business clientele.
• Even minor cosmetic updates to existing spaces can help to personalize events.
Upping the Wow Factor
At The Odyssey Country Club in Tinley Park, Ill., the event center was recently reinvented without having to alter its original footprint. This past March, the 12,000-sq. ft. ballroom was updated with several enhancements, to create a more customizable layout for members and guests.
“The facility was entirely reimagined and redesigned, while maintaining the existing flexibility of the event space with movable walls,” explains Vice President of Operations Nicholas Halikias.
To help open up the space, the new design concentrates on brighter aesthetics, moving from a traditional to a more modern style. Light contemporary colors with platinum-colored wall coverings are balanced by textured wallpaper, featuring shimmers of silver. Dramatic color-changing cove lights, along with digital signage at the entry to the ballroom, “allow clients to personalize their event in countless ways,” notes Halikias. A state-of-the-art indoor and outdoor sound system entertains guests as they move to and from the outside portico.
While the updates to The Odyssey Event Centre are subtle, the original grand entry foyer’s twin staircases and two-story fireplace remain intact, creating an elegant setting. “Now, as never before, an event can reflect a host’s unique and personal style, enabling them to create whatever experience they wish,” says Halikias.
Completing this project on time created something of a challenge for The Odyssey, which was forced to close its facility last December due to construction. But according to Halikias, this minor setback has since made up for itself, as evidenced by an increase in bookings since its reopening in early March.
“Customers are wowed from the moment they arrive in the grand foyer and experience the entirely re-imagined space,” he says.
For Birmingham (Mich.) Country Club, restructuring its banquet space has literally opened doors to more opportunities. Part of a larger improvement project that included a renovated golf course, pool and racquet facilities, and clubhouse, the renovated banquet facilities opened last May.
While spacious in theory, the club’s former banquet layout was not conducive to hosting larger events. “We have three or four rooms, depending on the configuration, that opened up and could be used together, but it was really just about opening doors to the rooms,” says General Manager/Chief Operating Officer Joseph Basso, MCM, CCE. “A large event literally took place in three different rooms, and it felt like it.”
Flexible floor plans for banquet facilities lend themselves to customized menus, enabling clubs to prepare and serve meals in settings that result in a smooth traffic flow and an enjoyable dining experience. At Birmingham (Mich.) Country Club, Director of Catering Michelle Ray is in charge of creating unique layouts for the club’s banquet facilities. Her portfolio of renderings that she can show to those hosting events helps to not only optimize the club’s event space, but tailor each affair according to its theme and guest size.
For example, for events that accommodate up to 200 people, the “Reception-Style, Strolling Dinner” layout utilizes each of the club’s four rooms by showcasing a different meal component. “Each station was chef-attended and interactive, which lent itself well to the networking style of the event,” says Ray in describing how a recent event used this template. “Our expanded floor plan allowed guests to visit each room and get a completely different experience than [they had in] the room before.”
Traditional sit-down weddings benefit from an open-floor plan, enabling the banquet rooms to be utilized in a variety of ways that can accommodate anywhere from 50 to 800 guests. “Our large, cathedral-style doors open the space in a way that a traditional-style door could not,” Ray notes. “Our renovation has allowed us to easily double the size of weddings and large parties.”
Because holidays are also big business for the club, Ray devised a layout for brunches and other special occasions. Last month, the club hosted an Easter buffet, in which the Maguire Bar that connects to the dining rooms was repurposed. “This allowed us to add more seating in our dining room where the buffet would have been in previous years,” she says.
By adding a second set of high-arched double doors between the ballroom and fireside room, along with three fold-back walls between the club room and ballroom, the ballroom went from having no windows to having a full view of the golf course.
Because the room’s drab color palette was one of the biggest complaints the club received when hosting weddings, a large portion of the $2.4 million clubhouse budget was devoted to adding millwork to the facility and converting the ballroom walls to milled cherry.
“We wanted to stay true to the Tudor style of our clubhouse, but didn’t want the rooms to have an overly masculine feel with all the wood, so we selected an appropriately neutral color palette to complement the wood finishes,” Basso says.
Using the existing high cathedral ceiling in the ballroom, recessed down-lighting was replaced with crystal chandeliers. Over in the club room, the drop ceiling was raised about 18 inches and enhanced with 13 coffers, each with independent chandeliers and complemented by recessed down-lighting. To improve the acoustics, the installation of a state-of-the-art, four-channel sound system enables the same music to be channeled to each of the banquet spaces, or each room can play its own music.
During the course of the renovation, the clubhouse’s freight elevator, which provides access to basement storage, needed to be relocated to the west on an outside wall. “The elevator itself was on a sixteen-week lead time, so we spent the first half of the summer working out of two construction trailers in our east parking lot, creating quite the logistical challenge,” recalls Basso.
But with this concern now in the club’s rearview mirror, Basso is encouraged by the fact that the club is on track for a 20% increase in banquet revenue this year.
“Eighty-nine percent of our membership voted for the project, and 99% of them are raving over the outcome,” he states. “It truly has created a different feel for our clubhouse.”
Last September, White Elephant Village, part of Nantucket Island Resorts in Nantucket, Mass., underwent a multimillion-dollar, 8,500-sq. ft. renovation of its ballroom, boardroom, fitness center and commercial kitchen.
“Our goal was to keep it sophisticated, yet comfortable,” says General Manager Bettina Landt. “People are looking for something that still feels like you are on Nantucket, yet satisfies the sophisticated environment that is technologically up to par.”
Outfitted in a casual Nantucket style, the ballroom and boardroom feature crisp white trim, hardwood floors, textured wallpaper and white ceilings. Designed to be dividable, the 3,000-sq. ft. ballroom space features a Hufcor folding wall system for customizable affairs, with a mix of sconces and chandeliers for decorative lighting. The 420-sq. ft. conference room provides a more intimate setting for meetings of up to 20 participants and features global Wi-Fi through ceiling-mounted hot spots, AV connectivity, tension-drop screens and 4500-lumens projectors for presentations.
“People love the quiet sophistication and the technological side [of the conference room], being able to rely on the built-ins and enjoying the services we can provide in one location,” notes Landt.
A major goal during the renovation of these spaces was creating a soundproof environment. “In a tight residential area, our goal was to minimize the impact of noise for our neighbors, as well as our own overnight guests,” she says. “No one wants to hear loud music or voices while they are relaxing in their rooms or trying to sleep.”
And with construction taking place over the resort’s busy season last summer, minimizing the disruption while adhering to the project’s timeline was key.
This summer will mark White Elephant Village’s first full season since the reopening, but if the past months are any indication of the success thus far, Landt is optimistic. “We’ve seen an uptick in shoulder-season bookings, and groups find that this space fits their needs,” she says. The number of corporate meetings is currently outpacing social events, she adds, because the latter take longer to prepare.
Of the first wedding that took place last November, Landt reports that the couple was delighted to have a weatherproof location for their celebration.
“So many locations on the island are reliant on tents, but when the weather doesn’t comply, that can be challenging,” she notes. “We are now able to be weather-independent, and that has helped to extend our season.”