With full broadband connectivity, capacity for more than 500 people and a kitchen offering a range of catering services, the Steelworkers Union Hall and Conference Centre in Sudbury is an ideal venue for conferences, conventions, training sessions and meetings—yet it’s still a relatively unknown entity in the North.
“You can use this place for anything,” said Roger Lafontaine, a trustee on the executive board of the United Steelworkers Local 6500. “There’s nothing, really, that we can’t do.”
The facility, which opened in January 2011, had been a long time coming for the union, whose former 1940s-era building was destroyed by fire in 2008.
Major renovations were required to bring the Brady Street facility to its current state—it formerly housed a grocery store—but the result is a fully equipped meeting centre able to host everything from weddings to charitable events to business conferences.
The main hall has a capacity of 500 people, while the smaller hall can hold 115; the outdoor patio, which sits adjacent to the small hall, can hold 100. Additionally, there are two meeting rooms, which can hold 20 and 30 people, respectively, and a boardroom that fits 15.
All of the rooms are wired for broadband, and outfitted with 60-inch televisions.
“They’re all interconnected,” hall manager Bob Ritchie said. “They’re all wired together, so that whatever’s on the screen here can be on the screen in the small hall, can be on the TVs in the boardrooms, and can be on the TVs in the classrooms.”
In the main hall, a 360-degree tilt-pivot-zoom camera can focus in on a single speaker or the entire 700-square-foot stage. Six massive roll-down screens mounted around the room project the event so that patrons have a front-row view of the stage regardless of where they’re sitting.
Large bay doors in the lobby allow for equipment and vehicles to be moved in for demonstration purposes, and the parking lot accommodates 175 vehicles.
Lafontaine estimates 60 per cent of the centre’s clients hail from the corporate demographic, while the remaining 40 per cent stems from hosting weddings. The facility has been used for videoconferencing meetings, hosting training sessions and holding galas.
Clients include private businesses such as Vale, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, other unions and government organizations. The hall recently played host to a fundraising dinner for federal Liberal leadership candidate Justin Trudeau.
Catering services were contracted out at the old hall, but Lafontaine said the USW wanted to have its own kitchen in the new facility to ensure quality for its clients.
“If you eat bad food at the Steel hall, it’s going to be our fault,” he reasoned.
A range of corporate packages is available, including breakfast buffets, brunches, platters, hors d’oeuvres and full-course plated dinners. Everything is prepared on site by the hall’s full-time Red Seal-certified chef.
“It’s a very professional kitchen,” Ritchie said. “It’s well equipped, from the quality of the flatware to the quality of the glassware, and even the chafing dishes are high-quality chafing dishes. So the Steelworkers did it right the first time when they built the facility. It’s equipped with quality.”
Since it opened last year, the facility has become the go-to place to hold weddings—all but two Saturdays are booked through 2013, and dates in 2014 are quickly filling up. But Lafontaine believes the USW can capture more of the Monday-to-Friday business crowd.
Most of the clientele currently hails from Sudbury, but Lafontaine expects that can grow as word of mouth spreads, because “there’s nothing like this north of Barrie.”
While the old hall had a lot of history behind it—it had been the USW’s headquarters since 1965—the new hall offers capabilities the old hall couldn’t.
“This is way ahead,” Lafontaine said. “You can’t compare the two.”