A community college is not often the first place that comes to mind for hosting events and business conferences.
But Sudbury's Collège Boréal became a robust venue for a wide variety of events almost by accident.
In the fall of 2011, the French-language college launched its culinary arts program, and opened a new restaurant, called Au pied du rocher, which served primarily as a teaching lab.
Students had access to a professional kitchen and dining area that rivalled those of other establishments in the city.
The same year, Boréal also opened a state-of-the-art auditorium with 352 seats.
While both spaces were built to benefit students and faculty, they expanded and enhanced the school's ability to host conferences.
“Our first goal is always a learning environment,” said Jean Cotnoir, Boréal's director of marketing.
But when classes are not in session, the college's facilities are available for competitive rates.
“People think that we only serve the French community,” Cotnoir said. “But we're a community college first and foremost, so whether you're English-speaking or French we're happy to work with you.”
The college never started an advertising campaign to promote its new facilities in 2011, but through word of mouth it has hosted more events each year.
Janelle Galipeau-Bélair, Boréal's special events co-ordinator, said the college hosted five weddings in the last year, compared to just one in the year before.
In addition to weddings, Boréal has hosted a number of conferences and events, including a large forum for women in the trades, and an awards ceremony hosted by the Sudbury Area Mining Supply and Services Association in the past year.
Cotnoir said Boréal's versatility for events is a great asset.
The restaurant can accommodate 104 people when it is set up with conference tables, and up to 175 people for a cocktail-style event.
With the cafeteria next door – behind a retractable wall – the restaurant's capacity increases to 288 people for a conference and 425 people for a cocktail event.
The college's classrooms can also be used for smaller breakout sessions.
The auditorium also has multiple uses, Cotnoir said. It provides an ideal venue for keynote speeches and PowerPoint presentations.
The space is equipped with a large screen that descends from the ceiling, and a professional sound system.
The school has a team of audio-visual professionals on call for events.
The seats in the auditorium can be removed to create a larger floor space for events and booths.
Some events, such as the Women in Trades Forum, have used the restaurant, auditorium and classrooms at different times.
“You have access to a whole package,” Cotnoir said.
The college has an in-house catering service through the Co-op Boréal. Depending on the time of year, some events choose to have the culinary arts students prepare the food.
When the students prepare food for events it gives them real-world experience without having to do a placement at a restaurant or hotel.
Hotels may still be the first choice for many conference organizers in Sudbury, but Cotnoir said Boréal is open for business and willing to work with organizations to make their events successful.