A money-losing museum in Kirkland Lake has found new purpose as a state-of-the-art convention centre.
Hockey Heritage North is experiencing a rebirth as a popular community gathering place for social, training and corporate events.
The 17,000-square-foot facility opened in 2006 as a government-supported tourism destination attraction dedicated to hockey with a collection of historical artifacts, photos, memorabilia and interactive displays.
When Microtel announced it was building a hotel next to Hockey Heritage North and the nearby Comfort Inn began completely renovating its 65 rooms, Wilf Hass, the town’s economic development and tourism director, said it wasn’t rocket science to figure out the facility’s future and best use was as a conference and meetings space.
“Hockey Heritage North was built as a museum and later pressed into service as a conference and exhibition centre, and couldn’t really do either one really well because it wasn’t purpose-built for it.”
The facility had been a financial burden to the municipality, so town staff consulted with the community to find ways to drive traffic to the venue, and have it recognized as the go-place for events.
“With the renovations, we’ve been able to accomplish that.”
With contributions from Ottawa, Queen’s Park and the town, about a $1 million have been invested in the revamp with the results being almost immediate, even before interior construction was finished.
Hass said the building’s banquet room is booked solid for weddings every weekend from July 1 to Dec. 31.
A fun-zone space has been converted into a 288-square metre banquet room that seats 140 in a dinner setting. The rectangular room contains a bar table and two fridges.
The hockey exhibits that populate the main 310-square-metre exhibition hall can be easily moved on mobile display cases to make way for other functions or travelling exhibitions. The capacity is 152 for dining and 273 standing.
The 110-square-metre theatre has a seating capacity of 72 and standing room of 100.
A wing of offices was converted into two small board rooms with seating for 10 and 6.
A souvenir store was repurposed into a lounge and game room, outfitted with flat screen TVs and air and bubble hockey tables.
Audio-visual capabilities have been upgraded throughout the building and kitchen facilities are available for outside caterers.
In mid-July, renovations were 95 per cent complete with LED lighting still to be installed.
“Everything will be completely wrapped up by September,” said Hass.
On the corporate side, the facility has hosted events of more than 100 for companies like Kirkland Lake Gold.
“We’re getting a lot of repeat business on that,” said Hass, “as well as from lawyers for depositions. They’re the main drivers behind the small conference rooms.”
Hass said they’d like to attract more mining industry-related events, but likely not on the scale of the large mining equipment shows in Timmins due to the building’s height restrictions.
He views Hockey Heritage North as becoming a regional meeting venue due to its location between the communities of northeastern Ontario and western Quebec.
“I think we’re going to see more on the business and training seminar side. Those are the two areas where I see growth.”
Hass said no grand reopening of Hockey Heritage North was ever scheduled, but the public is welcome to come in and view the renovations. The town is working with the Ben Farella Group of North Bay to devise a marketing strategy to promote the facility.