Budget-conscious companies and organizations are increasingly looking to colleges and universities as popular and affordable venues for staging meetings and conventions.
Chris Bender, Northern College’s campus manager in Timmins, said the institution has experienced a huge uptick in hosting conference and social events traffic in recent years stemming from staging its own annual summer events but also bookings from government ministries, the mining industry and social functions such as reunions, Aboriginal powwows and weddings.
There was a time when Northern was reluctant to market its meeting facilities and accommodations to outside events, not wanting to undercut the local hospitality sector.
“But more recently because of high demand for rooms,” said Bender, “we have more hotels and motels referring (clients) to us. Now we’re more comfortable promoting ourselves that way.”
More and more clients view the campus as a cost-effective, one-stop shop for food services and accommodations.
“We’re competitive for sure and we’re quite a bit cheaper for rental fees,” she said. “Booking the cafeteria is $200 a day.”
The campus cafeteria is open yearround for conferences and seats a maximum of 336 for dining and Bleachers Pub has capacity for 120.
The college provides a facilities coordinator to work closely with clients, in-house audio-visual staff and security for events that include alcohol. Catering and cafeteria services are provided by Chartwells.
The largest meeting space is the gymnasium with capacity for 800 with non-fixed chairs, 700 for dining and 500 for dinner and dancing. Audio-visual equipment and portable staging are available upon request.
Set-up/break-down staff, bartenders and security are available for licensed events.
There are also a number of boardrooms and classrooms of various sizes available for meetings with catering available.
On the accommodations side, the Timmins campus has a 120-bed residence building that is available for public use from late April to the last week in August. All are single rooms, fully-wired, and come with shower and supplied bed linen.
There is a communal kitchen, TV lounge and on-site laundry facilities.
In Kirkland Lake, Northern’s satellite campus maintains that community’s largest meeting and concert venue with its 500-seat auditorium, which is undergoing a revitalization effort and fundraising campaign to upgrade the seating.
Bender said the college hasn’t made a concerted effort to promote their facilities to the convention crowd, but it’s a line of business they are definitely interested in pursuing.
“We have a really good relationship with Lake Shore Gold and those companies,” she said. “We’ve hosted annual general meetings and Christmas parties that bring in people from across the country to our location.
“Almost 100 per cent of everyone who uses our facilities are very pleased with the service and all the amenities provided.”