For 30 years Science North has created a reputation as one of Northern Ontario's premier tourist destinations.
But according to those who work there, the science centre also has a lot to offer the business community.
Renee Lepera, Science North's senior manager of visitor services and sales, said the centre's secondary science museum, Dynamic Earth, has long been Sudbury's best kept secret as a meeting and conference space.
For five months out of the year, Dynamic Earth is closed as a science centre, but remains open to any organization that would like to rent the space. “That entire building is available for rentals from Nov. 1 to when we re-open again in March,” said Lepera.
The space, located on Big Nickel Mine Drive, adjacent to Vale-owned property, includes the Atlas Copco Theatre, equipped with the latest audio-visual technologies.
The theatre, Lepera said, can accommodate more than 100 people, and is ideal for presentations and meetings.
Dynamic Earth also has 2,000 square feet of space, normally used for exhibits, that is available to accommodate any conference or business meeting during the off-season.
Lepera said mining companies have taken to the space, because it offers a thematic backdrop that relates to the industry – including an underground mine used for museum visitors – and is conveniently located near Vale's property.
“The ambiance is attractive because it's focused on mining,” said Dick DeStefano, executive director of the Sudbury Area Mining Supply and Service Association.
DeStefano said the Canadian Institute of Mining uses the space every month, and mining companies take advantage of its multimedia offerings for special presentations.
He said Dynamic Earth's only downside is that it is too small for events with more than 200 people.
Insurance companies, travel agencies and financial groups have also used the space for a variety of events.
The iconic Science North building, on Sudbury's Ramsey Lake Road, also has several spaces available to the business community.
Unlike Dynamic Earth, Science North is open to visitors year-round, but event organizers can take advantage of the space outside of regular visiting hours.
The Vale Cavern offers a unique space in a cave blasted out of solid rock. Because the cavern is usually used to exhibit Science North's Wildfires 4D film – complete with 3D glasses, moving seats and simulated weather effects – it is often only available for events that are directly tied to the science centre.
For example, Sudbury's inaugural TEDx conference was held in the Vale Cavern, and featured Science North staff scientist Franco Mariotti as a keynote speaker.
Mariotti discussed Sudbury's re-greening efforts at the event.
“Anything that we've hosted in there has either been directly linked with Science North as a participant or we've done it after hours,” Lepera said about the Vale Cavern.
In a new initiative, Science North has started to lease out its 6,000-square-foot special exhibit hall to organizations for conferences and trade shows.
The space is usually used for temporary exhibits, but it is available to rent from March Break to Labour Day.
In past years, Science North used the hall to prototype new exhibits during the off-season, but it has recently allowed organizations to rent out the space.
The temporary exhibit hall was used for a car show organized by Chrysler. The company had its latest models on display in the hall, and allowed attendees to test-drive some cars in the Science North parking lot.
Sudbury radio station Q92 also rented the hall to host its Toys for Boys event. Lepera said both clients said they would want to use the space again.
To make conferences at Science North unique, the centre often hosts science demonstrations for the attendees. The onsite caterer, for instance, has served ice cream made with liquid nitrogen during a live presentation.
As one of Sudbury's most popular tourist destinations, Science North is also a common stop for business travellers visiting the city.
Lepera said many conference attendees in Sudbury take advantage of Science North's corporate membership program, in which businesses buy passes at a discounted rate that they can then give out to clients, employees or even sector colleagues. The corporate membership program also gives participating businesses discounted rates for room rentals.
“I think it's really about customizing for our clients. We really can do anything you want,” Lepera said. “We're a science centre, so we think about things differently. We're innovative, we're creative and we really want everyone's experience here to be amazing.”