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Sudbury: home of the underground cocktail party

Science North offering playful experience alongside standard meeting spaces

While Science North continues to attract its regular audience of kids and tourists, they've been drawing a different sort of crowd lately, a corporate one.

At the November Northern Ontario Tourism Summit, attendees chatted in line for a turn on the gyroscope, a tool used to train astronauts for zero gravity.

After a spin, they could pet a skunk, check out a liquid nitrogen demonstration, or build race cars to compete against their colleagues.

“It was a good ice breaker for the crowd... it gets people talking to people they wouldn't normally talk with,” said Donna MacLeod, who organized the event as executive director at Northeastern Ontario Tourism. However, she said there was one risk.

“The whole interactive component brought out some competitiveness,” joked MacLeod.

Science North started expanding its hours with Nightlife on the Rocks, a licensed event for adults to enjoy exhibits with a drink or two in the evenings.

The hit event inspired companies to book similar events for their employees and as a supplement to their business events.

Kathryn Huneault manages the science centre's functions and food, and she said the trend has been catching on.

She thinks the science centre offers a welcome change in pace for conference attendees.

“Sometimes it's hard to be in a conference for a day or three days and it gets to be a little dry,” said Huneault. “There's nothing we really offer that's dry.”

Along with its regular exhibits, Science North and its sister organization, mining and geology museum Dynamic Earth, have spaces that can booked for lectures, dinners, conferences, and set up for a myriad of other events.

The snowflake-shaped science centre can accommodate 500 people for a whole building cocktail party, 200 for a dinner or presentation in their underground Vale Cavern, or 200 in their IMAX theatre, where they like to hold their own staff meetings.

The science centre also features separate, smaller spaces more appropriate for breakout sessions or smaller meetings.

All events are covered, from equipment down to food.

Science North has an on-site food provider, housed in their newly renovated restaurant that opened up the space overlooking Lake Ramsey.

Alternatively, corporate users can opt for catering from Brystons on the Park, with whom Science North and Dynamic Earth have an exclusive catering contract.

Huneault said that they're able to tailor their programming to the industry they're dealing with.

The mining industry, for example, can make use of the mining and geology exhibits at Dynamic Earth to complement their programming.

This tailoring is what drew MacLeod, who said the best place for them to hold a tourism summit was in a tourist destination.

“They really offer unique opportunities for conferences to host something that's very unique to the area,” said MacLeod. “Where else can you go have a cocktail party underground?”