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History made and remembered in one project

Construction of Killarney Mountain Lodge's Canada House conference centre underway, opening scheduled for spring, 2019

Killarney Mountain Lodge is entering a new phase in its long history with the intent of taking the town with it to a brighter future.

The resort's latest building project is well underway and by the time it's finished, it will be a record-breaker and a focal point for the property.

Canada House, a 34,000-square foot conference centre is being constructed on the west end of the resort in the village of Killarney, approximately 120 km southwest of Sudbury, on the shore of Georgian Bay. Guests were invited to tour the project during the annual grand opening of the resort, June 22 and 23.

“It's slated to be finished by December, with opening in the spring of 2019, but we are already attracting larger events and have bookings,” said general manager Kelly McAree. “This is for the future of the lodge and Killarney as a whole. We are raising all boats with the tide.”

It's both paying homage to history and making it, McAree said. By the time it is finished, it will be the largest log structure and largest convention centre built out of logs in the world.

Canada House boasts two levels with multi-functional spaces. The ground floor includes two main banquet rooms with unobstructed views of Georgian Bay that include bars, fireplaces and large floor spaces that can hold 150 people in the smaller room and up to 300 people in the larger. Also on the ground floor are several private dining rooms that will accommodate around 20 people and a kitchen area. Once completed guests will be greeted by a large rotunda, solid wood staircases leading to the basement and log columns.

Much of the lumber is red and white pine, like the trees growing in the region. McAree said much of it was harvested from Wikwemikong Unceded Territory's logging operation. The rest comes from Quebec and B.C.

In the basement, there will be seven breakout rooms set up for conferences and meetings that will include amenities like Wi-Fi. The basement will also have its own kitchen area.

“Each room we are building and naming after historical figures, locations and events that happened in the community and at the lodge,” McAree said. “The names include Hole-in-The-Wall, Group of Seven, even our longtime fishing charter guide will have a room named after him.”

While the scale of the building is large the design has an organic look that blends into the surroundings, mimicking the traditional log cabins that were common to the region in the early part of its history.

This conference centre is the latest and largest project in the resort's ongoing renovations.

The resort suffered a fire in 2016 in a newly constructed building containing guest rooms. Since then, they rebuilt that to twice its size, added a standalone coffee house, and expanded the marina. In the main building they added their great room, which hosts a lounge and buffets, and a new front desk.

“We only added a few new rooms, but we are running about 30 per cent ahead of last year,” he said. “We are continuously doubling our business every year.”

McAree explained administration has been working steadily to renovate and expand all accommodations and services, with an eye on making it a year-round destination.

That will take several years, though, due to the need to winterize older parts of the resort, which have stood since it was built in 1948.

“We are trying to honour that history,” McAree said. “The original rooms are still there, and we call them The Heritage Suites, as about 50 per cent of our guests are clients that really like that.”

Any changes they add will pay homage to the past, while being up to code and modern standards.

They've also been expanding their business holdings in the town, including merging with the Sportsman's Inn in 2015, which McAree said has been an excellent relationship since the beginning.

It's not just about money and business. These expansions and improvements are being conducted for the overall benefit of the town.

“The community was dying before we started to invest,” he said. “We don't want to see this town or this region fade away. There's a lot of heritage and notable people that came from and still live here.”

Everything they do for the lodge, he said, ultimately helps drive business all over the town. Their marketing campaigns include local attractions, history and the local culture. Killarney itself is small enough people will naturally want to explore all of it, not just stay in the resort.

Their renovations are just as much to modernize as to preserve what history remains, he said.

Many of the guests are repeat clients, coming back every year. Many of them are American, due to the resort doing a lot of marketing in the United States.

Despite the current tense trade disputes dominating headlines, McAree said their American clientele numbers remain unaffected.

“We do get a lot of apologies,” he joked. “We have a lot of Americans that have properties here.”