CenterPlace Regional Event Center, in Spokane Valley, celebrated its 10th year of operations last year by hosting a record 920 events, and the busy facility hopes to exceed that number by at least 5 percent this year.
Owned by the city of Spokane Valley and managed by its parks & recreation department, the 54,000-square-foot CenterPlace includes 34 rooms, with gathering areas ranging in size from a less than 500-square-foot conference room to a more than 6,800-square-foot space called the Great Room.
The building is located just north of Interstate 90 along Mirabeau Parkway, at the site of the former Walk in the Wild Zoo. Events hosted there include conferences, meetings, lectures, banquets, celebrations, and senior and youth activities.
Carol Carter, CenterPlace coordinator, says the facility’s location also makes it an ideal starting point for outdoor events such as fundraising walks—or celebratory events such as weddings. She estimates the center sees 120,000 visitors each year.
“At first, we were best known for hosting weddings,” she says. “These days, of the events we host each year, I would say 40 or so are weddings, and the rest are business events.”
In addition to providing a regional gathering place, the building’s west wing is home to the Spokane Valley Parks & Recreation Department, while its east wing houses the Spokane Valley Senior Citizens Association.
According to Carolbelle Branch, public information officer for the city of Spokane Valley, the concept of creating the facility was formed in the mid-1990s by Mirabeau Point Inc., a nonprofit group.
By 2002, Spokane County voters had approved two propositions that extended a local sales tax and hotel/motel tax option for financing a public building of regional significance. Included in that bond was $7 million of the cost to build CenterPlace, which was administered by the Spokane Public Facilities District. That funding was supplemented by millions of dollars in donations.
It was shortly after Spokane Valley was incorporated in 2003 that Spokane County Commissioners agreed to convey the 54-acre piece of land known as Mirabeau Point to the newly established city. Afterward, the city took charge of CenterPlace, designating it as its first major capital project.
Madsen, Mitchell Evenson & Conrad PLLC, of Spokane, designed the facility, and Mooney & Pugh Contractors Inc., of Spokane, was the contractor on the $10 million project. Construction on the facility began in 2003 and the building’s grand opening was held in the fall of 2005.
Mirabeau Meadows Park, which includes Mirabeau Springs waterfall and pond, is just north of CenterPlace, and the Spokane River and the Centennial Trail also are nearby. CenterPlace shares its 400-space parking lot with Discovery Playground.
While CenterPlace hosts some large yearly events such as Valleyfest, breakfast with Santa, and the Liberty Lake Kiwanis Club’s father-daughter dance, Carter says the venue also is gaining popularity as a place for local community colleges and school districts to hold lectures and classes.
Also, she says, “We get a lot of homeschoolers through Virtual Academy who rent classroom space in order to take exams.”
Churches also rent space for services, usually until their congregations outgrow the space and they acquire their own. The facility also occasionally hosts wakes and memorial services, as those tend to be events that need larger spaces on short notice.
Rooms available for rent come with a variety of features, including audio-visual systems with Internet connectivity. The senior citizen association wing also includes a room with a wooden dance floor, a fireplace lounge, library, billiard room, and art space.
While the facility has the capacity to host many different types of events for various community groups, it isn’t considered what some might call a community center.
“Most of our events are not open to the public, and we don’t have a gym or a pool,” says Michael Stone, parks and recreation director for the city of Spokane Valley.
Stone, who has been director for eight years, says the facility’s lifeblood is business and corporate meetings and events. He says business rentals often bring the venue further recognition, as people attending those events tend to belong to other groups in the community, and they then recommend CenterPlace as a possible venue for other group events or celebrations.
“All of the money spent by various groups to rent rooms goes back into the city’s general fund, and through budgeting, the center’s costs are offset,” says Stone. “We’re not self-supporting yet, so funding can still sometimes be a challenge.”
Room rental prices vary depending on whether an event will run several hours or the whole day, and include time needed for setup. Prices range from $42 an hour for a meeting room to $1,575 to rent the Great Room for a day.
Rental prices also include a nonrefundable deposit, cleanup costs, and host or hostess fees, in order to have someone on site who can help manage the facility and handle any questions that might arise.
“As a government agency, we have to be consistent with our prices,” says Stone. “The only exception we make is the occasional discount for reoccurring events hosted by groups that are here consistently enough that it makes up the difference of charging them to rent a room.”
Stone says groups wishing to provide food for their events must go through the onsite catering service, with the exception of certain Sunday events at which attendees are allowed to bring pre-made, potluck-style foods. Alcohol must also be purchased through the facility’s caterer, who provides servers at each event.
“It’s invaluable to have a caterer in-house, who can customize menus and adjust prices according to the client’s needs,” says Stone.
Recently, CenterPlace found itself in the market for a new caterer, when the owners of the company it had been using, Cobblestone Catering and Events, were arrested and charged with several criminal offenses.
“The whole situation was quite a shock,” says Stone. “But our main concern was finding a new caterer quickly, so that none of our scheduled client events were disrupted.”
The venue’s new caterer is Adam Hagstad, of Le Catering Co. Hagstad has agreed to fulfill CenterPlace’s remaining catering contracts for the year, after which the facility will solicit proposals from interested caterers for a new catering contract.
The parks department and the police precinct, which is located at 12710 E Sprague, are the only two city operations not housed at City Hall at 11707 E Sprague. Stone says the parks department operates out of CenterPlace because it is vital that staff be onsite to manage client needs.
“Someone always needs to be onsite because with these events there is a lot of organization and troubleshooting involved,” he says. “Unlike the other departments, we’re open seven days a week, working 16 hour days.”
CenterPlace has nine employees in its parks department, with five who specifically assist with the facility. Those five employees include Carter, two reservation agents, and two maintenance workers who split their time between CenterPlace and the Spokane Valley police precinct. In addition to regular staff, CenterPlace also hires anywhere from 15 to 20 people to work as part-time, seasonal interns.
The city of Spokane Valley plans to begin construction of a new $14.4 million, 50,000-square-foot City Hall building at the southeast corner of Sprague Avenue and Dartmouth Road in June, but Stone says the parks department will continue to operate out of CenterPlace even after that project is completed. In addition to booking rental space in CenterPlace, the department also coordinates the rental of spaces in city parks.
“What people don’t always realize is that even the parks near CenterPlace are public spaces, so while we can reserve rooms for your event, at the same time we can’t prohibit the public from using outdoor spaces like the playground or the trails,” says Stone. “We get a lot of strange requests, but we’re well used to them by now.”
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