By Tony Wittkowski | Local Government Reporter | The Times Herald
While no official opening date has been decided upon, the Blue Water Convention Center has its first events booked.
Kim Appel, the center’s general manager, said three events are set for May, a 1,700-person convention and two wedding receptions.
“It’s exciting that we are finally getting to the point now where we are seeing it come to life,” she said.
Appel said interest in the 40,000-square-foot convention center is there, as she has been having meetings with potential clients and conventions.
Appel is employed by SMG, a national facility management firm that manages the convention center and McMorran Place in Port Huron. She is under contract for about $50,400, which is split between the county and McMorran.
SMG is concentrating on attracting consumer shows, trade shows and conventions to the $9 million facility in its first two years, she said.
“Typically, the convention cycle is every two years out. I have talked to a couple people for 2018,” Appel said.
Appel said quotes are given to those interested in booking an event, but not released publicly to ensure competitors do not underbid them.
“We want to stay in the same range that is conducive to our area,” Appel said. “I’ll tell you having an RV show is going to be different price-wise than if you were to have a banquet for 400 people. It really comes down to the time of use, catering and labor.”
Bill Kauffman, St. Clair County administrator, said the convention center’s scenic riverfront location has been especially attractive to a certain class of customer. “We knew it would be a great venue for weddings,” he said.
The Riverview Room, offers a great view of the St. Clair River, has an observation deck, and can hold about 100 people. Appel said that runs about $600 a day to rent.
“That seems to be the wedding room because it’s right on the water,” Appel said.
The grand ballroom rents out for $700 and fits 250 occupants.
The size of the rooms range from the 12,800-square-foot Lake Huron Hall to one of the ballrooms at 400 square feet.
Kauffman said if an event is large enough, he doesn’t believe there is a time constraint on how far out in advance they are willing to accept conventions.
Multi-year deals are something that would receive preferential treatment.
“If somebody were to sign up for two or three years in a row to come back to the same spot, that group would become one of our higher priorities,” Kauffman said. “They get priority when it comes to reserving and booking because the longer people stay in your community, the more money they leave behind.”
(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on March 8, 2015)