College reports good stewardship with important community resource
KOKOMO, Ind. – On the third anniversary of Howard County’s decision to turn the Kokomo Event Center over to Ivy Tech Community College, Ivy Tech officials are proud of the role the rechristened Kokomo Event & Conference Center is playing in north central Indiana and encouraged by its prospects for the future.
“Since the Howard County Council transferred the event center to Ivy Tech in July 2011, the College has continued to
invest in improvements at this important community resource,” said Ivy Tech Kokomo Region Chancellor Steve Daily. “We put the facility to use for many College activities but it is being broadly used by the community. Over the last three years, the center’s offerings have been expanded, we are drawing more – and more varied – events, and more services are coming on line all the time.”
From July 2011 to the end of 2013, more than 100,000 people attended events at the Kokomo Event & Conference Center, including trade shows, conferences, concerts and dances, wedding receptions, class reunions, family reunions and business training sessions.
First known as the Johanning Civic Center when opened by Howard County as a community resource in 1997, the facility was renamed the Kokomo Event Center in June 2008. In July 2011, Ivy Tech assumed responsibility for the facility and its use as a gift from the county to allow expansion of College activities and to continue its service as a community event center and as home to the Kokomo Automotive Museum. With a total of 102,000 square feet, Ivy Tech’s Kokomo Event & Conference Center offers flexibility and space for a wide variety of activities.
In the last three years, the College has made a number of improvements aimed to meet needs of both Ivy Tech and the public. Classroom space was created along the north wall, space that also serves as breakout rooms for meetings and conferences. The addition of a computer lab not only supports Ivy Tech classes; it provides IT resources used for corporate training programs and other events.
“These additions make our event center a perfect place for conferences,” said Michelle Martin, event center director. “We can offer large meeting areas for big-group gathering and the classrooms for the smaller breakout sessions conferences often include. Examples include a tri-state industrial technology expo and conference, a ‘Women in Philanthropy’ conference sponsored by the regional United Way that brought in participants from north central Indiana, the Indiana State Library Association’s annual conference and Indiana State Bar Association CASA training for attorneys.”
The Kokomo Event & Conference Center offers an auditorium that can seat 100, two large meeting rooms appropriate for business meetings and small receptions and a 27,000-square-foot exhibit hall. The exhibit hall, the most popular space in the building and venue of many large events, can be set up in theater, classroom or banquet styles and can be sectioned off by quarters for smaller activities. It can accommodate up to 3,000 people if set theater style, 2,200 classroom style and as many as 1,200 for a banquet. The main space offers in-house sound, drive-in accessibility and a beamed ceiling that allows for a wide range of set-up capabilities.
“From ‘Shipshewana on the Road,’ which attracts as many as 12,000 people to Kokomo over a weekend run, to special interest shows offering quilts or guns or cars or coins or antiques, to training sessions and conferences for regional retail and restaurant chains, the event center is a great business and industry showplace,” Martin said.
“And we are proud we can serve as a venue for important community and educational offerings like the Howard County Health Fair, the Scholastic Book Fair and, this spring, the Central Indiana Regional Spelling Bee,” she continued. “Kokomo’s Oktoberfest was staged at our event center last fall, St.Joseph Hospital celebrated its 100th anniversary with a gala fundraiser here last year and the Kokomo Literacy Coalition moved its very popular ‘Dancing with the Stars’ here this year. Leadership Kokomo, police officer training, the annual community kids’ Halloween party … the list goes on and on.”
As the list of activities has expanded, so has cooperation between event center staff and the Kokomo Automotive Museum. “We now serve as the rental agent for the automotive museum,” Martin said. “The museum, with its outstanding collection of vintage cars and interesting displays of local automotive history, provides the perfect location for class reunions and cocktail parties. And our visitors find it so interesting that we’ve developed a ‘break-time package’ that provides half-price museum admission for groups meeting at the event center.”
John Holmes, president and executive director of the auto museum, called Ivy Tech “the best landlord any tenant could want.”
“Our working relationship is excellent, as we work to support each other’s activities,” Holmes said. “Event center functions bring additional visitors into the museum and gift shop and the museum is proud to serve as a venue for Ivy Tech receptions and smaller gatherings.
“The museum has benefited from the use of equipment available through Ivy Tech and the ongoing maintenance that comes with being part of the event center is invaluable,” he continued. “An Ivy Tech representative sits on the museum board and together we’ve worked on projects to enhance the facility, including building an exhibit space for the 1895 Haynes automobile and installing an overhead door for improved access for museum exhibits. Our overall relationship has been very beneficial for the museum and I hope for Ivy Tech as well.”
A redesigned website at a new URL – www.thekokomoeventcenter.com – outlines the Kokomo Event & Conference Center’s capabilities, touting its central location for Indiana gatherings and its proximity to major highways. “It’s easy to find and provides ample on-site parking,” Martin added.
The center’s professional staff, which includes Martin as director, Kim Fernandes as assistant director and Antwan Coleman as facilities director, offers an expanding range of support for planning and executing events of all types. Event planners provide tours of the facilities, help determine event requirements, coordinate with vendors and make recommendations for space usage. Maintenance staff offers last-minute floor plan adjustments, trash disposal, clean-up and tear-down at the end of an event.
“With hundreds of new padded chairs, new ‘pipe and drape’ curtains to delineate room and booth boundaries and a new 10-foot rear-projection screen, the event center is an attractive option for groups of all sizes,” Martin said. “And we continue to improve our ‘one-stop shop’ capabilities by offering coffee, water and snack service; concession service; and a single-invoice option that allows clients to make one payment for the event center to reimburse vendors for all services.”
To help clients in the planning process, staff can recommend local vendors who have experience working in the venue and have become trusted partners, including musicians, DJs, florists, caterers and concessionaires.
One such partner is Rozzi’s Catering and co-owner and event director Jennifer Rozzi is pleased with the direction the event center has headed and the great location it offers for events and weddings.
“In the last three years, Ivy Tech has revealed a hidden jewel in Kokomo,” Rozzi said. “With all the new improvements, the transformation is marvelous. The updates to the building and main hall are a sure sign of Ivy Tech’s commitment to the region and to providing a stable, beautiful, fully functional and modern facility. The first-class staff is knowledgeable and takes on each event as if it were their own. If you haven’t seen the event center in the last three years, you need to check out this great community treasure.”
Kokomo Event & Conference Center also offers independent sound systems, portable staging, audio-visual equipment, podiums, easels, Wi-Fi access, a digital welcome monitor in lobby and a digital marquee on Ind. 931 as well as a catering kitchen. Coming soon are RSVP and registration services, an advance ticket sales window and decoration rental.
“We’re excited about what the future holds,” Martin said. “We are moving to an event management software program that will allow us to expand services and offerings provided by our existing staff by automating many of the detail-tracking activities that require so much time manually.” Reservations are now being taken for events into 2016.
For more information on the event center and its capabilities, call 765-454-9999 or visit www.thekokomoeventcenter.com .