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Moving with the Times

Progressive venue and catering options for 2023 and beyond

Studio96: Vaulted Main Hall

There was a time when to hold a conference, wedding or any other event, the path forward was very clear. Contact the handful of hotels with event spaces in the area. Preview the ballroom. Decide on the table layout, then select among the mains (beef, chicken or pasta) for dinner.

Things have changed. A lot.

Even before COVID, trends saw event planners looking for unique venues, fun activities and menus catering to a variety of cultural or dietary needs. These trends are here to stay. Many of Edmonton’s most famous venues have exciting initiatives in place, while new boutique venues have opened up to accommodate events in the most unique settings.

One of the largest and most established venues in the city is the Edmonton Convention Centre.

“The Edmonton Convention Centre plays a significant role in Edmonton’s story, collectively welcoming 650 events and 500,000 guests each year,” says Emma Pietroleonardo, general manager, Edmonton Convention Centre. “The Centre represents Edmonton’s most important place to gather, host major events, meetings, concerts, galas and conferences, while simultaneously supporting transformational experiences that have a uniquely Edmonton vibe. The centre is an anchor to Edmonton experiences, promoting local gatherings and facilitating community connectedness.”

The Edmonton Convention Centre is recognized by the International Association of Venue Managers as one of North America’s top five performing venues – the only Canadian venue to receive this honour since 2012.

One of the standout features of the Edmonton Convention Centre is its commitment to sustainability and social responsibility.

Pietroleonardo explains, “The venue operates as an economic ambassador of corporate social responsibility with its Responsible Events Program while we continue our work to align our priorities with the City of Edmonton, and we remain devoted to our work to encourage social, environmental and financially sustainable outcomes.”

“The facility was the first convention centre in Canada to receive Green Key level five certification and it is one of only five venues in Canada to receive the prestigious ASTM International Certification. In 2018, the Centre welcomed 7,500 global leaders to the inaugural Cities and Climate Change Science Conference and hosted the UN Women’s Safe Cities Global Forum, which welcomed 20 nations to Edmonton.”

That’s not all.

“The Edmonton Convention Centre features Canada’s largest building-integrated photovoltaic solar cells, an urban beekeeping hive and thousands of indoor plants that convert over 4,000 lbs of CO2 annually,” Pietroleonardo continues. “The venue diverts 67 per cent of its waste produced and conducts comprehensive waste audits for clients to reduce their environmental impact.”

The Edmonton Convention Centre is widely known for its delicious farm-to-table menus.

“Led by award-winning executive chef Serge Blair, the culinary team is an armada of culinary artists. The culinary team has honed their skills to perfect locally sourced fine-dining experiences for every type of event, from customized intimate gatherings to grand galas and banquets.”

She goes on to note that increasingly, guests are looking for carbon accounting in meal planning and plant-based catering options.

The Edmonton Convention Centre shows the value of being progressive. When it comes to the food, more than 40 per cent of it is sourced from local producers returning more than $750,000 back into the local economy. Thanks to the on-site beehive program, the Edmonton Convention Centre has ready access to 45 pounds of fresh honey annually.

Pietroleonardo adds, “We work with the Edmonton Food Bank’s Second Helping program to support Edmontonians experiencing food insecurity.”

With the demand for, and the return of, live and in-person events, Pietroleonardo sees an uptick in requests for sustainable event planning on every level, from the venue to the menus to working with organizations that give back.

She has this advice for event planners in 2023. “Selecting the Responsible Events Program helps reduce an event’s carbon footprint by employing waste audits, waste diversion and recyclable signage while also leveraging our waste management and recycling programs.”

Alongside the locally sourced and sustainable catering options and community giving, choosing the Edmonton Convention Centre can ensure an event is both environmentally and socially sustainable.

However, it’s not just the older, established venues that are providing new options in the world of events. Studio96 is a unique event space with an interesting history.

Before it became Studio96, it was St. Stephen’s Anglican Church. Over time the congregation dwindled and the doors closed. The historic building was set for demolition. However, architects Ernst von Meijenfeldt and Eugene Silva (E3 Architecture) didn’t see a derelict building. They saw history that deserved to be preserved and upcycled. The architects worked hard to acquire the resources to purchase the building, and then the renovations began.

From there, the project took on a life of its own. E3 moved their office into the space and Diana Harrison, former event planner, was soon to follow. Together they turned what was slated to be torn down into a place where “magic happens.” It’s a vibrant venue that marries the past and the future while being a strong contributor in the revitalization of the McCauley district.

“Studio96 is where the old structure of a historic landmark has been transformed into a bright and modern venue,” says Sylvia van Loveren, Studio96 manager. “It is where the solid foundation provides the framework of your toast to the sweetness of life. It is where we strive to provide professional and efficient assistance in your event-planning process — and most importantly, meet you with kindness and care to help you turn your vision into reality. It is where you can invite your guests to share with you the special moments that become the fondest memories. In short, Studio96 is where magic happens.”

With the end of COVID restrictions, Studio96 is humming with activity. Weddings, parties, workshops, conferences and performances in the vaulted main hall bring this historic building back to life. The main hall, lounge and suite provide plenty of space for guests, wedding couples or performers to get ready on site. A bar and catering area allow event planners to choose the caterers of their choice.

Van Loveren says, “My advice to anyone booking an event this year in any venue is to do it quickly. It is going to be a very busy year for all kinds of in-person events.”

With the return of socializing and celebrating in person, 2023 has an air of excitement and joy around it. Coming together to celebrate a milestone, engage in corporate teamwork or enjoy a performance is an act as old as time itself. How we do so has changed and turned into opportunities for deeper local engagement; eco-friendly and sustainable practices; inclusivity for cultural, lifestyle and dietary needs; giving back to the community and preserving history itself.

Events have a big impact on many aspects of the city. As you plan yours in 2023, choose the venues and caterers that provide the biggest positive impact.