KILLARNEY – Destination Killarney recently celebrated its annual grand opening, an event bolstered by the opening of the world’s largest log conference centre, Canada House.
“We had a great reaction from our guests. There’s such varied comments but most people were commenting on the sense of the scale of the building—the size of the lodge—and how amazing the views are from the front of the building,” said Destination Killarney general manager Kelly McAree.
Canada House became the largest log conference centre in the world when it opened earlier this year, boasting 35,000 square feet of event space. There are two massive banquet halls that each contain a floor-to-ceiling fireplace.
The building contains two floors and, in addition to the banquet halls accommodating 150 and 300 people respectively, there are smaller rooms that can host just shy of two-dozen diners.
“We’ve already had six events in there so far this season. We have 17 weddings this year, 14 corporate events and a number of associations and family reunions. We’re about close to three times the business we did last year,” said Mr. McAree.
The grand opening event has been an annual tradition for Destination Killarney, with this year’s festivities marking the fifth celebration. The celebration began with an Anishinaabe cultural display, followed by dignitaries, the owners and Mr. McAree making speeches and cutting the ribbon on the conference centre. Nickel Belt MP Marc Serré was on-hand for the ceremony as well as Algoma-Manitoulin MPP Mike Mantha.
“In one word: spectacular. That’s the best way I can describe the new conference centre,” said Mr. Mantha. “It’s going to help all the economies, not only in Killarney but across Manitoulin Island, with Killarney being a bigger destination. It’s just a fabulous addition to the tourism industry as a whole in the entire area.”
The rest of the day’s activities included three bands playing throughout the event on the pool deck, free refreshments including two fish fries, an air show and, finally, a fireworks display to conclude the day’s events.
Mr. McAree estimates about 2,000 people turned out for the party, up from a previous high of 1,400. He attributes this to a much stronger marketing push for this year’s event.
Canada House is a striking addition to the property and Mr. McAree said it will create a number of impacts.
“It’s enabled us to hire more people and we now have the biggest complement of staff we’ve ever had—close to 200,” he said, adding that 60 of those staff members are local residents, up from 40 in 2015.
“In general, there’s a lot more traffic through town during events which drums up quite a lot of business for places such as Herbert Fisheries, The Pines Inn and other businesses in town,” he said.
There are additional benefits for the municipality as a whole too, considering the approximate $15 million added to the town’s tax assessment base.
“Overall, the community is excited for the addition and are interested to see what the future holds in terms of the number of people coming to Killarney, and maybe even further investment from the government into our roads and whatnot,” Mr. McAree said.
There was a special Manitoulin connection to the Canada House opening as well—Wiikwemkoong visual artist James Simon Mishibinijima had a series of his work displayed in the halls as part of the special event.