Photo- Mike McLaran (from left) of the Chamber of Commerce, Gerry Frank, Salem Mayor Janet Taylor and Steve Johnson, president of VIP’S Industries,at the ribbon cutting for the Salem Convention Center (formerly known as the Salem Conference Center) February 2005. Photo Source: archive.statesmanjournal.com
It seems like only yesterday the Salem Conference Center (now the Salem Convention Center) and the adjoining Phoenix Grand Hotel (now the Grand Hotel in Salem) opened it’s doors to an eager community with high hopes of economic vitality and a new age of prosperity in downtown Salem.
The year was 2005. George W. Bush had just been sworn in for his second term as President of the United States, Barack Obama was just starting out as a United States Senator, and a new social networking site called Facebook had just been launched.
In February and March of that same year, thousands of curious members of the Salem Oregon community came to see the newly constructed facility now standing on the site of the esteemed Marion Hotel, a hundred-year old establishment that burned down in 1971. Despite it’s ups and downs, the Salem Oregon community had been waiting for that special opening for more than three decades.
“This is a proud day for Salem,” said Salem civic leader Gerry Frank during it’s opening ceremony in February of 2005. “We’ve been waiting a long, long time for this, and what we have here was worth the wait, in spades.”
Since that opening night more than 10 years ago, the sustainably designed Salem Convention Center, Grand Hotel in Salem and a new restaurant, Bentley’s Grill, have proven to be an important asset to this city. The facility was not only a much needed boost to Salem’s downtown revitalization, it exemplifies the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest and showcases the best of energy efficiency.
Robert Maple,Director of Banquet Operations, remembers the Salem Convention Center opening well. “My first week on the job at SCC was a hectic one. Truck after truck of equipment was showing up without a finished loading dock to receive it or finished storerooms to house it,” he recalls. “We unloaded them on the street piece by piece, storing items wherever we could fit them. I had always worked at large facilities, but until it shows up one day on several trucks, it’s hard to grasp how much equipment goes into starting a huge operation like SCC.”
The first event we booked here was a meeting by Saalfeld Griggs PC, a local law firm, followed by a back to back series of meetings of local groups and state associations as well as weddings. In fact, within the first 10 months of operation, the Convention Center hosted 284 events attended by some 45,000 people in addition to providing classroom and meeting space for nearby Willamette University.
Since opening in 2005, the Salem Convention Center has evolved into the premier venue for meetings, social events, weddings, conferences and conventions in Oregon. Many of our original staff members are still with us today, and we have added many new faces to our growing team of event professionals.
“Most of the changes at SCC over the years have been subtle as we work to fine-tune our skills and culture,” says Robert Maple. “We started with a great blueprint due to experienced professionals who are almost all still here today. Our dedication to teamwork and hospitality continue to separate us from the competition.”
What a journey it’s been! Wonder what the next 10 years will bring?
For more information about the history of the Salem Convention Center, visit the following websites: