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The main event

Robert Frank finishes unloading a tractor trailer full of boxes Wednesday, May 8, outside of the Worthington Event Center. With construction largely finished, chairs, kitchen equipment and other goods were being brought into the building, in anticipation of Saturday's grand opening. (Veasey Conway/Daily Globe)1 / 2
Construction on the event center's entrance, seen Friday, May 10, is nearing completion. (Veasey Conway/Daily Globe)2 / 2

WORTHINGTON -- The finishing touches are being put on the Worthington Event Center.

And by the Grand Opening Gala on Saturday, the center will finished, marking the end of a long process.

"We are in the home stretch," said Brad Chapulis, Director of Community and Economic Development. "We are trying to get the contractors to finish up some of the final items, touching up and things of that nature. We have cleaning crews that are going to be in over the weekend cleaning up the space so we can start staging and doing the minor touch-up items this week to have it prepared for Saturday's event."

Late last week, a mass of semi-trailers full of furniture delivered all the tables and chairs.

"We are starting to go through all of that and get it cleaned up and ready to go so when we do set up, it's going to be a full room." Sales and Event Manager Jackie Tentinger said. "The cleaners are here and the contractors are trying to madly trying to finish everything with the wallpaper and painting. It's coming to the end. We're starting to see some real progress."

The building is 14,153 square feet and will come in at a cost around $3.75 million.

"The whole facility itself is open canvas that is functional to create smaller spaces if necessary. It flows as an open event and it flows even when there are multiple events and that was key to the design," Chapulis said. "The purpose of this facility was to replace the large gathering space that was lost with the closing of the Coliseum. You can't, within the community, have events greater than 250 persons unless we start utilizing buildings that weren't intended to be large gathering spaces."

Walking into the center, guests are greeted with an open pre-function area.

"The pre-function space and the openness of that area is not cluttered," Chapulis said. "We took into consideration having beverage carts and other things in there and make sure the room still flowed freely."

The area features accent lights and wood ceilings.

"Architects always want to have a statement piece," Mayor Alan Oberloh said. "The front entrance is grand and has an angle to it and some angled glass. It's a statement to Dave Clark and his architectural firm."

Inside, the room can be split in half, and one of the areas can be divided into fourths.

"It's a really precise setup the way they designed the place," Tentinger said. "It's going to be amazing to see all the hard work of everybody putting together the space and the event itself. I think everybody is going to pleasantly surprised and I think it's going to be a great thing for the city of Worthington."

Outside, the landscaping won't be completed by Saturday.

"Mother Nature has not been kind to us," Chapulis said. "Due to the late spring and the drought that we have encountered over the last year, the landscaping will not be done. We will do certain points of landscaping up to the point of planting and sodding. Those items will be held back from installation until the watering ban is lifted or reduced."

The April ice storm did put the crews behind schedule a few days, but have been able to catch up in the recent weeks. The attached hotel is scheduled for completion in mid-June.

Gala to be first event

The first public event will be Saturday night's Grand Opening Gala.

"We are looking forward to a fun event this coming Saturday night when the public will have the opportunity to see the Event Center for the first time," Worthington Area Chamber of Commerce Director Darlene Macklin said. "Tickets can still be purchased at the City of Worthington, Schafer's Health & Gifts, Worthington Liquor Store and the Chamber of Commerce."

The gala will begin at 5:30 p.m. with a wine tasting by the Worthington Liquor Store. A social hour begins at 6 p.m. with dinner to follow at 7. Three local bands -- Sideline, Starfire and Tommy Gunn -- will be performing following the meal.

"The night will be an awesome night because you're going to stay right in the city of Worthington and you're going to have one of the finest meals that you could have going out with your date," Oberloh said. "And you're going to have three local performing bands that people around here know and they know they put out a good product."

For Tentinger, it will be a chance to showcase what the center can do.

"I've been dealing with brides and different guests and clients throughout the surrounding area that are not even just in Worthington and different businesses that are excited to get in here and show off their products and what they can do as well. It's going to be exciting," she said. "The city of Worthington did a really good job of doing their research. We have quinceañeras, weddings, different trade shows and I'm looking forward to developing different events along the way."

Oberloh, who will serve as the master of ceremonies for the event, is planning on wearing a tuxedo to the event. However, black tie is not required.

"I've heard people say, if you dress up and take your wife out on a date, it makes it a special evening," Oberloh said. "To me, this is going to be a special evening and that's what we want it to be."

Tickets can still be purchased, but the public is encouraged to buy them by Tuesday.

"If this thing is successful, which I'm hoping it is --but we need the community's support --it could become an annual event," Oberloh said. "It could be a spring kickoff in the community. I look at is as the opportunity for business people, whether they are Chamber members or not, to be able to socialize in a casual, positive setting and have more time than to just greet somebody for two seconds. They will have the opportunity to spend some time together and listen to some great entertainment."

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Coordinator Aaron Hagen may be reached at 376-7323.