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Omaha Magazine

Ready to Party: Omaha Venues Celebrate Events Returning

Sep 29, 2022 03:27PM ● By Dwain Hebda

Photo by Bill Sitzmann

It wasn’t that long ago event venues in the metro were ghost towns–shut down and silent over the fear of COVID and the resulting local edicts banning large crowds locally. Given the current demand for such spaces, those days feel like a long time ago, indeed. 

“My calendar, especially Saturdays, is booked up a year in advance,” said Josh Wuthrich, facilities and events director for The Relevant Center in Elkhorn. “In 2020 we started getting momentum and then everything shut down, and then 2021 started kind of slowly. But 2022, and now looking into 2023, if you need a Saturday you need to call me a year out. And Fridays are getting close to that, too. Even with the holiday season coming up, I think maybe only two spots are open in December if someone wants a Friday or Saturday night.” 

This sort of response is exactly what Relevant Community Church had in mind in 2019 when it built the venue that doubles as a worship space on Sundays. Wuthrich said providing a venue in an underserved part of town has stoked demand. 

“We built the Relevant Center to serve our community,” he explained. “We didn’t want it just to be fully for ourselves and sit empty through most of the week. We wanted to find a way for our community to know that we’re here for them and we’re trying to open our doors to allow them to use the space.” 

The center is divided into two main areas, the 8,300-square-foot auditorium, capable of seating 500 guests, banquet-style. A second space, called The Theater, measures 3,300 square feet and can accommodate 150 to 250 depending on the configuration. Wuthrich said other specialized spaces get a lot of use, too.  

“We have a fairly decent-sized lobby area that’s probably about 4,400 square feet. A lot of events utilize that for business banquets or conferences that have a late-night cocktail hour,” he said. “Then, we have about 2 acres of grass behind our building that a lot of events utilize, too.” 

The Relevant offers a large prep kitchen and an open catering policy; but what really grabs the crowds’ attention is the building’s technology. From big screen TVs–including in the lobby—to a state-of-the-art sound system, it’s so advanced, the venue comes with its own live tech support during events.  

“We’ll supply the techs and those people will be here to flip all the switches and make sure if there’s a glitch, we’re there to fix it right away,” Wuthrich said. “We also help the DJ hook up to our sound system, giving the event world-class sound. It’s phenomenal because the speakers are designed scientifically to fit our space.” 

Meanwhile, in Ralston, a new facility is starting to find its following. Venues at The Granary, which opened in May, has already attracted some community events and wedding traffic, per Molly Payne, director of events.  

“We have had quite a good jumpstart on our bookings for this year and 2023,” she said. “The most bookings we get are weddings and second to that would be corporate meetings and corporate dinners. There are also a few larger corporate parties where they’re doing a full dinner for employees, bringing in a band and things like that.” 

The stylish Granary, which offers two meeting spaces accommodating about 300 and 200 guests respectively, is also loaded with a full complement of audio and video equipment. But when it’s time to pull out all the stops, the attention turns outside.  

“Our outdoor green space is called the Granary Green,” Payne said. “It’s technically a separate venue and it’s very large. We can do anything from an outdoor wedding ceremony to a concert where if it’s ‘standing room’ we can accommodate 1,000 to 1,500 people. We had a concert for Lemon Fresh Days and we probably had about 600 people out there for a concert and we definitely could have accommodated more.” 

As if the dimensions weren’t impressive enough, Granary Green’s technology rivals most indoor venues, providing additional flexibility for groups or special events. 

“On our outdoor space we have microphones, speakers and we also have a big jumbo Iron LED screen out there,” Payne said. “We can do a slideshow with photos, we can show a movie, we can put whatever people want to put up there. We’re planning to do a few things on the green space throughout football season...during Husker football games, too.” 

The indoor venue, which has a large kitchen, has an exclusive catering arrangement with Abraham Catering, and the venue staff is experienced in working with wedding planners and corporate event committees to customize the experience. The larger spaces can be cut down with pipe and drape to create smaller spaces as needed.  

According to Wayne Lallman, co-owner and COO of Venues at The Granary, the event center is just the first step in a much bigger development to come.  

“We did not set out to simply do a wedding and event space,” he said. “We have a lot of this space that’s been designated commercial real estate of which we still have some left, but a lot of it is already leased. We have plans for building townhomes on this property—two-bedroom flats that are live/work spaces.”

This article originally appeared in the October 2022 issue of B2B Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.  

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