Special Venues
Destination / March 03, 2017

Madison attracts groups with distinctive off-sites

by Carolyn Blackburn

  • /Portals/0/images/Magazine/2017/0317/MT_0317__Madison Masonic Center_CREDIT Lisa Zimmerman.jpg

    Madison Masonic Center

  • /Portals/0/images/Magazine/2017/0317/MT_0317__MadisonExterior-ORPH-090416-RyanForbes.jpg

    The Orpheum Theater

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    Lussier Family Heritage Center

Among a host of options, several knockout historic spaces and a botanical garden are among the busiest off-site event venues in Madison.

“Meeting off-site is such a great way for attendees to connect with one another in a very different way than can exist in a typical lecture hall or hotel ballroom,” said Judy Frankel, director of public relations and communications, Greater Madison CVB.

Following is a lineup of unique venues that planners can book for productive meetings and entertaining events.

Overture Center for the Arts

Overture Center for the Arts, built around the historic Capitol Theater, which originally opened in 1928 and showed silent films, features 15 unique spaces.

“The largest space, Overture Hall, is home to the Overture Concert Organ, thought to be the heaviest movable object in any theater in the world,” said Danielle Poad, the venue’s senior event services manager. “Overture Center has been proud to host events ranging from Broadway touring productions to His Holiness the Dalai Lama over the years.”

Overture Center for the Arts has other flexible spaces, including private rooms, lobby space and theaters, that will meet the needs of groups with 20 to 1,500 people.

“Each private space has a unique size and decor feeling,” Poad said. “Lobby spaces provide a modern and elegant feeling, with breathtaking views of the Madison Capitol building. The Overture Event Services team works closely with each customer to pick the best space for each event and coordinate the logistics to ensure the best guest experience.”

Discounts on spaces for pre-show receptions and savings on tickets for performances at Overture are available for groups of 10-plus people, and Catering a Fresco, the center’s exclusive caterer, is available to prepare delicious event menus.

Discovery Building

The LEED Gold-certified Discovery Building is a bright and beautiful venue located on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus,  according to Jeanan Yasiri Moe, director of strategic communications for the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation.  

“It is a favorite of people working both on and off campus, and open to the public at large,” she said.

The public portion of the Discovery Building, located on its first floor, is known as Town Center, which accommodates conferences, executive board meetings, networking receptions and various special events.  

“The venue is vibrant and innovative and includes live trees, water features and abundant natural light, which makes it great for all types of events, large or small,” Yasiri Moe said. “From the fossils found in floor tiles on the main floor to the retractable walls of the DeLuca Forum, the building is a one-of-a-kind venue.”

Among the spaces available for events are the H.F. DeLuca Forum, the main event room, which is a circular banquet space that can host up to 200 people for a seated meal, presentation or reception; small conference rooms with integrated audiovisual capabilities and natural light; and the sunny atrium space, which features live ficus trees and skylights.

All catering is provided by the on-site Steenbock’s on Orchard, which prepares reception service or full meal service using only the freshest available local and regional ingredients.

Madison Masonic Center

Madison Masonic Center, a historical landmark, has been a Madison standby for gatherings for 91 years.

According to Lisa Zimmerman, the venue’s events manager, over the years it has hosted many types of people and events, from boxing matches and the Dalai Lama to community group fundraisers and music performances.

“We are a great location for conventions, with multiple breakout spaces,” she said, and added fundraisers, cocktail parties and seminars are also accommodated. “Our building has a lot of vintage woodworks, marble and columns decorating its floor and hallways.”

Among the on-site spaces that accommodate groups from 30 to 1,000 people are the auditorium, a 7,800-square-foot ballroom, a cocktail room with a full bar and a fireplace for use during winter, and a small classroom space.

“We have our own full kitchen on-site with a preferred caterer that can provide an assortment of meals,” said Zimmerman, who added the caterer could provide cocktail reception fare, full meals (plated or buffet) or food stations.

Olbrich Botanical Gardens

Olbrich Botanical Gardens is a popular public garden that attracts nearly 300,000 visitors annually.

“Groups that rent Olbrich’s meeting rooms can enjoy a stroll in the 16-acre outdoor gardens, which look awesome in every season, for no additional fee,” said Patti Jorenby, the venue’s rental coordinator.

Olbrich Botanical Gardens, which accommodates corporate meetings, staff retreats and more, has three spaces available for rent, including the Evjue Commons, which has one wall of glass windows and doors that look out to the gardens and can seat 150 guests for a meal; the atrium, which can seat up to 64 people for a dinner or event; and the upstairs meeting room, which accommodates 20 to 25 people seated.  

“For evening rental groups, the Bolz Conservatory, a 10,000-square-foot tropical garden, can be added to a room rental for a nominal fee,” Jorenby said. “Although food and beverage are not available in the Bolz Conservatory, it’s a wonderful post-meeting or post-dinner stroll.”

Jorenby added that for a separate cost, group tours can be arranged in advance during the warm-weather season, and groups might also sign up for an educational class if it coincides with the event.

The Orpheum Theater

When the circa-1926 Orpheum Theater opened it featured Vaudeville shows and movies. Today, it showcases live concerts and national touring comedy acts, and accommodates private events.

“The Art Deco exterior and extravagant French Renaissance interior make the Orpheum Theater an icon in Madison’s downtown area, gaining it entry on the National Register of Historic Places,” said Deirdre McCready, the venue’s senior vice president of sales and special events.

Corporate events, meetings, product launches and cocktail receptions for anywhere from 50 to 1,700 people are regularly booked here.

“An event can absolutely coincide with a group tour, whether it be for a private event or for a public event to be used as a fundraiser,” McCready added. “We have access to all of the hottest touring acts and love to assist in making an event to remember. Other fun, interactive event ideas that we can host are casino nights, murder mystery dinners and more.”

The Orpheum partners with several local caterers that will work on the perfect menu for each group.

Lussier Family Heritage Center

The Lussier Family Heritage Center, located less than 15 minutes from downtown’s Wisconsin State Capitol Square, is surrounded by acres of prairies, meadows and wetlands.

“This view, from the deck of the main level, is part of what makes our location so popular for corporate ‘getaway’ meetings, workshops and retreats,” said Linda Mittnacht, the venue’s director. “The rustic facility, with cedar and stone decor, creates a warm atmosphere with all the amenities required for a successful event.”

The facility’s main level accommodates groups as large as 150 people, while its lower level can host smaller functions of up to about 60 people.  

“The lobby on the main level welcomes guests with a large stone fireplace and plenty of room for a registration area and for serving food and beverage during the event,” Mittnacht said.

The main level also has a newly installed audiovisual system, and wireless Internet is available throughout the facility at no additional charge.

“The lower level meeting space has a walk out to a covered patio with picnic tables and easy access to trails leading through the prairie,” Mittnacht added. “Our on-site naturalist is available to lead walks or talks for attendees related to the grounds and historic areas surrounding the center.” 

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