It's down to the detail work: installing scores of Internet portals along the ballroom baseboards, edging the walls with blond maple trim...
It’s down to the detail work: installing scores of Internet portals along the ballroom baseboards, edging the walls with blond maple trim, wiring the state-of-the-art telecommunications center and covering the bare grounds with rhododendrons, white birches and snowberry shrubs.
An odor of fresh paint and carpet glue hangs in the air, accompanied by the whine of electric saws and the beeping of aerial platforms that lift workers installing the “ceiling clouds” — suspended panels containing speaker clusters and artistically designed halogen lights.
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Opening day is more than two months away, but the new Lynnwood Convention Center already is a hit with professional event planners. Its modern architecture, efficient room design and high-tech amenities will ensure its popularity, they say.
“It’s got all the bells and whistles,” said Brad Buckles, the vice president of BridesClub.com, which stages wedding shows around the country. “Very modern, very professional.”
Buckles, who has visited twice, is completing a contract for a Sept. 24-25 wedding expo at the new center. Each year, he produces a half-dozen Puget Sound expos, and Lynnwood will join the Tacoma Dome, Meydenbauer Center in Bellevue and the Qwest Field Exhibition Center in Seattle as his preferred locations.
Lynnwood didn’t make the mistake of placing artistic design over function, Buckles said. Many events centers have rounded walls, which look nice but create hassles for table set-ups. Its hallways and meeting rooms are all very “clean,” he said, designed with straight lines and flat walls.
Yet it’s architecturally pleasing, too, Buckles said. He especially likes the center’s numerous windows, which will help people keep a sense of geographic orientation, including their location within the building.
“At one of my favorite buildings, one of the complaints we get all the time is, ‘We don’t know where we are,’ ” he said.
The $31 million convention center has a prime location a block west of Interstate 5 on heavily traveled 196th Street Southwest. Since its groundbreaking last March, local residents and out-of-town shoppers have watched its transformation into a striking structure of cantilevered glass and steel.
Its colors, inside and out, are subdued but not boring or dull, with copper, bronze and pewter tones and accents. Its exterior panels have a metallic glow.
Eddie Tadlock, the center’s general manager, is clearly proud of its aesthetics. Maple trim throughout the building and charcoal-gray fabric panels in the meeting rooms help soften its glass-and-steel elements, he explained.
The 55,000-square-foot center, considered medium-size in the industry, sits on the corner of a 13-acre strip mall undergoing renovation to complement the new civic building. In coming weeks, the exterior of the mall, now called Alderwood Village, will be sandblasted and outfitted with bronze-tone awnings and signs proclaiming its new status as Convention Plaza. New streetlights are in place throughout the parking lot.
However, one mall building at the far north end of the property won’t be touched.
“Chuck E. Cheese has its own thing going,” Tadlock said with a laugh. “It’s a landmark.”
The building’s artwork will include interactive glass floor tiles just inside the lower-level entry, off 196th, which will flash different colors and programmable messages and designs. The computer-driven project, created by Seattle artist Rick Mullarky, will react to the presence of people.
That’s another sign that Lynnwood did its homework, Buckles said. None of the artwork will get in the way of the building’s practical uses.
“If someone decides to put a statue in the middle of the floor, it’s very nice as a display, but it gets in the way of using the building,” Buckles said.
Public dollars built the convention center through a tax-funding mechanism approved by the state Legislature in 1999. In December, the Lynnwood Public Facilities District sold $27.9 million worth of bonds, to be repaid with rebated state sales taxes plus hotel-motel taxes collected by the city and Snohomish County.
Thirty events already are booked, beginning with a 50th-wedding-anniversary party scheduled for the center’s April 30 opening day. The furthest-out, calendar-wise, is a December holiday party for Lynnwood Honda. An additional 25 events are in the works.
Though many local bookings are just for one or two rooms, New York-based SRA/McGraw-Hill has reserved the entire center — 11 rooms, including a ballroom — for a July 6 training day that is expected to draw 600 reading teachers from around the nation and a speaker from New Zealand.
Company spokesman Tom Stanton cited the center’s size, freeway accessibility and state-of-the-art features as drawing points. All meetings rooms have numerous wall jacks for high-speed Internet access; the building will have wireless access, too.
“You can come out of a meeting and check your e-mail,” Tadlock said.
Planners still are studying what type of data lines they’ll acquire for streaming video, useful for events such as a Microsoft training session for a new product launch, he said. The facility will have sophisticated telephone access as well.
“We’ll have the capability of bringing a hundred different lines in, if a show needs a press room, for instance,” Tadlock said. “We’ll have a city within a city for our phone lines.”
Mark Camandona has a more low-key vision for his event: the opening-day anniversary party for his parents, Gerald and Donna Camandona of Lynnwood. He has reserved two rooms for 150 to 200 guests.
“I think the architecture is very cool — very modern for the city of Lynnwood,” he said. “It looks classy without standing out like a sore thumb.”
Camandona said he’s a tad worried about choosing opening day for the event. What if, he mused, it doesn’t get its permits in time to open? Then he laughed.
“If not, then somebody’s house is going to be awfully crowded,” he said.
Diane Brooks: 425-745-7802 or firstname.lastname@example.org