A brand new meeting and entertainment center presents businesses with exciting opportunities to engage in the ilani experience.
Built on a Cowlitz reservation in Ridgefield, WA, ilani is one of the largest entertainment and gaming venues on the West Coast. Its Meeting and Entertainment Center was included in the original design but its opening was planned for one year after ilani’s official launch in 2017.
As planned, ilani’s state-of-the-art Meeting and Entertainment Center officially opened this past April. It serves as a meeting space for business groups and conventions as well as an entertainment venue which attracts world-class concerts and performers. The 30,000 square foot space was built to meet the region’s needs for hosting business groups, trade shows, and conferences and is one of the largest meeting venues in the Pacific Northwest.
Ilani's Cedar Boardroom.
“We are looking to blow guests away in terms of experience,” said Kara Fox-LaRose, General Manager and President of ilani. “When you walk into the Meeting and Entertainment Center, you’re experiencing a facility that incorporates the newest ideas and most up-to-date features an events venue can offer.”
In Cowlitz culture, tribal members often lived and gathered in wooden plank houses. Beyond providing shelter, the homes were a communal setting of warmth, intimacy, and celebration. The house’s cedar plank walls kept the damp chill of the Pacific Northwest climate at bay, and its architecture provided ample space for performances, work, huge feasts, and gatherings.
Designed to mimic the Cowlitz plank houses, the MEC features elements that pay homage to the tribe’s culture and architectural principles. For example, the carpet resembles the blankets used to cover the Earth; the cedar beams commonly used in plank house construction are exposed throughout the facility’s interior. The overall feel incorporates earthy textures, reflecting the tribe’s values of warmth, welcoming, and arrival. Lining the halls are intricately woven baskets, glass-blown fish (a prominent Cowlitz symbol), and light fixtures inspired by the waves of the Cowlitz River.
With the opening of its brand new Meeting and Entertainment Center, ilani looks to instill this same celebratory feeling with all who visit.
“ilani is about celebrating life’s special moments and creating unmatched experiences,” said Fox-LaRose. “Our mission is to free the spirit and to help our guests feel special and recognized. That begins with our staff, our values, and our infrastructure.”
Dining at the Rose & Thorn.
Rose & Thorn's private dining room.
To ensure an elevated experience, the MEC offers four-star service and top-of-the-line audiovisual capabilities. Lighting and sound specialists support technical needs, and a full-service staff remains on call for handling issues. An on-site catering team can create customized menus or buffet-style dining options—sourced from the Pacific Northwest—and can accommodate all group sizes, price points, and dietary requests.
The facility includes a 22,400 square foot, multi-use ballroom that can be configured in over different 30 ways. A 650 square foot boardroom is available for formal and private meetings. Events with expansive needs can also take over ilani’s main facility and parking lots.
Event coordination staff are available to assist guests from planning to execution and offer creative uses of the MEC’s amenities. Clients can mix and match between ballrooms, restaurants, bars, and patios to create an optimal experience. Within the property are 15 uniquely-designed restaurants, including Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse, smashburger, and Line & Lure. Outside patios host fire pits and comfortable seating, with clear views of Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Adams. Shopping and retail options abound. Not to mention, guests can enjoy the casino area with 2,500 slot machines and 75 gaming tables. These amenities offer a welcomed respite from an all-day event, and the scenic views and ability to unwind foster an inspiring atmosphere for corporate meetings.
Cowlitz Trading Post
Retail shopping at Marshall Rousso.
Now, to address the elephant in the room: with a casino on its premises, will ilani be an inappropriate location for professional events?
Not according to Fox-LaRose. ilani is a standalone word; ‘casino’ is intentionally left out of the name, as gaming is considered a component, but hardly the focus, of ilani’s overall experience. And unlike traditional casinos, ilani’s contemporary design includes a direct concourse that ensures participants can attend meetings or events without entering the gaming floor.
Fox-LaRose asserts so much is available that guests often forget gaming is even on the premises. “Some tend to steer away from the idea of a casino if they don’t typically game,” she said. “But I encourage them, come to ilani and comprehend what we have to offer.” When that happens, Fox-LaRose often notices a change of heart. “Once people see how our space and staff can enhance their event, I’ve seen them convert to become loyal, long-standing customers.” When hosting at ilani, groups have reported improved attendance in comparison with past events at other venues. Fox-LaRose adds: “Events become more attractive when the guests know that afterwards, they can enjoy a happy hour or dinner, or slip into a nationally-renown music event.”
Located 20 miles from Portland Airport and with a direct exit from Interstate-5, ilani offers convenient accessibility for incoming guests. ilani is also engaged in regional hotel partnerships and can ensure transportation to and from hotels. For weekend-long events, guests can enjoy the Pacific Northwest’s many activities—peaceful hikes, local world-class golf courses, or a day trip into nearby Portland, OR.
Though the MEC is in its first months, it’s already hosted numerous events—from smaller meetings to plated dinners of over 900 people. Its entertainment is in full swing, too—Jay Leno performed at an exclusive dinner and Eddie Money recently played in the Muze Lounge. Coming up on the bill are national acts such as Third Eye Blind, Buddy Guy, Pitbull, and Amy Schumer.
Stage at the Muze Lounge.
Beyond the upcoming entertainment, Fox-LaRose is excited for what the future holds for the MEC. “I think we’re in a position to be creative and work with clients to imagine the space, the reservation, the property. Whatever you can imagine, we can deliver,” she said. “When you book with us, you really have the world at your fingertips.”
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