How long did Boise Centre have to completely shut down due to the pandemic, and what did the process of reopening look like for you?
We were closed from mid-March 2020 through mid-July 2020. During this difficult time for our community and our state, we partnered with The Idaho Foodbank to help those most vulnerable. Two of the venues’ largest rooms were utilized for food storage and as a location for volunteers to work at a safe distance.
Prior to reopening we evaluated all aspects of our business to ensure the health and safety of our employees and guests. New protocols and processes for cleaning and disinfection were implemented, seating capacity in meeting rooms was adjusted for physical distancing, our catering and service delivery methods were modified for a period, touchless hand sanitizer dispensers were added throughout the facility and informational signage on hygiene best practices and physical distancing was added in restrooms and high-traffic areas.
In mid-July 2020, Boise Centre reopened and began holding events regularly. In fact, we held a multiday convention the first week of August 2020.
Throughout the past year, the size of events and attendees has varied based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), state and local health mandates that dictate gathering sizes. We are grateful that, in mid-May, Idaho progressed to Stage 4 of the states Reopening Plan where there are no limitations on the number of guests that can attend a gathering or event.
From a perspective of planning and onsite procedures, what new policies/practices have you implemented since reopening? Can you describe these and/or any other new processes you can share?
We are dedicated to ensuring the health and safety of our employees and guests. Prior to reopening, Boise Centre implemented a Clean and Safe program that closely followed CDC, state and local guidelines for cleaning and disinfecting. An important facet of the Clean and Safe plan was screening everyone who entered Boise Centre for temperatures. Thermal imaging cameras were placed in Boise Centre’s lobby to scan guests quickly and efficiently for temperatures. Employees and vendors were screened at separate entrances.
Earlier this year, Boise Centre earned the coveted Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC) STAR facility accreditation, the gold standard for prepared facilities. Boise Centre was the first business and event facility in the state to earn the accreditation. Under the guidance of GBAC — a division of the International Sanitary Supply Association (ISSA), the worldwide cleaning industry association — Boise Centre has implemented the most stringent protocols for cleaning, disinfection and infectious disease prevention in its facility. By taking this important step, we want to reassure meeting organizers that Boise Centre is committed to operating safely, and we are ready to welcome in-person events.
What was the first event you hosted when opening back up in July 2020?
The first event was a corporate board meeting for seven people attending in-person. Shortly after this, the Idaho State Bar Exam was held over two days with 130 participants.
What sorts of reactions did you hear from those first participants and attendees? Would you share some of the comments you heard?
Sure. Maureen Braley, associate director of the Idaho State Bar, said, “Thanks again for everything! There was so much to do to pull this bar exam off. You and your staff made my job a little easier last week, which was much appreciated!”
Also, Kristin Shreve, the associate director of the Idaho Association of School Administrators (IASA) — who was the organizer of the IASA Joint Divisional Conference held at Boise Centre from August 4–6, 2020 — said, “My experience with Boise Centre’s event team has been very positive and the convention went smoothly. Being in downtown, close to restaurants and hotels is a huge draw for our members. The investments Boise Centre made in thermal scan cameras and multiple sanitation stations along with the frequent cleaning have been fantastic.”
You mentioned previously to IBR a 250-person convention was held in August. What sort of event was that?
That was the annual IASA conference just mentioned, where 194 IASA members — including school administrators, principals and staff from across Idaho — attended in-person. The group was granted special permission by Governor Brad Little and Central District Health to have more than 50 people in attendance so they could discuss safely opening schools.
And what other events followed in the year since? Can you describe perhaps what the event experience is like today at Boise Centre for a very small event versus a larger one?
Boise Centre has seen a significant return of live events since this spring (2021) ranging from one-day meetings for 10 people to events that bring in nearly 2,000 attendees through the building over the course of a couple days. We have been fortunate to welcome back our local clients, who are happy to hold their annual programs after nearly two years! It has also been exciting to see the return of conventions — events that attract non-local attendees — which has boosted an already healthy hotel occupancy given the leisure activity within the community (and state).
We work closely with each group to accommodate any precautionary measures requested. While there are currently no restrictions on meetings in Boise, there are still a few events that remain mindful of masking and social distancing, and our team is happy to take our clients’ lead on those preferences. From our perspective, events are back and thriving!
Any lessons you learned this past year that either worked well or did not work out so great that you can offer to others planning to host corporate events?
Flexibility was one of the most important things both Boise Centre and the clients had to be prepared for. While guidelines were changing weekly and monthly within the city and state, we had to be able to change our plans as everything else was changing. Boise Centre had and advantage with the amount of space we have so we were able to space people out much easier than other facilities. Overall, the clients were very understanding with changes so that also helped.
If you had a crystal ball, what would you say the rest of 2021 and into 2022 has in store for Boise Centre? What is coming down the road as far as upcoming events? What are you most excited about?
Based on events scheduled at Boise Centre for the remainder of the year and into 2022, we foresee a roaring return of events and activity downtown. Boise has fared quite well coming out of the health crisis. Our destination is attractive to planners who are interested in smaller cities that are safe and offer abundant outdoor amenities. In turn, Boise Centre becomes a natural fit for meetings that may have scaled back in size, as we are seen as more of a “boutique” venue that provides turnkey services and offers an exclusive setting for small to mid-size conventions. Boise Centre is excited to do what we do best, which is hosting unforgettable experiences for our valued clients and guests.
— Mary-Michael Rodgers is the communications manager for Boise Centre. In this Q&A, Mary-Michael shares her story-telling skills to relay what live events have been happening at Boise Centre and what event planners, sponsors, and attendees have to say. Ali Ribordy, director of sales, and Stacie Adams, senior event manager at Boise Centre also contributed to this Q&A.
— To learn more about what Boise Centre and other event venues have in store for the second half of 2021 and beyond, look for Idaho Business Review’s annual Corporate Event Planners’ Guide, which will be published and available with the Aug. 20 edition.