Lac Seul becomes a regional conference hub: First Nation-owned events centre gaining popularity as meeting space.

Author:Ross, Ian
 
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The Lac Seul Events Centre is almost symbolic of the intertwined relationship between Lac Seul First Nation and the neighbouring municipality of Sioux Lookout.

Since its celebrated opening in 2013, the $8.5-million arena and multi-purpose facility has become the go-to place to stage local and regional conferences.

"I think we're a one-of-a-kind (venue) in the Northern communities where we have these accommodations," said Jeremy Capay, the centre's manager.

Nearby Sioux Lookout is a service, administrative and healthcare hub catering to more than 30,000 people in remote, fly-in First Nation reserves in northwestern Ontario.

The new Lac Seul Events Centre provides one of the largest venues for any major gatherings of regional leaders.

The building is located on the main road in the village of French-man's Head, about a half-hour drive off of Highway 72, the highway connecting Sioux Lookout and the Trans-Canada Highway.

The Event Centre was one of the rewards from the resolution of a century-old timber harvesting dispute with the federal government that delivered millions in settlement dollars to the band.

At the time, Capay said council had many ideas on what to do with the money. An arena with adjoining conference rooms was one of the selected projects.

"It had been a long time coming."

The facility, which features an NHL regulation-size ice surface, is equipped with three conference rooms and one smaller meeting room.

The 2,300-square-foot Bear Room can accommodate 160 for presentations and up to a maximum of 80 for dining.

The smaller 700-square-foot Moose and Woof Rooms each have a seating capacity of 50 with a boardroom setting for the former and more flexible space for the latter.

The 170-square-foot Loon Room seats six in a boardroom setting.

Catering is available through the event centre's on-site restauranteur, Marie Norton and the Miijim Co. (Ojibwa for 'food') offering a breakfast, lunch and dinner menu. The eatery is also a popular pit stop during weekday lunch hours.

Charter bus and shutue service for conference-goers between the hotels in Sioux Lookout and the event centre can be arranged through the Lac Seul Education Authority.

Fall is the busiest time of year, Not just with sporting events in the main arena, but for corporate annual general meetings.

When the ice goes in in early September, weekend hockey tournaments dominate the calendar.

But year-round, the building is usually humming with wedding receptions, outdoor shows...

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