Most people probably don’t know how Chicagoland Skydiving Center (CSC) transforms literally the day after we close down skydiving operations in late October/early November.
The packing floors get pulled up, and put into storage with the rig racks. Everything comes out of the pro shop and lives in the Rock Sky Market loft for a few months. The manifest office gets cleared out and turned into a walk-up bar. (Now that we think about it, maybe skydivers would like that to stay into the spring.) Colored lighting decorates the walls and airplanes. Draperies are hung from the hangar ceiling. The same facility that houses a busy dropzone all season becomes a flexible, unique event space that local companies, organizations, and brides, rent to host their special events through the winter months.
How did this come to be? Rewind to October 2012, when we had just moved into our brand new facilities and we were getting ready to open the Flight Deck Bar & Grill - what we thought was going to be just a simple little side business to compliment the skydiving business. Today, the Flight Deck accounts for nearly 45% of all the revenue generated by all the corporate entities that comprise CSC. Whoops! I guess we’re restaurateurs now, too.
About a week after our grand opening for the restaurant, we got word that the local country club was shutting its doors. Almost immediately, we started receiving phone calls from panicked party planners and brides-to-be. They wanted to use the CSC hangar to host their event. Oh, and they wanted the Flight Deck kitchen to cater it. “Uh, sure, we can do that,” was my response. The brand new restaurant team quickly got word that the Flight Deck is now an banquet facility, too. How hard can it be, right?
You know when motivational speakers tell you to say "yes" to amazing opportunities - then figure out how to actually do the work later? Well, that was real life for us in our first winter. For the most part, the team rose to the occasion. We learned quickly, and we grew quickly. We had behind-the-scenes three alarm fires that almost ended our banquet business as quickly as it started. When party planners come to a venue like this, they expect a turn-key, flawless event and we simply did not have the dedicated team to provide that...yet.
Over the next few years, we did our homework. We worked with consultants from the banquet and catering business to help us shape our offerings. We worked hard to get our kitchen staff trained to handle these events. We made improvements to the facility that benefitted both the skydiving and restaurant operations. We had a string of moderate success with some local clients, and decided to take this part of the business to the next level.
In late 2014, Stacy Shewey joined the team. Stacy has years of hospitality, event planning, sales and banquet experience. She was perfect for the job and the local community really enjoys working with her. Since her arrival, banquet sales have skyrocketed and we’ve added a 2,400 square foot outdoor tent venue to accommodate clients who want a very unique venue with people falling out of the sky as the backdrop.
Today, our 20,000 square foot facility is transformed regularly to host events from banquets, weddings, reunions and concerts - fitting up to 400 guests. For smaller cocktail parties, dinners, business meetings and other smaller events fit perfectly in our facility lobby. She has created very cool events in our small town - from wine tastings, to murder mystery theater dinners, to weddings, to large corporate holiday parties, to childrens birthday parties featuring our skydivers.
We've realized that all kinds of guests enjoy sharing in the excitement of CSC, and that our unique facility is an impressive and interesting place to gather. Now, our team has taken the stress out of event planning needs. It's more of a concierge experience than anything at this point.
If you're looking for a unique venue that will accomadate your needs, including delicious food, room for dancing, nearby lodging - we have you covered. While we are skydivers at heart, we enjoy converting our space for events. For more information about our event venues and pricing, contact our Director of Group Sales, Stacy Shewey. She can be reached at 815-561-3664 x385 or firstname.lastname@example.org.