HUNTSVILLE – As renovations continue at the Von Braun Center, officials have renamed its frequently utilized venue, North Hall.
In keeping with the space-theme of the eight-venue complex and the city’s nationally recognized “Rocket City” nickname, the facility’s northside venue has been renamed Saturn Ballroom.
“There has always been some confusion when speaking with national and international event planners who need ballroom space,” VBC Executive Director Steve Maples said. “We continuously have to explain that North Hall is in fact a ballroom, so when we began brainstorming potential new names, we knew we wanted to include the term ‘ballroom’ in the title.
“Additionally, NASA’s Saturn project is hugely important to North Alabama and our entire region so landing on the name ‘Saturn’ felt right and ties into the VBC’s family of venues perfectly.”
When the ballroom was first named, other parts of the then-Von Braun Civic Center included the arena, concert hall, playhouse, East Hall, West Hall, and the Huntsville Museum of Art.
“North Hall is one of the most-rented venues within the VBC,” said Maples. “The layout of three separate ballrooms downstairs that can be opened into one large space, paired with multiple breakout salons on the mezzanine level have made this an ideal space for events ranging from elegant weddings and galas to large conferences, small meetings and everything in-between.”
The North Hall originally opened Dec. 4, 1987 with a “Premier for the Arts” black-tie gala. The total project, which added around 100,000 square feet to the facility, cost $8 million.
“The addition of the hall almost 36 years ago was intended to enhance the flexibility of the overall facility by adding space for banquets, meetings and receptions,” Maples said. “It continues to make Huntsville a viable option for large conferences and tradeshows needing multiple event spaces simultaneously, while also being a space for banquets, galas, weddings, local town meetings and more.”
Before opening in 1987, management projected 150 occupancy dates annually within the space; in current times, ballroom occupancy has increased by more than 10%. Rental demand is consistently increasing in tandem with Huntsville’s growth and national popularity.
“The intent of this renovation and renaming project is to ensure the community the VBC proudly serves continues to have an elegant and modern space to host local events, while also having a space to proudly welcome both national and international guests who bring large-scale events to North Alabama,” said VBC Board of Control Chairman Evans Quinlivan.
The Von Braun Center is home to eight venues: Propst Arena, Mark C. Smith Concert Hall, Playhouse, Mars Music Hall, Rhythm on Monroe, South Hall, East Hall, and Saturn Ballroom.
Recently, the VBC was showcased three times on national television: The SEC Gymnastics Championships; “Lee Greenwood’s All-Star Salute” tribute concert; and “Still Playin’ Possum: Music and Memories of George Jones” (broadcasting on PBS with an airdate to be announced soon).
“With Huntsville consistently landing in top spots on national rankings, including the No. 1 Best Place to Live by U.S. News & World Report, people and businesses are relocating to the area in droves and all eyes are on our fantastic city,” said Maples. “We take our role at the VBC as a large factor for Huntsville’s quality-of-life very seriously and will continue to always make sure we’re delivering the highest-quality product in the nicest facility that we can.”
When last year’s fiscal year ended, the VBC had hosted nearly 500 events with an estimated economic impact of more than $80 million between October 2021 to September 2022. The full Annual Report for 2021-2022 can be found on vonbrauncenter.com.
After receiving city approval in 2021, the ballroom renovation project began in May 2022 and is projected to be complete by the end of this year with a total project cost of $12.5 million.
Renovations include upgraded wall coverings, flooring, a color-changing LED lighting system, upgraded audio system and more. Modified areas include the ballroom, main entrance lobby, public corridors, restrooms, meeting rooms, and other auxiliary spaces.
Additionally, the building exterior is receiving a new roof system, exterior paint, new signs, and a decorative LED lighting system.
This is the first major maintenance and renovation project to North Hall since the original installation in 1987.