Firehouse Conference Center completes technology upgrades

Elyssa Parnell Staff Writer

October 11, 2013

NEWBERRY — The Newberry Firehouse Conference Center has just completed a substantial technology upgrade, hoping to attract more business groups, as well as other groups to the area.

“Technology changes very quickly,” said Suzanne Elston, facility manager for the firehouse conference center. “Here we are, six years down the road, and we’re already outdated. We wanted to continue to advertise our equipment as state-of-the-art.”

New pieces of technology now available in the building include projection screen upgrades, one measuring 180 inches, the other 120” with much better high definition clarity, Elston said.

“These new, larger, digital projectors are much easier to operate, and easier as far as trouble-shooting,” Elston said.

Elston said the only group who has been able to use the new equipment at this point was Caterpillar, who recently held a conference at the Firehouse. Elston said the group had no problems as far as compatibility with the equipment and that everything ran smoothly.

An iPad is now built into the wall between projector screens, which Elston hopes will make things more user friendly for customers.

“The old system was confusing,” said Mary Alex Kopp, city tourism and events coordinator. “Everything before was analog, and wasn’t compatible with the newest technologies customers would bring in. We needed everything to be digital.”

Along with the two larger projector screens, a 60-inch television now greets guests on the wall of the lobby entrance. Each screen in the Firehouse Conference Center has the capability to play different as well as the same program, presentation, or channel, but can also play something different on each screen.

What Kopp says is unique about their new system is that music can be played directly from the presenter’s iPhone or iPad through Airplay technology.

“They can simply hook up to the Firehouse wireless network and it comes through the speaker,” Kopp said. “They can control what gets played and what doesn’t.”

Although Elston said she and Kopp have not yet been trained to use the new equipment, they hope to complete that in the next week or so. Elston said other staff will be trained also in using the new system.

Sound should also be distributed more evenly throughout the conference center. Microphones were separated within the intercom system, and new sound boxes are now evenly distributed on the ceiling of the room. “It just evens the sound out so much better,” Elston said.

Elston and Kopp hope more conferences will be booked because of the new improvements to the building.

“The building was designed to attract business meetings,” Elston said. “We really tried to focus on what we could do to bring back what the building was meant for.”

Elston said many wedding receptions, rehearsals, family reunions, anniversary parties, and other events have been attracted to the conference center.

The building holds 80 people comfortably, Elston said, with about 120 people fitting upstairs in their small breakout rooms.

Elyssa Parnell can be reached at 803-276-0625, ext. 108 or at eparnell@civitasmedia.com.