Elk Grove has lots of families with children who will eventually grow up and hit milestones, such as having a quinceanera or getting married. What the city doesn't have are many places for people to celebrate those life events.
A newly formed Utah company is seeking to fill that gap with an unusual product: a $10 million stand-alone event center that's not affiliated with a restaurant, hotel or country club.
The Falls Event Center recently broke ground on two side-by-side buildings on Elk Grove Boulevard near Highway 99. It also plans to build a similar facility on Stanford Ranch Road in Rocklin and is scouting for additional locations in the region.
The Elk Grove center is scheduled to open in December, said John Neubauer, general manager of the privately held company, which is based outside Salt Lake City.
Neubauer said each of the Craftsman-style buildings will contain 13,500 square feet of space, enough to accommodate about 250 people.
Elk Grove will be one of the first event centers for The Falls, but the company plans others throughout Northern California.
"We actually don't believe (Texas) Gov. Rick Perry," Neubauer said. "We believe Northern California is an attractive place to do business."
The idea, he said, is to provide "a country club experience at a Target price," in part by having people arrange their own catering. The Falls doesn't own a catering company. Its centers will contain warming kitchens but not major food preparation facilities.
Neubauer said the company has not yet determined the rates it will charge to rent the space.
It's an unusual, largely untested business model, said Tony Dimond, a principal in the Sacramento office of Horwath HTL, a hospitality consulting firm. He said most event centers are owned by operators who also run a hotel or a catering business.
"Usually you want to have some sort of a built-in market, something that's going to feed you business," he said.
Still, Dimond said, it's an idea that could work. "Half of Elk Grove's population is under 18, which means they're going to be getting married," he said. "There is really nothing in Elk Grove for large catering events. Restaurants are small. There are no large hotels."
Eventually, such facilities could materialize. The Falls sits near where Elk Grove plans to one day build a civic center that would include a hotel, convention center and restaurant.
"We see The Falls as complementing the convention center rather than competing with it," said city spokeswoman Christine Brainerd. The convention center would host larger events, while The Falls could accommodate smaller conferences and parties.
"We worked very closely with them and are supportive of the project," Brainerd said. "The City Council has made it a priority to make Elk Grove a destination city, and this falls in line with that."
Garrick Brown, research director with real estate firm Cassidy Turley BT Commercial, said the idea of building free-standing event centers is novel. "This will either be a genius idea that was ahead of its time, or you're going to be looking at some vacant buildings in about 18 months," he said.
While The Falls is a new company, Neubauer said the idea of stand-alone event centers has already been successfully pioneered by Noah Corp., an Arizona firm that's focused on building centers in Texas.
The three co-founders of The Falls were also founders of Noah but left to form their own company. They see "significant market demand, particularly in Northern California," Neubauer said.
The Falls' chairman is Steve Down, author of financial self-help programs, books and seminars under such names as "Financially Fit for Life" and "The Miracle of Wealth."
all The Bee's Mary Lynne Vellinga, (916) 321-1094.