Architecturally designed with soaring, geometric ceilings and space for up to 400 guests, the McNamara Alumni Center is a one-of-a-kind wedding venue you have to see. Located conveniently on the University of Minnesota campus, this space was designed with Minnesota elements in mind — water, wood, and copper.
This venue is unique in many ways and offers top-notch catering services and detail-oriented staff ready to make your day perfect. Discover everything about this beautiful and versatile property below straight from their Director of Marketing & Communications, Amy Leyden.
Q: Let’s get to it, what’s your business’ specialty?
A: We are a gorgeous wedding venue inspired by the Minnesota landscape of wood, water and copper. With ten unique rooms all on the first floor, we have two zones for weddings, each with space to accommodate a ceremony, reception and wedding party.
Q: Where can we find you?
A: Our address is 200 Oak St. SE in Minneapolis on the University of Minnesota campus. We’re very easy to get to—just off Interstate 35W—and we have an adjacent 500-car parking ramp and circular driveway at our front door for easy drop-offs.
Q: Tell us when and how McNamara Alumni Center began.
A: The McNamara Alumni Center is privately owned by the University of Minnesota Foundation and University of Minnesota Alumni Association. They and a successful team of alumni volunteers worked 12 years to ensure that the alumni center became a reality in 2000. The public spaces in the McNamara Alumni Center were financed through the private support of more than 600 donors including Richard “Pinky” McNamara, a 1956 alumnus for whom the building is named. Construction began in March 1998 and in February 2000, the 231,000 square feet McNamara Alumni Center opened as a University office building and event venue open to the public.
Q: What makes your company unique from others?
A: Our architecture is stunning and truly unique. Minneapolis-based KKE Architects teamed up with internationally-renowned architect Antoine Predock of Albuquerque, New Mexico, to design the alumni center. Predock set out to reflect Minnesota’s natural assets — its 10,000 lakes, the North Shore, the Iron Range, the Northern Lights and more — in the forms, materials and design elements of the McNamara Alumni Center. Striking features include a pink granite-covered geode exterior with star-shaped glass fissures; an 85-foot tall Memorial Hall complete with six miles of wood lining its walls and a water stream and pool; and 75,000 square feet of copper cover exterior and interior walls.
Q: How long have you been in the industry? What do you think has changed the most since then?
A: I have been at the McNamara Alumni Center for 23 years. I was the first employee, hired to build the event business from scratch. Over the years I transitioned from Event Manager and operations to the marketing and sales side of the business where I have been Director of Marketing & Communications. My career has always had an element of event planning. Prior to McNamara, I had been an event planner for University of Oregon Alumni Association, grand opening coordinator for the Minnesota History Center and early on, I was a public relations coordinator for Boston Children’s Hospital.
Technology has changed the most from the way we work at our desks, to how we do marketing and advertising, to accommodating the program needs of the events themselves.
Q: Walk us through your average workday.
A: My marketing work keeps me at my desk most of the day. I’m doing a lot of writing, I’m selecting photos for campaigns, I’m reviewing our Google ad performance, I’m making website updates, I’m editing social media content, I’m giving feedback to our designer, etc.
Q: What should a couple searching for their wedding venue know?
A: Read venues’ reviews regarding their staff! The staff at the venue with whom you will work the next few months and the day of your wedding are as important as what the venue looks like. McNamara excels in both these areas — a stunning venue with smart, attentive staff dedicated to the success of your wedding celebration.
Q: How far in advance should a couple book with you?
A: Couples can put up to two dates on hold for free with us up to two years in advance. If someone else inquires about that date and is willing to pay a deposit for it, the original holder of the date must release or book that date within 24 hours.
Q: What is the history behind your venue?
A: Long before the alumni center was built, University of Minnesota alumni longed for a building to call their own, one that would serve as a virtual “front door” for University visitors. Over those years, the University of Minnesota Foundation, University of Minnesota Alumni Association and alumni volunteers worked hard to get floor plans rendered and a site chosen. Construction began in 1998 on the location of where Memorial Stadium had been and the reconstructed brick Memorial Stadium Arch now towers 55 feet high inside Memorial Hall! Doors opened for events in 2000.
Q: What is the biggest crowd-pleaser at your venue?
A: The food by our exclusive caterer D’Amico Catering. If Goldy makes a (scheduled) appearance at an alumni wedding, he gets the crowd going!
Q: What are your other hobbies and passions besides creating beautiful wedding days?
A: I am a mosaic artist and member of the Minnesota Mosaic Guild and I also recently launched a boutique table-setting rental company called Kaleidoscope Table Settings.
Q: Do you have any favorite podcasts?
A: The Daily by the New York Times
Q: Who’s your most played artist on your streaming service?
A: Since the Grammy’s — Harry Styles.
Q: What was your latest impulse buy?
A: A gorgeous scarf at the Museum of Russian Art’s gift shop
Q: Mountains or Beach?
Q: Go-to cocktail (or mocktail)?
A: Bourbon with maple syrup
Q: When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A: A pediatrician
Q: You’re at brunch. Are you going for something sweet or savory?
Q: Go-to comfort food?
A: Green olives
Q: Duck Duck Grey Duck or Duck Duck Goose?
A: Duck Duck Grey Duck
Amy is excited to help you plan your dream wedding! Get in touch with her or a member of her team and book your tour today here!
All images courtesy of McNamara Alumni Center