When Al and Jennifer Vogts initially bought the former Newton VFW building at 1610 S.E. Third St., it sat empty for a while.
It took some time deciding what to do with it, but the Vogts eventually settled on an idea — adding another venue option to Newton's offerings.
"After taking some time after the purchase to kind of figure out what we wanted to do with it, we kind of just realized that it was just a big empty building sitting, not being put to use, so the idea behind the venue was just to create a space that people could use to rent for things like weddings, receptions and quinceañeras," Jennifer said. "That's kind of what we were thinking when we decided to do some renovations and some remodel work to it, to kind of give it some life again."
Now, the Vogts are getting ready for the grand opening of Wild Prairie Event Center this weekend, with an event of their own planned starting at 7 p.m. May 25.
Given that the opening is quickly approaching, the Vogts are making the final touches this week to get everything ready, and it has been quite the process.
"We've just been doing a lot of cleanup. That's probably the vast majority of what has been going on is just cleaning," Vogts said. "Most of what we've been doing is kind of just sprucing it up."
Most of the work has centered on building renovations, such as repainting walls and replacing floors, but there has been one major addition since the Vogts took ownership of the building — the addition of an 8,000-square-foot patio area outside to add another layer of versatility to the venue.
Other features of the newly renovated event center will include an outdoor stage, commercial kitchen and refurbished bar.
Remodeling of the VFW building has been going on for the past three to four months, Jennifer said, and while the Vogts absolutely want it to be utilized she also said it was not meant to take away from the other offerings available in town.
"Someone opens a business and always wants to be successful, but the idea behind this was not necessarily to compete with the beautiful facilities that we already have in Newton," Jennifer said. "There's lots of options for people. We're just adding one more, not with the intent of trying to take business away from anyone else. We were just really interested in making use of what was already an existing structure and trying to get something going there."
From weddings to quinceañeras to corporate events, Jennifer said she will be happy with however the facility is used as long as it is providing value to the community.
The Vogts are open to a variety of rental needs, Jennifer said, and may also put on their own events intermittently during the year.
"We enjoy live music, and we're thinking maybe we would want to organize a band to come in and open the place up and partner with other people in town, whether it's for food or entertainment or anything like that, to join us in hosting these events," Jennifer said.
Though not wanting to compete with the other venues in town, one thing Jennifer said is different about Wild Prairie is that it has spacious room both inside and outside of the building — making it a very versatile event center with multiple spaces for clients to rent out, including two inside the building.
"It's a great way to have a backup plan without having to look for an entirely different venue," Jennifer said. "That maybe is what could set us apart."
Jennifer said she has already been contacted by potential clients wanting more information regarding use of the building. In that regard, she encourages everyone to come out to the Wild Prairie Event Center's grand opening on May 25 to view the venue and also enjoy live music, the dining options provided by local food trucks and the overall atmosphere.
For more information on availability and rental rates for Wild Prairie, call 316-333-8300.