Open Campus: St. John’s University caters to wide array of events

By Jen Khedaroo 

St. John’s University may be best known for its academia and athletics, but did you know you can also host events at the school?

Carnesecca Arena is a prime location for events throughout the year. From local companies to schools and youth sports organizations, the venue can be fitted for a number of diverse affairs.

“We are willing to entertain any business in here as long as it does not compromise our mission,” said Tamara Lajara, director of Sales, Marketing, & Business Development.

Currently, an average of ten events are usually held at the arena annually. However, they are looking to do more.

“We’re working hand-in-hand with our athletics department as well, since the arena is home to sports like basketball, volleyball and fencing,” Lajara said. “Athletics will always be the priority, but whenever it’s not in use by the athletes, it’s ours. We do our best to make sure we are filling it and that the arena is not going black.”

The seating capacity at Carnesecca Arena works for large groups. Within the arena, there is room for about 6,000 guests, although the space can be configured for smaller groups.

The school offers services such as customized ticketing, concessions and public safety. Typically, if an event has 1,000 or more guests, the school will provide the concessions in an effort to add value and service.

There is a room for VIPs in the arena, as well as space that can be used for production, performers or onsite talent. Clients tend to use the arena’s new video boards, placed in the middle and on either end of the arena, for graphic displays, video and presentations.

In the past, the arena has been the host venue for NYPD and high school graduations. The Office of Conference & Auxiliary Services also works with a full production crew to put on concerts.

The department hosts and facilitates approximately 20,000 events per year for internal and external audiences. Though St. John’s has been hosting events for more than a decade, Lajara said that the community isn’t aware that the school rents out space.

“The people that are right next door to us in our backyard are not aware that there’s a ballroom on campus and that we do catering,” Lajara said, adding that the school’s Great Lawn can be used for outdoor events such as a barbecue. “It’s all about educating people that all of this is available for them.”

Compared to venues across the borough, Lajara believes that one of the selling points for St. John’s is that the prices are cost effective. The range for rental of Carnesecca Arena ranges anywhere from $5,000 to upwards of $20,000, depending upon the services the client requests.

Additions such as floor carpet tiles, seating and stage set up, catering, and public safety are available to the client. Parking is also an advantage that St. John’s has over its competitors; there are more than 2,500 parking spaces onsite.

Besides Carnesecca Area, event venues on campus include Taffner Field House, a ballroom within the D’Angelo Center, the school’s auditorium, Belson Stadium, a multipurpose room in the Tobin College of Business, Kaiser Baseball Stadium, the Montgoris Dining Hall, the Law School and the Great Lawn.

When working with potential clients, Lajara noted that people are often shocked by the sheer amount of event and green space available, adding “people who are not familiar with the area come on campus and their like ‘wow, this exists in the middle of Queens?’”

During the summer, the Residence Village, consisting of ten dorms, is rented out as a hotel for events like summer camps and business conferences.

Recently, about 2,000 people utilized the dorms for a Catholic youth retreat. The students, along with their chaperones from their respective parishes, spent the weekend in various spiritual and skill-building sessions, as well as social events.

The school’s venues can be molded to suit any type of event. In January, the school hosted the former Ecuadorian president, Rafael Correa, in his last official visit to the United States before his term came to an end. A few weeks ago, the school hosted a group of 2,500 who attended an Indian spiritual music event on campus.

The inaugural Borough Con, a comic/gaming convention, took place over Memorial Day weekend at the Taffner Field House. The event drew over 5,000 visitors and more than 100 vendors.

Upcoming events include a church-based event in September that will have about 4,000 people, as well as a youth medical group event that will include a live knee-replacement surgery.

On September 28, St. John’s will host an open house for community members, including companies interested in hosting an event on campus and utilizing the school’s wide-ranging catering services.

“The great thing about us is that we’re a one-stop shop,” Lajara said “When we’re working with you on an event, it all goes through us, we don’t hand anything off to someone else. You give us everything and we’re responsible for disseminating the information.”

For information on event spaces and rental options, contact Tamara Lajara at [email protected] or (718) 990-8038.

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