By Gina McGalliard
Scottish Rite Event Center gets a makeover
The San Diego Scottish Rite Event Center in Mission Valley is sporting a new look with recent renovations and upgrades, while staying true to their traditional roots of philanthropic and commercial service to the community.
“The history is interesting, because Masonry and the city of San Diego literally grew up together,” General Secretary Randy Brill said.
“Early in San Diego’s history most, if not almost all, of the prominent players giving birth to the city of San Diego were Masons. And the lodge I happen to belong to, San Diego Lodge No. 35, is the oldest and largest in San Diego and most of Southern California. And as the city grew and populations grew, the Scottish Rite was constituted alongside of San Diego Lodge No. 35. So the city, my lodge and the Scottish Rite all have this intertwined history,” he said.
Scottish Rite is a branch of Freemasonry, the world’s oldest and largest fraternal organization, Brill said. When a man becomes a Mason and is awarded his first three degrees, he is entitled to join several other masonic organizations, one of the largest being Scottish Rite.
The building that houses the San Diego Scottish Rite Event Center — originally an 80-lane bowling alley at 1895 Camino del Rio South — has undergone improvements to both the interior and exterior. The landscape was also redone with drought-resistant foliage.
“We think the building is one of the jewels of the Valley, and we want it to stand out,” Brill said.
Commercial rentals are the lifeblood of the building, which is the residence of six masonic lodges and a children’s language center, he said.
“What my goal is, as of nine years being here, is to turn this into a mini convention center,” said Pamela Shoemaker, vice president of sales and marketing for special events. With ample indoor and outdoor space, a 10,000-square-foot multipurpose ballroom, and a 600-seat theater, the center can host a variety of events, including weddings, corporate meetings, banquets and fundraisers. Trade shows are a particularly strong focus, Shoemaker said, because of the potential for long-term contracts. There’s also a 147,000-square-foot parking lot, and the event center even boasts its own on-site catering company.
“Special events are extraordinarily competitive,” Shoemaker said. “So what I attempt to do is make a lasting impression. And how I do that is having the people skills … genuine caring, passion about people, passion for what you do for a living. And [it] sells, and it works.”
On the philanthropic side, since 1981 the Scottish Rite Event Center has been home to the San Diego RiteCare Childhood Language Center, which provides speech therapy free of charge to children ages 2 to 12. The language center treats disorders or delays in articulation, phonology, childhood apraxia of speech, receptive language, expressive language, stuttering and voice. The staff also has a partnership with San Diego State University’s graduate program in speech-language pathology, giving graduate students the opportunity to gain clinical experience in their chosen field.
“The school districts [aren’t] able to serve a lot of kids with communication disorders, just because of staffing and funding and the like. So we help a lot of the kids who would typically fall through the cracks,” said Caitlyn Hunter, director of business development. “They’re not severe [and] on the far end of the spectrum to where they can receive services through the district, but if they don’t receive help, they’re looking at a very, very challenging life.”
Kids come from every ZIP code in the county to receive therapy, some driving from as far as Fallbrook. The language center has the capacity to triple the number of children they serve, Hunter said, and is currently seeking funding.
“You don’t realize how important communication is until you see a child who is obviously very bright and unable to speak,” said Hunter, who added that up to 7 percent of children suffer from communication disorders. “So targeting kids when they’re younger obviously sets them up for success later on.”
As Mission Valley grows in scope and population, the San Diego Scottish Rite Event Center fully intends to grow along with it.
“We’re a member of this community. We’re providing a community service, [and] we’re providing a commercial service,” Brill said. “That’s really what we want to get across to the community.”