• MHCC Opens Events Office, Expands Efforts to Partner with Community

    Posted: 03/07/2017

    As a community institution, Mt. Hood Community College seeks to make itself as open and accessible as possible to residents throughout Multnomah, Clackamas and Hood River counties, and beyond. One way of truly making MHCC a “community” institution is to open the school’s three campuses to local and regional organizations, giving these groups the space and resources they need to host events here, provide their services and raise awareness.

    Lamon Bee Acres booth at the
    Gresham Saturday Market on the MHCC campus.
    The Planetarium offers new shows
    monthly on the MHCC campus.
    U.S. Masters swim meet at the MHCC Aquatic Center.

    In recent years, MHCC has become a hotbed of activity, providing space for everything from television and commercial shoots to national-level sports competitions and popular community events. These events — and the organizations that sponsor them — vary from longtime partners like the Portland Highland Games, first held at MHCC in the summer of 1988, to the Gresham GreyWolves, the amateur baseball team that began playing home games at MHCC’s Oslund Field in 2016.

    And it’s not just sports either. The summer celebration Strawberry Short Course Festival started up in June 1980. Last year, the IFC sketch comedy television show “Portlandia” filmed at MHCC’s Gresham campus — MHCC students were even used as extras in one episode — and the heavily attended Gresham Saturday Market moved to the school’s grounds. But there’s always room for more.

    Stephanie Obotette focuses on helping organizations to use MHCC’s space and resources to benefit them the most. As MHCC’s fulltime events coordinator, Obotette works with groups seeking to hold their events at any of the school’s three campuses. “We have some really great space here that’s underutilized,” said Obotette. “So one of our goals is bringing more community members to Mt. Hood Community College — and we’re doing that by showing them what we can offer here in terms of event or production space.”

    The possibilities are nearly endless, added Obotette, pointing out that theatres, classrooms, large spaces, science labs and board-style rooms at the Gresham campus can support workshops, speaking events, conferences, drama productions, open mics, and academic tournaments, to a name a few. And plenty of smaller rooms, including in the library and student union, offer ideal space for breakout sessions.

    As far as classrooms go, MHCC doesn’t lack. The college can rent out classroom space at any campus — Maywood Park and Bruning centers included. Computer labs are also available for courses that require online or computer training. In some instances, educators want to organize classes at MHCC, but they don’t want to register their students through the school. That’s fine too, said Obotette, citing examples of meditation and teambuilding courses that use MHCC space for their regular meetings.

    Large event space isn’t in short supply at MHCC either. The Gresham campus boasts a 500-seat performing arts theatre, a 250-seat visual arts theatre, and the Vista Dining Hall with room for approximately 500 people.

    On the south end of campus, MHCC offers the Yoshida Event Center, which can house everything from sporting events to fundraising galas; baseball, softball and soccer fields; racquetball and tennis courts; and a 5,000-seat outdoor stadium (with room for additional seating) overlooking a football field and 400-meter track. In recent years, Nike, Adidas, and P&G/Gillette used these facilities for photo or commercial video shoots. In 2015, P&G/Gillette shot footage of two-time Olympic gold medal decathlete Ashton Eaton practicing his long jumping at MHCC for a commercial that aired during the 2016 Summer Olympics.

    One campus facility that is already seeing an increase in community usage is the Mt. Hood Community College Aquatic Center. The aquatic center contains a 25-yard, six-lane indoor competitive pool and a 50-meter, Olympic-sized outdoor pool. Inside, additional facilities include a rock wall, instructional and hydrotherapy pools and locker rooms with showers.

    MHCC’s scenic campus also has the potential to serve as a backdrop for movies, television shows and commercials. In addition to offering sports facilities, the school features hiking trails, a creek and pond, and natural landscaping on the 122-acre Gresham campus. The campus also encompasses some truly unique spaces and facilities for filming, like an indoor planetarium, funeral services center and embalming lab, hair salon, dental hygiene clinic and a fisheries hatchery.

    Schools, families, corporate groups and other organizations can rent out MHCC’s state-of-the-art Planetarium Sky Theatre for private screenings. With seating for 70, the Sky Theatre offers a truly magical experience in an intimate-sized auditorium that uses the same advanced lighting and display technologies as much larger planetariums, according to Pat Hanrahan, MHCC planetarium director.

    All these opportunities represent part of the school’s targeted effort to increase community awareness and engagement.

    “Building community engagement and fostering community pride is really part of our mission,” said Obotette. “We want to increase access to our recreational facilities and organize and hold events here for the community and public at large. We’re trying to emphasize the ‘community’ part of community college — and these events do exactly that by bringing more people to our campuses.”