A sneak peek of Bass Pro’s conference center

Eric Olson, SBJ EditorOn a tour this morning of the White River Conference Center, I got a taste of Big Cedar Lodge right here in Springfield.

Separate from the Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World and the Wonders of Wildlife construction work, crews are putting on the finishing touches for the John A. and Genny Morris Conservation Education Center. Someone on a hydraulic lift is staining wood ceiling panels, another is painting a mural and a brown bear awaits placement in just the right spot – all in accordance with the Johnny Morris touch.

Tucked behind the WOLF (Wonders of the Ozarks Learning Facility) classrooms, where 46 Springfield Public School fifth-graders daily attend classes with a unique conservation emphasis, sits a banquet room that can seat up to 650. A separate Sportsman’s Lodge holds 160 in a more intimate fireside setting with a wraparound patio.

During Springfield Business Journal’s sneak peek with Banquet Coordinator Natalie Alford, it became clear that the conference business in Springfield is getting an upgrade.

Before the scheduled April grand opening of White River Conference Center, Alford said she’s booked 20 events. The doors will open Feb. 16 for the Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau’s Travel & Tourism Awards.

Visitors will certainly take note of the center’s 480 deerskin chandeliers and a floor-to-ceiling mantel custom built with 80,000 pounds of rock that Morris handpicked from an Arkansas farm. An outdoor amphitheater is coming.

In the meantime, here are some pictures of the White River Conference Center features.

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White River Conference Center

A cluster of deerskin chandeliers hangs in the banquet room.

White River Conference Center

Mural work is under way. The final step will be adding a pond.

White River Conference Center

A wide hallway separates the conservation classrooms and the banquet hall.

White River Conference Center

A bison greets visitors to the classrooms.

White River Conference Center

A closeup of one of the 480 deerskin chandeliers.

White River Conference Center

An 80,000-pound rock mantel makes a statement in the Sportsman's Lodge.

White River Conference Center

Johnny Morris hosted the Wonders of Wildlife board members last week in the Sportsman's Lodge.

White River Conference Center

A turkey shot by Springfield Public Schools Superintendent Norman Ridder is temporarily on display on the fireplace.

White River Conference Center

A tribute to Johnny Morris' father, John A. Morris, is in the entryway.

White River Conference Center

The elder Morris' 16-gauge shotgun "used on many a quail hunt."

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