By Wynter Holden — (Images by Angela)
Scottsdale has a reputation as Arizona’s nightlife capital. From the Scottsdale Arts Center and adjacent contemporary art museum to Fashion Square and the nightclubs of Stetson Drive, there’s always something to do post-9 p.m. Unfortunately, many of the newer buildings are too cookie cutter to be memorable.
Head north to Scottsdale Airpark, however, and you’ll find a handful of out of-this-world event spaces your guests will never forget. There were so many untapped opportunities in the North Scottsdale area that local party planner Karen May opened up Venues of North Scottsdale last year to coordinate events at some of the area’s most unique venues. “They are very luxe, memorable places. No one from the general public has actually been in these spaces before,” May says. From runways to exotic car warehouses, Scottsdale Airpark boasts massive entertaining spaces that mark a departure from ordinary wedding and event venues.
Speak Softail and Carry a Big Ring: Harley-Davidson of Scottsdale
15656 N. Hayden Road
In November 2015, GoDaddy founder Bob Parsons opened the largest U.S. Harley dealership in the world in North Scottsdale. The 150,000-square-foot facility is the adult theme park of the biker world, complete with a tattoo studio, movie theater and wedding chapel. It’s not all leather, chrome and Sailor Jerry inside – and not every visitor is automatically in hog heaven.
We’ve had several events where people had no initial love for motorcycles, but being around bikes helps spark their interest,” events sales Manager Matthew Hepp says. The bulk of the building’s architecture and décor is ultra-modern: concrete patios, steel beams and glass. The elegant chapel is softer and more feminine, with white wainscoting, rustic wooden trusses and pink Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired stained glass panels. Wedding packages start at $399 for the “Shotgun” version and include access to a private dressing room and the 90-seat chapel. For corporate events and larger gatherings, Harley-Davidson of Scottsdale offers their training center, two patios, an outdoor stage and several meeting rooms for private rental. Occasionally, says Hepp, hosts will rent out the entire dealership including the sales floor. Spend enough time eyeing that 2017 Street Rod you’ve been drooling over, and you may come home with a shiny new purchase to explain to the wife.
Where Parties Take Flight: Airplane Hangars Venues of North Scottsdale
Originally a flight training school for U.S. Air Force cadets, the single-runway Scottsdale Airport is now home to Signature Flight Support and Landmark Aviation, plus Civil Air Patrol. At night, several of its hangars double as chic party spaces. Unlike the aerodynamic, modern design of nearby Hangar One, these aircraft storage units have been left in their raw states. Think white epoxy floors and trendy rebar with a heavily industrial look. Buildings range in size from around 3,500 to 35,000-square-feet, accommodating up to 1,500 guests; some even come equipped with private jets for a posh photo-op.
“For one of our last corporate events, we brought in a 1932 Bomber,” says Karen May, vice president of sales and marketing for Venues of North Scottsdale. “The next day, that company’s whole board of directors went up for a ride in the plane.” Not every group can aff ord the extra luxury of a private ride, but listening to the whir and whoosh of small aircraft on the tarmac provides its own instant mood lift.
Driven to Success: Lusso Fine Motorcars
9024 E. Bahia Drive
The Fast and the Furious movie franchise refueled Americans’ love for supercharged classics like the slick black 1970 Dodge Charger, which was tossed out of a Lockheed C-130 Hercules plane above the Sonoran Desert in its seventh installment. At Lusso Fine Motors, ‘70s-era Chevelles and Camaros are perched alongside tricked-out modern rides including a white 2014 Ferrari F12 Berlinetta and a 2012 Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet – the latter priced at $105,900. There’s even a 1931 Ford Model A for true collectors. The showroom is available for public events through Venues of North Scottsdale, with gearheads of all ages appreciating the wide range of automobiles on display in Lusso’s ever-changing collection.
“People love this venue because it’s not a museum,” May says. “We don’t put up any ropes.” Guests can interact with the vehicles, getting inside to take a closer look at the leather interiors and state-of-the-art gadgetry. And it’s not just men who love Lusso. According to May, many women are equally well-versed in automobile history and often drive the decision to host their wedding at the luxury car dealership. “We had a lady in the other day who knew the details of every make and model we have,” May says. “She schooled me on the difference between an Austin-Healey and an Aston Martin.”
Home on the Range: Scottsdale Gun Club
14860 N. Northsight Blvd.
Scottsdale Gun Club is one of the largest indoor shooting facilities in the country, with 32 lanes with ranges of 25 yards each and an arsenal to rival a military base. While safety glasses and holsters aren’t exactly standard accessories for a bachelor party or corporate meeting, the club does rent their classrooms and board room out for private events. For smaller gatherings, the conference room runs an affordable $40 per hour, with classrooms that can hold up to 50 people per room available for $250 an hour.
You’ll have to spring extra for range time, though according to a facility representative, the Scottsdale Gun Club may cut a break for larger parties. Obviously, this venue isn’t for every crowd. But if you want to take a break from your boring meeting to safely get out your aggression via an AK-47 or Beretta 92FS (aka the U.S. military’s M9), renting a room here is a surefire option.
Accelerate Your Style: Penske Racing Museum
7125 E. Chauncey Lane,
If Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Danica Patrick are more your speed, Penske’s collection of retired racecars should spark your engine. More than 20 racecars are on display, from a replica of Roger Penske’s 1963 NASCAR Pontiac Catalina to the 2006 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 pace car driven by seven-time Tour de France victor Lance Armstrong at the Indianapolis 500. Many of these cars have made victory laps at the nation’s most prestigious competitions; in its 51-year history, Penske has won more than 400 major races, including 16 Indy 500 titles. The team’s numerous trophies are displayed in the museum’s second-floor café for guests to “ooh” and “ahh” over. The Penske Racing Museum regularly books private events, with parties hosted in a large indoor space separated from the patio by removable glass walls. Catering and entertainment packages are available, and hosts can arrange Land Rover test climbs for adventurous guests.
Ride em’, Cowboy: El Samaritano Equestrian Center
28345 N. 84th Street
El Samaritano isn’t your typical horse ranch. The 20-acre facility overlooking Pinnacle Peak is home to stables of Andalusian horses, or PREs (Pura Raza Española), a graceful and sturdy breed known for its prowess at dancing and dressage. Standing an average of 15-and-a-half hands tall, these Spanish beauties are the heart of El Samaritano’s operation, which includes public performances by the Royal Andalusian Riding School. The ranch’s 29,000-square-foot covered facility is large enough to accommodate up to 2,500 guests, with picturesque desert views appropriate for themes that range from campfire cookout to fancy wine dinners.
May’s company coordinates modern niceties such as table linens, grub and entertainment, while the venue provides a picturesque backdrop straight out of a Clint Eastwood fl ick. “A lot of people still think this is the Wild West. They want the gorgeous desert scenery shown in old movies,” she says. El Samaritano offers views of the area’s sherbet sunsets and dusty sagebrush landscape, minus the staged cowboy hokeyness of other Western venues.
With more than 55,000 employees and 2,600 acres of land, Scottsdale Airpark is the largest commercial center in the state of Arizona. It’s attracted the likes of GoDaddy billionaire Bob Parsons – who plans to build a new restaurant and retail hub at the former site of his massive Harley Dealership – as well as first-class resorts.
Why go traditional, however, when you can rent an entire airplane hangar or take a selfie behind the wheel of an Aston Martin 2008 roadster? “These venues are a great alternative to pricey resorts,” May says. “There’s no foot traffic, no publicity. You can just go off and have fun in an interesting place.” Basically, CEOs and other company bigwigs won’t have to deal with looky-loos snapping party pics and tweeting them for the world to see. All-inclusive packages can run from $25,000 upwards of a quarter-million dollars through Venues of North Scottsdale. But for many of Scottsdale’s elite, the look on their guests’ faces when they see a Model T or a commercial jet in arm’s reach is priceless.