Attending a show at Outland Ballroom in Springfield, Missouri, has been a rite of passage for countless locals over the past 20 years. The COVID-19 pandemic has decimated the entertainment industry, however, thwarting that tradition, and in June, the venue’s former owners announced plans to sell the business.
Following an outpouring of support from the community, the Outland found a new owner, who has already established new and exciting revenue streams. Plunging deeper into the hospitality industry by updating the first-floor lounge, enhancing the bar program and opening Sweet Emotion (an adjoining vegan ice cream and pizza stand), the entertainment complex has found a way to survive.
Here, Seth Kean, who co-owns Sweet Emotion with Jimmy Kochs and works as the general manager and talent buyer of Outland Complex, dives deeper into the changes taking place at this beloved locale.
What changes have been made to the lounge and bar? We [overhauled] everything in the front-of-house lounge and branded it Odyssey Lounge. We redid the bathrooms and got in all new tables and chairs. It’s a 130-year-old building, so the rooms definitely needed some TLC, but we didn’t want to take away from the vibe and the style that our patrons love; we just wanted to show what it could be. It’s a cool hangout spot, but it’s also a full-fledged venue with the same [entertainment] gear we have upstairs in the ballroom. We’re also currently renovating Outland Bar, which is the space right next door. We’re planning to have a larger kitchen, and there won’t be a cover charge in that section. So if you’re at a show at Odyssey, you can walk over to Outland Bar, grab food and bring it [back].
What are the plans for the upstairs ballroom? We’re going to do minor cosmetic updates to give it a new face to last the next couple of decades, [but] due to the current climate, there’s no need for us to open the ballroom upstairs yet. Our focus right now is just keeping Odyssey’s calendar full [while] operating at half capacity with increased safety standards like mandatory masks and temperature checks.
What was your inspiration for Sweet Emotion? Unfortunately, live entertainment was left out to dry. None of us got any sort of support from government bailouts or funding, so we had to either close or adapt. And after almost losing the place, I was like, “We’re adapting.” I didn’t expect to be opening an ice cream parlor at this point in my life, but here we are! The great thing about [Sweet Emotion’s] walk-up window is that we can operate whenever the venue itself isn’t open.