Finding a suitable venue to put on a dog show these days can be as big a challenge as finding a good plumber or a reliable dog sitter. Usually it takes just one good experience for a beautiful relationship to begin – or at the very least it can secure a top position on the customer’s speed dial.

This is one reason I was eager to get on the road last month to attend the Irish Water Spaniel Club of America’s National Specialty in Wilmington, Ohio. The parent club’s 75th anniversary show was held at Eukanuba Hall at the Roberts Centre, and I was looking forward to seeing this dog event venue for myself.

Eukanuba Hall at the Roberts Centre in Wilmington, Ohio, is a full-service facility for hosting any number of conformation and performance events. Photos by Dan Sayers.

Opened in the fall of 2011, Eukanuba Hall at the Roberts Centre is a truly remarkable facility prepared to host any kind of dog (and cat) event. Virtually every amenity that an organization could possibly need is furnished at a level rarely experienced by dog show exhibitors today.

Located in south-central Ohio, Eukanuba Hall is ideally situated for exhibitors traveling from the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic states, as well as from points farther afield. Interstate highway Route 71 runs from Cleveland, Ohio, to Louisville, Ky., traveling through several major cities, and connecting with interstates I-80, I-90 and I-70 along the way. Both Columbus International Airport and Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport provide service to the area from throughout the U.S., with connecting flights required for some travelers.

Column-free halls provide spectators with unobstructed views of the activities.

Eukanuba Hall also connects directly to a top-tier Holiday Inn. The hotel is surprisingly elegant, with marble floors and traditional furniture in the lobby, meeting rooms to accommodate any number of attendees, and 120 beautifully appointed rooms, each with more than enough floor space to accommodate a half dozen crates or more. Free high-speed Internet service is provided throughout the facility and virtually every amenity that today’s businessperson – or dog show exhibitor – could want is available.

A special treat is the appearance of so many dog paintings and prints hung throughout the public spaces as well as within the guest rooms. This really helps to send the message that exhibitors and their dogs are truly welcome.

The Afghan Hound Club of America was the first group to experience the facility as a dog show destination. The club held its 2011 National here in September, preceded by a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by executives from both Eukanuba and the American Kennel Club.

The Irish Water Spaniel Club of America is one of several parent clubs to hold its National Specialty at Eukanuba Hall at the Roberts Centre this year.

The IWSCA was the next club to hold its national at Eukanuba Hall, and this year the facility will also host specialties for Goldens, Tollers, Akitas, Cane Corsos, Bull Terriers, Fox Terriers, Boston Terriers and Pembroke Welsh Corgis, to name a few breeds whose exhibitors will get a chance to experience the facility for themselves. Performance events and trade shows are also scheduled to take place this year, including the Pet Quest grooming expo on June 20-23.

During my visit I was fortunate to be given a tour of the facility by Vicki Seiler, external relations manager for The Iams Company. Vicki is recognizable to most dog show exhibitors for her participation in the award ceremonies at the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship and at the regional Breeders Stakes, but her experience in the dog sport is deeply rooted. For many years, Vicki worked as a professional handler, piloting her clients’ dogs to many notable wins, including Group First with Doberman Pinscher Ch. Brierpatch’s Christmas Dream at the 1984 AKC Centennial Show and Group First at the Garden in 1990 with Giant Schnauzer Ch. Skansen’s I Have A Dream.

Four spacious exhibition halls provide 80,000 square feet of space in a full-service facility conveniently located to two international airports.

Vicki graciously showed me around the center’s Grand Ballroom where movable walls allow for a single exhibition space without any columns to contend with. At 80,000 square feet, the facility is capable of hosting all-breed shows with plenty of room for ample rings, grooming setups and spectator seating. Chandeliers and suspended white sheers lend a touch of elegance to the well-lit halls.

All of the necessary fixtures for putting on a dog show are on site at Eukanuba Hall. Ring gating, agility and obedience equipment, examination tables and every dog show convenience is available, including docks for easy loading and unloading, ample electricity, outdoor hot water bathing stations and plenty of parking spaces. Hook-ups for RVs are available at the nearby Roberts Arena, and Vicki told me that a 60-by-100 foot tent will be available for outdoor events on the level lawns that surround Eukanuba Hall.

Both the exhibition halls and the hotel provide total accessibility for individuals with limited mobility, and the Wilmington Boardroom is a rather “clubby” space for hosting meetings or welcoming judges and club officials.

Max & Erma’s restaurant, a Columbus institution since 1972, is located between the halls and the hotel, serving gourmet burgers, classic sandwiches and “neighborhood favorites” such as Fall-Off-The-Bone BBQ Ribs and Max’s Sirloin.

A variety of shopping and recreation destinations are also located nearby, including outlet stores in Jeffersonville and Kings Island, which bills itself as “the largest amusement and waterpark in the Midwest.”

For dog show devotees looking for an ideal location to enjoy a fun-filled experience for the whole family, Eukanuba Hall at the Roberts Centre provides a wonderful place to get together with fanciers dedicated to purebred dogs and the dog sport.