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Hancher construction awaited by Iowa community

BY MEGAN DEPPE | DECEMBER 03, 2013 5:00 AM

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The construction of the University of Iowa’s new Hancher is on schedule and well underway, with expectations for the shape of the building to be completed in the spring of 2014.

The completion of the new Hancher is estimated for the fall of 2016. The original Hancher was heavily damaged in the 2008 flood.

Rod Lehnertz, the director of planning, design, and construction for UI Facilities Management, the structure is “on its way out of the ground, but there is much more growing to go.”

Lehnertz said concrete has been poured and is approximately 50 percent complete. The concrete shell of the auditorium has been completed as well, and the full building should begin to take a real shape in the spring.

Hancher Executive Director Chuck Swanson said the Hancher staff is ready for the new building to reach completion.

“We love seeing the new building come up and the old building come down,” Swanson said. “I said my goodbyes a long time ago.”

He said he felt a lot of effort went into the planning process and the design of the building, which made him feel like “it’s going to be one of the finest [buildings].”

Director of Orchestral Studies William Jones said he believes the School of Music is especially excited about the new Hancher.

“There’s a light at the end of the tunnel,” Jones said. “We’re going to be in a building again [for some performances] and a music family again.”

Jones said it’s been difficult for students to move between buildings since Hancher’s damage. The music school is spread out among eight different buildings, and students usually have classes in at least four of them.

“It’s quite difficult for students to move from different buildings in 10 minutes,” Jones said.

Lehnertz said the music programs have been very patient throughout the rebuilding process, and they have learned about how to work together under duress.

“I think [construction] will change and affect how they continue to come forward as great programs, once in a building worthy of their program and the UI,” Lehnertz said.

The building will house many large event programs with their larger stage, Swanson said, such as orchestras, Broadway performances and dance recitals.

Some of the changes to the new Hancher also include a change in seating. There will be an estimated 1,900 seats in the new building, which is approximately 600 fewer seats than in the old Hancher.

“This is not a functional loss,” Lehnertz said. “Shows that come to town today are different than was the case when Hancher was built in 1972.”

Swanson also said during the three years between now and Hancher’s completion, the staff will continue with its programming.

“As we’ve always said, you can’t contain us,” Swanson said.

The future is bright for Hancher, Swanson said, and the UI and Iowa City have a great deal to look forward to.

“Everybody has a Hancher story,” Swanson said. “I feel that Iowans all across the state are anxious for its opening.”


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