Hancher, music facility on the rise


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Machines lifting steel and digging dirt day after day near Park Road, as well as at the intersection of Burlington and Clinton Streets, is a welcome sight for many at the University of Iowa.

Officials say both the new Hancher and the new music facility say are beginning to go vertical, and the UI is one-fourth of the way through the estimated total hours needed for completion for the projects, despite problems related to winter.

“For a lot of reasons, it’s important for us to get that building back up and running,” said Hancher Executive Director Chuck Swanson. “It’’s a complicated building so it takes time. It’s not an easy one to construct.”

Rod Lehnertz, the director of planning, design, and construction for UI Facilities Management, said both projects are on track and on budget and will be finished in the spring of 2016. The old facilities were heavily damaged in the 2008 flood.

“We’re monitoring the budget and the schedule carefully [even] despite the cold winter,” he said.  “There were some challenges, but hard work has kept the projects on track, and we will work with the contractor to ensure that.”

Facilities Management officials planned for six working days to fall below 0 degrees, but they faced a hiccup in the process when the actual number was 32 days.

Lehnertz said the music facility has reached ground level. The next step, he said, is to work on decking at the ground level.

The Hancher performance hall is visible, and pouring concrete has nearly been completed.

Despite harsh winter weather, the building is on schedule, and Swanson said he hopes spring doesn’t bring wind and rain to delay the project.

“Hancher has a rich tradition, a rich history [of] presenting the world’s finest, and affecting lives, and making a difference,” Swanson said. “Hancher provides not only entertainment, but just a way for people to learn about the world. There’s a history there that we want to continue on.”

Despite the flood of 2008, Swanson said he is not nervous about future water damage.

“There are only so many things you can worry about, and I don’t worry about that; I trust the experts,” he said. “The river is our friend, and I think with the new position of Hancher, we are going to be very pleased with the experience.”

Associate Professor Richard Heidel, the UI director of bands, said a new facility would also enhance the experience of music students.

“Our spaces now, even though they are temporary [and] seem to be OK in the situation, what we’ve been losing is the sense of community because we’re so spread out,” he said.

In addition to having improved teaching and performance venues, Heidel said, the opportunity to increase the sense of community is what he most looks forward to.

“Musicians, we spend so much of our time interacting with each other … cultivating those relationships is really important,” he said. “In terms of being a teacher, I really value the relationships I have with the students, and not being able to see them outside of classes … I don’t have the opportunity to get to know them like I would like to … I don’t have that kind of conversational time.”

Heidel said he is pleased with the progress on both sites so far.

“This has been an incredible challenge the university has faced since 2008,” he said. “I really think they’ve responded nobly to get us into facilities that are really nice, so we can continue with our musical endeavors.”

Anthony Arnone, a UI associate professor of music, said while he is eager to get into the building as well and create a sense of community, he is slightly exasperated.

“I’m happy they finally started digging; it [has] taken a long time,” he said. “I’m trying to be patient.”

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