Theater construction near completion


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The University of Iowa Theater Building has seen much progress since construction began, but summer flooding caused unexpected setbacks. 

Additions to the building include a newly designed patio, remodeled basement, and a third floor to house air-conditioning and electrical units.

Although parts of the building are still under construction, many classes have moved back into the semi-operational building. 

“The systems are done, the basement is not quite done yet, and we expect it will be October or so before it is done,” said Alan MacVey, the head of the Theater Department.

MacVey said the basement, which is an area used the most, will have significant improvements, such as air conditioning and heating.

“It was always either too hot or too cold, and it was always damp, but all that stuff will be fixed,” he said.

Earlier this year, a large amount of flooding caused the entire basement to fill with water and reach about 6 inches below the first floor.

A number of wooden walls and drywall had significant water damage and had to be replaced along with electrical wiring and air conditioning.

A new third floor was constructed that contains all of the building’s electrical systems, which had been moved from the basement as well as a new air conditioning system.

Rod Lehnertz, the director of planning, design, and construction for UI Facilities Management, said the university has made substantial progress without altering the budget, but the issue is still complex.

“We know the lower levels recovery is a unique one,” Lehnertz said. “In each of the major buildings that flooded, we have worked with FEMA to determine the best course of action. Some of the options are limited by funding eligibility.”

Officials said the nature of the damage was different from other buildings, such as Hancher or the IMU.

The actual river water height was not the issue, but design flaws continued to lead water into the basement.

“The Theater Building’s actual damage made it clear to FEMA and the university that the building could not be fully protected from future flood damage, so a plan would not fit the government requirements,” Lehnertz said.

Many areas of the basement have been reshaped to accommodate many construction codes that have been adopted since the building’s original construction, including handicap accessibility, sprinkler systems, and other items required by law.

Many classrooms will be reshaped from their original designs after the renovation.

Junior theater student Molly Brown said that last semester, most of her theater classes were moved to Halsey Hall, but now some are back in the building.

“It sucks not being able to use all of our theaters, but construction is just something you have to go through if you want to make improvements, and the classes after us will have a great building to learn and perform in,” Brown said.  

Many students were affected by construction but remained optimistic.

Junior theater student Frankie Rose said that with bad weather conditions, this past summer he sympathizes with the situation.

“[The construction] is taking a while, but it’s understandable because there was another big storm right in the middle of the summer,” Rose said. “I’m not that angry about it.”

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