The Pearl of Iowa City’s Oyster

Individuals+roam+the+stage+and+balcony+at+the+Hancher+Auditorium+ribbon+cutting+ceremony+and+open+tour+in+Iowa+City%2C+Iowa+on+Friday+September+9th%2C+2016.+The+new+Hancher+Auditorium+is+finally+open+after+years+of+construction+and+will+have+its+first+show+on+September+24th.++%28The+Daily+Iowan%2FAnthony+Vazquez%29

Individuals roam the stage and balcony at the Hancher Auditorium ribbon cutting ceremony and open tour in Iowa City, Iowa on Friday September 9th, 2016. The new Hancher Auditorium is finally open after years of construction and will have its first show on September 24th. (The Daily Iowan/Anthony Vazquez)

By Gracey Murphy 

[email protected]

“One million hours worked” read the opening PowerPoint slide on the stage of the new Hancher Auditorium. One million hours of rigorous work and dedication to finish an extraordinary building.

On Sept. 9, Hancher hosted its first open house since construction was completed on the three-year project. There was an opening ceremony and a ribbon-cutting, after which members of the public were turned loose to explore the rest of the building on their own.

Various forms of entertainment were presented in the sprawling structure. Throughout the event, guests saw jugglers, people on stilts, and the Old Capitol Chorus, and they stopped for snacks and drinks.

Groups of people walk all over the stage area at the Hancher Auditorium ribbon cutting ceremony and open tour in Iowa City, Iowa on Friday September 9th, 2016. The new Hancher Auditorium is finally open after years of construction and will have its first show on September 24th. (The Daily Iowan/Anthony Vazquez)
Groups of people walk all over the stage area at the Hancher Auditorium ribbon cutting ceremony and open tour in Iowa City, Iowa on Friday September 9th, 2016. The new Hancher Auditorium is finally open after years of construction and will have its first show on September 24th. (The Daily Iowan/Anthony Vazquez)

Hancher had two Iowa-grown performers at the Ceremony, Rinde Eckert and Conor Hanick. Eckert performed a song, accompanying himself on the accordion, and Hanick played two beautiful pieces on the piano.

Following this, the two performed one song together before the Iowa City Community Choir closed the ceremony.

As a result of the community-wide eargerness for the new Hancher’s opening, the place was packed before the audience knew what events would occur. An usher urgently whispered to her colleague, “I’m not sure how many seats we have left up here,” as the clock neared 3 p.m.

Another usher, Brittany Bunker, found the immense crowd invigorating.

“Seeing everyone’s reactions to the building is cool,” she said.

Preceding the performances, many speakers talked about Hancher, including UI President Bruce Harreld.

Harreld noted the importance of the arts, especially in Iowa City, and praised Hancher’s cultural value. He described the auditorium as both “visionary” and “inspiring.”

“[Hancher] will uplift, I’m truly convinced, the entire university,” Harreld said. He then thanked those who dedicated their hours and effort to building the new Hancher, requesting the audience members to rise and applaud them.

“I’d like you to stand so we can have our first standing ovation in Hancher Auditorium,” he said. 

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad noted the value of Hancher, saying it has long had a huge effect on the state.

“Hancher performances are known for the great artists and great audiences,” he said.

Following his speech, Branstad said he was excited about exploring the new building and interacting with those who had come to see it. And he wasn’t the only one eager to see the new facility.

“We moved to Iowa City in 2007, right before the flood, [but] then [Hancher] was destroyed,” said Fang Wang, a woman visiting Hancher with her family. “I’ve always thought we needed a bigger, newer [auditorium] because I used to have to travel to Cedar Rapids or Chicago. It’s really good.”

Two other visitors, Judy Sigler and Kathy Ewald, reveled in Hancher’s beauty. They found the building “impressive” and “awesome.”

Ewald, who had not been to Hancher prior to the flood, was mesmerized.

“It’s more than I expected it would be,” she said.

The women questioned how much the building must have cost but were still impressed. (The actual estimate is $176 million.) Sigler said she loved the building and remembered having loved seeing shows at the old facility. 

University of Iowa staff, contributors, and guests cut the ceremonial golden ribbon at the Hancher Auditorium ribbon cutting ceremony and open tour in Iowa City, Iowa on Friday September 9th, 2016. The new Hancher Auditorium is finally open after years of construction and will have its first show on September 24th. (The Daily Iowan/Anthony Vazquez)
PLEASE CLICK THE PHOTO ABOVE TO SEE THE HANCHER AUDITORIUM OPENING SLIDESHOW

Other speakers also had their personal attachments to Hancher. Whether they had worked, performed, helped build, or had just simply been to a show, each individual had her or his own connection.

The final speaker, however, has worked the most closely with Hancher over the years, Executive Director Chuck Swanson. He had many thoughts on the building and was extremely pleased to finally be able to share them with the public.

“The journey through design and construction of this building is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for all of us,” he said.

He then invited the speakers to join him in cutting the ribbon to signify the reopening of Hancher.

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