It has been over a year since the Iowa State Athletic Department announced a recommendation to indefinitely close Stephens Auditorium, the flagship theater on the campus of Iowa State University. After immense public outcry, Iowa State President Wendy Wintersteen responded to the recommendation, stating that both the university and the athletic department were committed to developing “a plan for how Stephens will operate into the future for the benefit of campus and the Ames community.” Now, over a year later, there have been few public statements or actionable steps taken toward restoring Stephens to its former glory.
Though the athletic department oversees its management, I believe that it should not be their responsibility to renovate Stephens to the extent necessary. Whether the building ends up needing a $30 million investment or a $60 million one, the financial burden of that project should not fall on the shoulders of athletics alone.
The reality is that the responsibility to renovate Stephens falls on us, the patrons who have enjoyed countless performances at Stephens since its completion in 1969. A restored civic center that promotes Stephens’ diverse programming and outreach opportunities with increased accessibility would be a huge draw to Iowa State and the central Iowa community.
To motivate the community to support Stephens financially and to make this proposition possible, the university has to make the first move. Creating a fund is not sufficient. There must be a dynamic vision and a campaign through the Iowa State Foundation: a rallying of those who cherish the arts and understand the vitality of a shared auditorium between the university and community. A monumental transformation of “Iowa’s Building of the Century” is one campaign away. Together, we can restore this landmark and expand its use and mission for generations to come.
Adam Wolf is a freshman in construction engineering.