Fundraising efforts for to remodel the Blank Performing Arts Center expansion project got a shot in the arm after receiving a $500,000 challenge grant from the Fred and Charlotte Hubbell Foundation. Bob Lane, vice president of college advancement, said there are different stipulations associated with this challenge grant than with other grants or gifts the college receives. “We’ve received a half-million- dollar challenge grant. They will give $500,000 if we complete the funding of the project and begin construction this year. And by this year, it’s by the end of spring,” Lane said. The BPAC project was originally supposed to begin last year and be completed by the celebration of Simpson’s 150th Anniversary – which begins in September. However, due to financial constraints, the ground breaking was pushed back until later this spring, according to President John Byrd. “We’ll be starting construction; ground breaking would be probably the first, after we’ve successfully completed the fundraising for the project,” Byrd said. “The gift, the challenge gift, is a challenge to complete the fundraising during the first half of this year, and then to begin construction shortly thereafter. So the gift is really an impetus, an incentive if you will, to raise the last dollar necessary to fund the project and to get construction going.” Some students have expressed frustration that the project continues to get pushed back. “I actually was very frustrated,” sophomore Cory Keasey said. “Our theater is in need of improvements and the fact that there wasn’t and isn’t enough funds was very disappointing. We have one classroom, and a lobby that is used for classes. The theater it is not handicap accessible either. I don’t understand why we would not be able to use the fund from the student center, though. I personally don’t feel we need a new one. This tends to make me feel like the theater department is taken for granted and not a priority to the school.” According to Byrd, there is still a fair amount of fund raising that needs to be done, but he remains hopeful. “There’s more than $500,000 needed for the project in terms of finalizing some gifts,” Byrd said. “We have a number of proposals that are outstanding to individuals as well as foundations and organizations to complete the project. We feel very good that it’s likely that we will receive funding from a number of those sources and that we’ll be able to move ahead in a timely fashion and meet the requirements of the challenge.” There is hope to have the project completed by late spring or early summer in order for the BPAC to be available for use. “We would hope to be able to complete the project by late next spring, early summer, intime for it to be available for the Des Moines Metropolitan Opera summer festival,” Byrd said. Regardless of lacking funds, both students and faculty are anxiously awaiting the completion of the project. “We’re really excited about it, for a whole host of reasons,” Lane said. “One, we really need this addition. Secondly, I think the excitement it will create on campus, and the momentum that it will create for other projects will be important.” Keasey holds his own reasons for excitement. “Well, I am excited for the space because it will make the building larger,” Keasey said.
“If we can get actual offices for our faculty and such that would be greatly improved for the professors and staff.”