A series of entertainment venues in Iowa’s capital city is now operating under a new name: Des Moines Performing Arts.
The largest of the lot, the Civic Center of Greater Des Moines, has a 2700 seat capacity. It’s construction and opening in 1979 marked the start of a renaissance in downtown Des Moines. Jeff Chelesvig has been the Civic Center’s top executive since 1996.
“The Civic Center’s been around for 34 years and we have expanded greatly beyond the original building,” Chelesvig says. “We have multiple venues and so we decided to find a name that would reflect us as an organization and the growth that we’ve experienced over the last few years.”
Chelesvig is now the president and CEO of Des Moines Performing Arts which includes the Stoner Theater, a 150-seat venue tucked inside the Civic Center building, as well as the “Temple Theater” in a Masonic Temple in downtown Des Moines that was saved from the wrecking ball and opened in 2002 after major restoration.
Chelesvig says the re-branding effort started two years ago, with the aim of creating a “new image” for all the venues which had been operating under the Civic Center umbrella.
A magazine that tracks ticket sales often ranks The Civic Center of Greater Des Moines as one of the top 30 best-selling venues in the world.
“We are bringing shows in that are playing oftentimes before they play in Omaha or Kansas City or sometimes even Minneapolis, so we draw not only from all four corners of Iowa but also surrounding states,” Chelesvig says.
In the past decade, the Civic Center has sold an average of 329,000 tickets a year. The Civic Center’s first big splash, nationally, came in 1997, when the sold-out, four-week run of “Phantom of the Opera” was extended for a fifth week because of demand.
“That was a turning point for the community, to be able to realize that we could support longer-running, major shows, and that the benefit to the community was so great in terms of restaurants and hotels, parking — you know, you name it,” Chelesvig says.
According to theater industry calculations, the Broadway Series at the Civic Center has a $31 million economic impact on Iowa’s capital city. “The Book of Mormon” is the next Broadway show to be staged at the Civic Center, beginning January 24 and running through February 3.
The other venue that’s part of the newly-named “Des Moines Performing Arts” is Nollen Plaza, an outdoor entertainment space to the east of the Civic Center that is set to undergo renovations.