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10 Years Later, WIU Hopeful About CPA

Rich Egger
The groundbreaking ceremony from 10 years ago.

On April 26, 2011, Pat Quinn was Illinois' governor and Al Goldfarb was president of Western Illinois University. And on that date, they were joined by others for a groundbreaking ceremony for a performing arts center on WIU's Macomb campus.

Today -- exactly ten years later -- construction still has yet to start on the building. But Billy Clow, Dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communication, is hopeful because the Illinois Capital Development Board recently named a design firm to oversee the project.

“The significance is that there’s money behind the announcement finally. The governor says he wants us as part of his Rebuild Illinois campaign,” Clow said.

“The project is funded and we can move forward.”

The university said construction should begin early next year, with an anticipated opening in August, 2024.

Billy Clow, Dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communication

“I have a lot of confidence in the governor’s commitment to us and his understanding that Macomb has been promised this and we’re going to do great things with it,” said Clow.

“We will make certain that everybody understands that we are here for the long haul. We’re going to put this building up and we’re going to be bigger and better and stronger than we’ve been. I’m very excited for the students and the faculty and the region.”

The projected cost is $89 million. Clow said that includes all design efforts to date stretching back since the project’s inception.

What’s Changed?

For one thing, Western changed the name of the project from the Performing Arts Center to the Center for Performing Arts (CPA).

Clow said the years of delays will allow WIU to end up with a better building.

“We’ve had a lot more input from the programs,” he said.

As a result:

  • The main theater will no longer have three balconies. “We just don’t need quite that much in this region,” Clow said. “Now we’re down to just one nice balcony. It’s a beautiful space now.”
  • Improved acoustics for the main theater.
  • Two smaller theaters will be combined into a single multi-purpose space. “We can set it up in any way we need to for a particular production,” Clow said. “Students can try multiple different staging opportunities when they’re working, whether it’s acting or directing or designing. They’ll have those opportunities and I think that’s going to be much more beneficial.”
  • Clow said the changes with the theaters will help trim the cost of the project.
  • The jazz studio rehearsal space will be a bit larger.
  • Two dance studios will be on the same side of the building instead of opposite sides.
  • Clow said LEED certification requirements have changed through the years, which meant they had to make corresponding changes throughout the building to ensure it will still receive that certification.

A Long Time Coming

Here are links to some of the stories we’ve reported on the CPA just in the past 10 years:

From 2011

From 2012

From 2014

From 2015

Also from 2015

Also from 2015

From 2018

Also from 2018

From 2020

Tri States Public Radio produced this story.  TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.

Rich is TSPR's News Director.