Iowa Venues Flooded

The June storms and subsequent flooding across the Midwest claimed lives, sent thousands from their homes to shelters and safety, ruined thousands of acres of farmland, racked up millions of dollars in damage – and forced a few Iowa venues to close their doors.

In Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the Cedar River overflowed June 12th, flooding an estimated 9.2 square miles, or 1,300 blocks, and forcing 24,000 people to evacuate their homes. The following night, the river crested at nearly 32 feet, 12 feet higher than the 1929 record. Three out of four of the city’s drinking water collection wells for Cedar Rapids’ 120,000 population were contaminated with petroleum and garbage.

The 1,901-capacity Paramount Theatre in Cedar Rapids was severely damaged by the flood as the force of the water – which reached as high as the marquee signage at the main entrance – cracked or blew out most of the exterior glass and doors. The Mighty Wurlitzer organ was also ruined.

An extensive examination of the venue, which went through a $7.8 million renovation in 2003, is scheduled for the week of June 15-21, according to a statement by VenuWorks, which manages the Paramount.

Tammy Koolbeck, VP of venue services at VenuWorks, told Pollstar the theatre is closed for repairs and the reopen date is to be announced.

Damage to another VenuWorks location, the U.S. Cellular Center, is expected to be minimal because although nearly six inches of water seeped into the venue, sandbags reinforced vital areas.

Koolbeck said VenuWorks’ local administrative offices have been temporarily moved into a meeting room at the Ice Arena, the third VenuWorks managed facility in town, as it was not affected by the floodwaters.

A company statement noted that the Cedar Rapids Police Department and units from the Iowa National Guard used the venue as makeshift headquarters for three days after the police station was flooded.

The Cedar Rapids Freedom Festival, scheduled for June 19th through July 4th, was postponed.

Freedom Festival operations director Russ Oviatt said the event will become a "celebration of community," in a statement on the fest’s Web site.

"Many, if not all, of the activities traditionally associated with Freedom Festival’s July 4th celebration will now be held on Labor Day, September 1st," Oviatt said.

"The Patriotic Pops concert and Classic Rock Concert Night featuring Three Dog Night and America scheduled for June 20th and 21st have been canceled. The potential for rescheduling these concerts in 2008 is being explored."

One hundred miles west in Des Moines, the Des Moines River flowed into a neighborhood near downtown after a levee broke early June 14th. A voluntary evacuation was put in place a day earlier and a mandatory evacuation for 270 homes was ordered.

Because of the flooding and evacuation downtown, three performances of "Menopause The Musical" June 13-14 at Des Moines’ Hoyt Sherman Place, another VenuWorks-managed facility, were canceled. Koolbeck said the show’s final performance went on as scheduled June 15th and the venue is back up and running.

Rainfall on June 12th caused flash flooding in Davenport, and the RiverCenter/Adler Theatre, which is also managed by VenuWorks, suffered minor damage that will require plaster repair and a long-term review of the floor drains, according to a company statement.

Koolbeck said the damage hasn’t affected any performances and the venue will stay open during repair work.

In Iowa City, about 400 homes were affected by the floodwater and 16 University of Iowa buildings suffered some flood damage – including the 2,533-capacity Hancher Auditorium.

Because of the flood, all Iowa Summer Rep 2008 performances June 26th through July 26th were relocated to Iowa City West High School and all University of Iowa summer opera performances were canceled.

In Oshkosh, Wis., a June 12th concert featuring BoDeans during week four of the Waterfest Concert Series was canceled because of the storm and concern over the safety of volunteers, concertgoers and the performers, according to The Northwestern.

The storms and flooding caused 24 deaths and 148 injuries at press time, and 20 levees had been breached. The federal government warned that 20 to 30 more levees could breach along the Mississippi River if sandbagging efforts fail.

Flooding and evacuations have also affected sections of Indiana, Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri and Minnesota.

As of June 16th, the American Red Cross said its disaster relief fund was completely spent and it had to borrow money to continue to help flood victims. Two days later, according to FEMA and Army Corps, the federal government’s tally of supplies included about 2.5 million liters of water, 146 generators, more than 213,000 meals, more than 10 million sandbags and 1,200 rolls of plastic sheeting.

Unrelated to the floods in the Midwest but in other weather-related news, a June 14th concert at the Nikon at Jones Beach Theatre featuring R.E.M., Modest Mouse and The National was evacuated for nearly two hours after lightning struck the amphitheatre during Modest Mouse’s set.

Patrons were told to go to safe places like their cars or enclosed parts of the venue, according to Newsday. After the all-clear was announced, R.E.M. took the stage.