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University of Iowa News Release


Nov. 13, 2006

Iowa Memorial Union Reopens Main Lounge

The historic Main Lounge in the Iowa Memorial Union officially reopened its doors to the public on Nov. 9 after completion of a five-month long restoration project. The University Lecture Committee brought Pulitzer Prize-winning author Frank McCourt to campus for the first event in the lounge since renovations were completed.

Construction crews started the Main Lounge project in July. New black and gold carpeting, fresh paint and improved chandelier lighting bring back elegance to the historic lounge.

The 11,407 square-foot lounge seats up to 1,100 people. Built in 1925 as part of the original IMU structure, the lounge has hosted thousands of diverse events, including graduation ceremonies, distinguished lectures, banquets, weddings, and concerts.

Speakers who have appeared in the Main Lounge include Tom Brokaw, George H.W. Bush, Geraldine Ferraro, John F. Kennedy, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., Phyllis Schafly, Gloria Steinem, and Lech Walesa. The Main Lounge has featured performances ranging from the Count Basie Orchestra to REM.

"The Main Lounge has a distinctive character that you often don't find in large meeting spaces," said David Grady, associate vice president and director of University Life Centers. "The restoration of this historic university landmark will make it more inviting, functional and attractive. We look forward to creating more great memories inside the Main Lounge."

Reservations for the Main Lounge and all other rooms in the IMU are made through IMU Guest & Event Services, 319-335-3114.

The Main Lounge project is part of a $9.9 million, first-phase renovation of the IMU. Projects in the first phase previously completed include a new terrace immediately west of the IMU on the banks of the Iowa River and updated space for the University Bookstore. Phase 1 projects still underway include the addition of new student lounges and office spaces, renovated theater space, and improved building circulation. All projects in Phase 1 are scheduled to be completed before the spring 2007 semester.

For more information about the IMU and the renovation project see


Iowa Memorial Union Main Lounge Fact Sheet

The newly restored Main Lounge is re-opened and as elegant as before. Built in 1925 as part of the original structure of the Iowa Memorial Union, the Main Lounge spans one-twelfth of a mile around, large enough to host events of all sizes. Inspiration for this restoration stems from the unique 1920's architecture and it retains much the original design.  Make your next event remarkable by choosing the Main Lounge in the Iowa Memorial Union.

11,407 square-feet

Maximum capacity and setup options

300-Classroom setup

400-Round tables

760-Tables and chairs

1100-Theatre setup

1600-Standing room only

New carpeting and paint, improved lighting, four fireplaces

Ideal for:








Selected Speakers and performers in the Main Lounge:

John F. Kennedy, George H.W. Bush, Martin Luther King Jr., Tom Brokaw, Malcolm X, Phyllis Schafly, James Watt, Spike Lee, Maya Angelou, Helen Prejean, Julian Bond, Geraldine Ferraro, C. Everett Koop, Count Basie Orchestra, Lech Walesa, REM, Jean Kirkpatrick, Smashing Pumpkins


"As the Old Capitol is the Center of our official life, the union will be the focus of our social life."  -UI President Walter A. Jessup, 1919

The Iowa Memorial Union was built in 1925 to honor the sons and daughters of the University of Iowa who served the United States in wars. For more than 80 years the IMU has been the center of campus life in the heart of the UI campus, offering a great location for the UI community to come together in ceremony, celebration, and collaboration. The IMU is the activity center for the university, supporting more than 400 recognized student organizations, hosting events from conferences to concerts, and housing retail operations to support student and staff needs.  All proceeds from the IMU are used to fund student activities.

-- Built in 1925, additions were added in 1927, 1955, 1965, 1988 and 2005. 

-- Last renovation, $9.9 million in 2006 to be finished in December 2006.

-- 325,811 gross square-feet

-- three ballrooms, four banquet rooms, 25 meeting rooms

-- 95-room, self-operated hotel totaling 36,000 square feet

-- 10,868 meeting room reservations for FY05.

Meeting Room Reservations Breakdown

-- Student Organizations: 4,544 (42 percent)

-- University Departments: 4,217 (39 percent)

-- University Life Centers: 1,679 (15 percent)

-- Public Events: 398 (4 percent)

-- UI Foundation and Alumni Association: 30 (.2 percent)

Offices/Services Housed in the IMU: IMU Business Office, Java House, IMU Building Operations, KRUI, Campus Information Center, Marketing + Design, Copy Center, Office of Student Life, IMU Guest & Event Services, Office of VP for Student Services, IMU Human Resources, Student Activities Center, ID Card Services, Student Org. Business Office, IMU Catering, University Box Office, IMU Food Services, University Bookstore, IMU Information Systems, Union Market Convenience Store, Instructional Technology Centers, Union Station Food Court, Iowa House Hotel, University of Iowa Student Government


Goals for this renovation:

-- Enhance student-gathering space

-- Improve student organization office space

-- Open the facility to the Iowa River

-- Improve circulation & navigation of building

-- Complete critical deferred maintenance work

Project ends December 2006

New spaces and features:

-- 13,860 additional gross square-feet

-- Remodeled restrooms (ground, second and third floors)

Ground Floor:

-- Renovated University Bookstore

-- The Hawkeye (formerly Wheelroom): student lounge with five plasma TVs, Chalktalk and TV lounge: ground floor area with plasma TV, gathering space, and chalkboard for announcements

-- Java House

Improvements to River Patio: Improved accessibility with new steps and ramp

River Terrace: outdoor amphitheatre facing the Iowa River; seats approximately 600 people

First Floor: Commons: east entrance lobby with student gathering space, art gallery, new Campus Information Center and University Box Office, renovated Bijou Theater and elevator/stairway for easier access to building

Restored Main Lounge

Second Floor: New University of Iowa Student Government office and Student Organization office suite

Third Floor: Black Box Style Theater

What is the cost?

Phase I of the renovation costs approximately $9.9 million

How is it funded?

The project is funded through student fees of $29 annually.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

CONTACTS: Media: George McCrory, 319-384-0012,; Program: David Grady, 319-335-3114; Writer: Shelly Stout