Civic Center of Greater Des Moines

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Des Moines Civic Center
Civic Center of Greater Des Moines.jpg
Civic Center in 2006
Address221 Walnut Street
Des Moines, Iowa,
United States
Coordinates41°35′15″N 93°37′13″W / 41.587424°N 93.620409°W / 41.587424; -93.620409Coordinates: 41°35′15″N 93°37′13″W / 41.587424°N 93.620409°W / 41.587424; -93.620409
OwnerDes Moines Performing Arts
OperatorDes Moines Performing Arts
TypePerforming arts center
Capacity2,744 People
OpenedJune 10, 1979
ArchitectCharles Hebert & Associates

The Des Moines Civic Center is a 2,744-seat performing arts center belonging to Des Moines Performing Arts located in Des Moines, Iowa. It has been Iowa's largest theater since it opened on June 10, 1979, and is used for concerts, Broadway shows, ballets, and other special events.

The Civic Center building is also home to the 200-seat Stoner Theater, used for smaller theatrical shows and lectures, located on street level.

Cowles Commons, formerly Nollen Plaza, is the one square block space located west of the Civic Center. Cowles Commons opened in June 2015, and hosts several events throughout the year.[1]

Together with the Stoner Theater, Cowles Commons, and the nearby Temple for Performing Arts, the Civic Center is part of the Des Moines Performing Arts.


In 1972, the KRNT Theater closed. The loss of the 45-year-old theater left downtown Des Moines without a major cultural venue. A group of community leaders attempted to pass a referendum to construct a theater in 1974, but, needing 60% approval, it received only 54% and failed.[2] After the narrow defeat, Des Moines business leaders decided to form a privately held, not-for-profit corporation to build and run a performing arts facility. The city's largest fundraising effort at the time raised $9.3 million to build the Civic Center in fewer than 90 days.[3]

After an introductory open house on June 10, 1979, the first public performance was by the Des Moines Ballet on June 14. The Civic Center is noted for its acoustics, and is handicapped-accessible. In addition, no seat is more than 145 feet (44 m) away from the stage. All seats are on one level.

The stage is 28 feet (8.5 m) high and 78 feet (24 m) wide. Backstage there are ten dressing rooms. The theater has two lobbies, each of which has a ceiling height of 50 feet (15 m), skylights, glass walls, and skywalks connecting the theater with most of downtown Des Moines.

In 1997, a staging of The Phantom of the Opera welcomed more than 100,000 visitors during a five-week run, proving to many that Des Moines could support bigger shows.[4]

The 2012-13 Broadway series sold over 133,000 tickets.[5]


  • Willis Broadway Series
  • Des Moines Symphony
  • The Dance Series
  • Wellmark Family Series
  • Applause Series
  • Temple Comedy Series
  • Live at the Temple Concert Series
  • Lunch Unplugged
  • Smart Talk Connected Conversations



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  3. ^ Henning, Barbara Beving Long; Patrice K. Beam (2003). Des Moines and Polk County: Flag on the Prairie. Sun Valley, California: American Historical Press. p. 105. ISBN 1-892724-34-0.
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