An artist's rendering illustrates what a renovated Emens Auditorium will look like.

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]ith every week that he drives past Emens Auditorium on his way to church, Norm Beck grows more curious about the changes taking place on the other side of the chain-linked fence surrounding the facility.

A photo shows the scene outside Emens Auditorium during Spring 1979 commencement exercises.

The auditorium has had various uses since its 1964 opening, including the 1979 Spring Commencement. (Ball State photo)

A Ball State retiree, Beck oversaw the auditorium’s operations in the 1980s as the university’s director of auxiliary services and human resources. He and his wife, Joyce, are longtime Emens patrons, having attended the first concert there in March 1964.

“These upgrades have been a long time coming,” he said. “It’s wonderful to see the community rally again in support of the changes.”

Beck is referring to the $1.5 million raised through a university-sponsored community campaign to help cover the $5 million in renovations that will add 12,000 square feet of space to the venue. The effort marks the first such contribution by local residents since Emens’ construction in the early 1960s, when their donations covered half of the then-$3 million project (more than $23 million, with inflation).

“We’re very anxious to see what the new Emens is going to look like,” said Joyce.

Like the Becks, Emens’ director, Bob Myers, is looking forward to May 2017, when the renovations are complete and he can show off all the changes underway inside.

Improvements will include an expanded lobby, newly installed first-floor restrooms, an interior box office and additional second-story hospitality space for receptions, pre- and post-show functions and meet-and-greet sessions with artists.

David Letterman and Oprah Winfrey are shown in 2012 Emens Auditorium event.

Emens has hosted many notable events through the years, including this November 2012 appearance of Oprah Winfrey and alumnus David Letterman. That event filled Emens; fans also watched from Pruis Hall and the Student Center ballroom. (Ball State photo)

“It’s gratifying that after all these years of laying the groundwork, we’ll be able to offer the community a venue that’s much more contemporary and up-to-date,” Myers said.

In the meantime, he is getting through the 2016-17 performance season operating the venue at less than half its 3,309-person seating capacity.

His staff is running Emens’ box office out of Sursa Hall, along with putting up temporary signs before performances that reroute visitors to side entrances, as the main doors are temporarily part of a construction site.

“We’re all ready to be on the other side of this work, but I believe great things are worth waiting for,” Myers said. “The end result of this project is worth so much more than any temporary inconveniences we’re putting up with right now.”

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