CENTER STAGE: Vibrant Music Hall expects to book a large number of artists as headliners that previously were support acts coming through Iowa. (Courtesy venue)
New club anchors Keetown Loop development
The new Vibrant Music Hall debuts in Waukee, Iowa, this weekend, a 3,300-capacity Live Nation club that officials say fills the gap between big and small venues in the Greater Des Moines market.
After a few soft openings, the first official concert is needtobreathe on Sunday at the first Live Nation-owned property in the Hawkeye State.
The music hall stands among the initial pieces of the Keetown Loop, a $100 million mixed-use development in Waukee, a suburban community of 27,000 people. Many are upper-middle class residents settling on the outskirts of Iowa’s capital city that continues to grow at a rapid pace with a population of 566,000.
The venue sits off Interstate 35, visible from the highway, and is a 15-minute drive from downtown Des Moines, said Haleigh Biancalana, the club’s general manager.
Vibrant Credit Union, headquartered in Moline, Illinois, acquired naming rights for the music hall. Financial terms were not disclosed. The banking institution also has its name on the Moline arena, Vibrant Arena at The Mark, after signing a 10-year, $40 million agreement in 2022.
In Waukee, Biancalana was hired in June to run the club after spending six years in event operations at the Iowa Events Center complex in Des Moines. The music hall fills a “huge need” in a market that lacks a modern, midsize indoor entertainment facility, according to Biancalana.
As part of operating Vibrant Music Hall, Live Nation signed a deal with local promoter Sam Summers to help book the venue. Summers, owner of First Fleet Concerts, books multiple clubs in Iowa, Minnesota and Nebraska and produces the annual Hinterland festival, south of Des Moines.
In an email, Summers said he’s talked to many artists over the years that would love to play a midsize room in Iowa, such as Vibrant Music Hall, which is stocked with modern amenities backstage for the artists.
There is really nothing of its size between the smaller clubs and 16,000-seat Wells Fargo Arena in downtown Des Moines, apart from the Val Air Ballroom in West Des Moines.
Summers acquired the ballroom in January 2022, which is currently undergoing renovations. The Val Air, a historic structure that opened in 1939 and can fit up to 3,000 general admission patrons, re-opens in late February, Summers said.
Vibrant Music Hall has room for 2,000 general admission attendees on the main floor, with the upper level a mix of fixed seating and about a dozen four-seat boxes. The boxes are a premium product sold on a subscription model. Some will be sold for single events depending on availability.
The main floor can be set up for seated shows, depending on the artist, Biancalana said.
Premium seat holders get access to the Red Room, a VIP space on the second floor. Heavy appetizers are available for purchase in the Red Room. Otherwise, it’s mostly popcorn and pretzels sold in the public spaces.
Biancalana described the club design as lots of reds, blacks, golds and wood finishes. The concept behind the shelving over the bars is a “flyover above a corn field,” which she said is appropriate considering it’s Iowa.
Local artist James Navarro created mural displays around the front lobby, tied to a shoe theme, featuring a variety of footwear from Vans to brightly-colored roller skates.
As of this week, there were about 15 shows confirmed through June, including An Evening with the Late John Cleese (Nov. 15); Pierce the Veil: The Jaws of Life Tour (Dec. 2); Flatland Cavalry (Feb. 3); Chicago, (May 18); and Bailey Zimmerman (June 8).
“It’s nice to see the diversity coming through as headline artists that were typically only in town if they’re an opening act,” Biancalana said.
In Moline, a 2.5-hour drive east of Des Moines, the brand connection between Vibrant Music Hall and Vibrant Arena at The Mark could provide opportunities to route the same artists at the bigger building, said Scott Mullen, the building’s executive director. Vibrant Arena, with 9,200 seats, books about 10 shows annually in its theater setup in the lower bowl, which runs from 1,200 to 4,800 capacity depending on the event, Mullen said.