Veterans Memorial Auditorium

2014 - Venue/Ballrooms

Veterans Memorial Auditorium (known as “Vets”) a part of the Iowa Events Center that is owned and operated by Polk County and managed by Global Spectrum, just celebrated its 50th year of operation. The Barn, as it is affectionately known, first opened its doors in February 1955 and was officially dedicated on May 10th, following nearly ten years of planning and construction.

Vets opened with a busy calendar in the early months of 1955. The first event included hosting 7000 guests at the Des Moines Policeman’s Ball. At the time of its opening, Vets was one of the largest auditorium and exhibition halls in the country, seating up to 15,000 guests. Its size allowed Des Moines to compete with large markets such as Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York for national acts.

While Vets has hosted some of the area's largest high school and collegiate athletic events, even more impressive is the list of legendary musical acts that have taken the stage since Vets opened. Elvis Presley performed the first concert at Vets on May 22, 1956, in his first of three appearances in the building. “The King” paved the way for additional musical greats such as James Brown, Janis Joplin, and The Who. A number of more recent popular acts have also performed in the auditorium, including Nelly, Tim McGraw and N’Sync.

Vets has received $5 million in renovation to allow the building to continue to play a valuable role at the Iowa Events Center as it moves into its second half century of use. The renovations, most of which were improvements to Vets’ infrastructure, such as improving lighting, replacing the air conditioning and updating the telecommunications system, will help bring the building up to date so that it can continue to be used as an intimate setting for smaller concerts and events, long after Wells Fargo Arena opens this summer.

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