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U of I Dedicates Hancher Site to Fallen Construction Workers

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IOWA CITY, Iowa - The soft bellow of a horn pierced the air as drum beats melded with the clash of symbols. A small band of performers marched from the University of Iowa's old Hancher Auditorium onto a stage near the site of the new auditorium.

Construction workers stood with their families alongside community members to reflect on the past and look forward to the future of Hancher Saturday afternoon. The ceremony paid tribute to three construction workers who died in an accident building the original Hancher destroyed in the 2008 flood and also dedicated the ground of the new building to workers about to embark on its construction.

"This is really an opportunity to reflect on the past, present, and future," Chuck Swanson, Hancher executive director, said.

Swanson said it's a Japanese custom to hold a ceremony blessing the ground where construction is about to begin. He commissioned San Jose Taiko, an Asian-Japanese drum and rhythmic group, to perform a piece for the ceremony to make the ground safe.

"The essence is to take some of the spirit of old Hancher and transfer it to the new Hancher," Randy Clarahan said. "Hancher is more than just a building to people."

Clarahan, construction executive for Mortenson Construction, said during the anticipated peak of construction in summer 2014, he expects around 300 construction workers to be working on site.

"To have a ceremony that blesses the ground in this way just sends the message to each and every worker that you're important, your safety is important, your family is important, and above all else we want you to go home safe and uninjured," Clarahan said.

He said many workers are excited about becoming a part of Hancher's history.

"What makes it special is that they can go home to their kids when they finish...they can point to that building and say they had something to do with that and take a huge amount of pride in that," Clarahan said.

And those in attendance, too, became apart of history. Before UI alum and Iowa City native Rinde Eckert performed a poem about Hancher, one San Jose Taiko performer beckoned the audience to hum a note and help "infuse energy into the new Hancher."

Jan Carlson, of Des Moines, said she looks forward to the new facility to house a great program.

"It's kind of like football," Carlson said. "I really like the [Hancher] program and I don't mind traveling a few miles."

The U.S. Post Office also unveiled for this week a "Hancher Station" postcard created by UI alum Nicolosi.

Swanson said he's so relieved to be one step closer to a physical auditorium once again.

"No one knows what lies ahead, but I feel the opportunities ahead of us are so plentiful," Swanson said. "We really have so much to look forward to. But we can't forget where we've been."

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