Growth in the Department of Theatre and Dance
Since 1996, the number of Theatre and Dance majors has more than doubled at Ball State, with close to 450 current students pursuing bachelor’s degrees in nine different academic programs. Traditionally, more than 1,500 students audition annually for approximately 40 spots in Ball State’s Theatre and Dance Bachelor of Fine Arts performance programs.
Source: Ball State Office of Marketing and Communications
Bill Jenkins, chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance at Ball State, said he has waited 20 years for his department to obtain more performance space to help students grow in their skills and experiences.
At the Board of Trustees meeting March 25, those hopes were realized with the board’s approval of a plan to build arts-themed businesses in the Village with property it already owns. The anchor business will be a performing arts center for the Department of Theatre and Dance.
“We’re going to have the resources and facilities to match the quality of our students that we've never been able to even attract, or equivalent to the top-notch students I’ve had — we’ll just be able to have more of them,” Jenkins said. “It’s going to help solidify and unite our programs, which have been all over campus for so long … I think it is going to be an extraordinary way for us to contribute to the Ball State community as a whole.”
Ball State President Geoffrey Mearns said the university owns five sites in the Village, which it will transform into a performing arts center, 100-room hotel, apartments and restaurants over the next several years. He hopes construction will begin next year, with the performing arts center tentatively scheduled to open in fall 2025.
Once the Village construction is complete, Mearns said the hotel in the Village will allow the university to repurpose the Student Center hotel on the third floor. Mearns said he hopes Ball State faculty and staff, as well as employees of IU Ball Memorial Hospital and other local businesses, can reside in the apartments and townhouses to be constructed at the intersection of West University Avenue and North Street.
Mearns said the site development by Ball State in the Village will aim to complement and collaborate with existing businesses and draw students, community members and multiple generations to the Village.
“[We are] not simply attracting students, not simply attracting faculty and staff, but attracting people of all ages and all interests to come to the Village,” Mearns said. “This is an ambitious plan, but Fairmount has done it before.”
Fairmount Properties, a development firm that has worked on renovation projects of other college towns, was selected as the university’s partner after a two-year review process for different proposals, Mearns said.
“Fairmount Properties is excited to be partnering with Ball State University,” said Randy Ruttenberg, founder and principal of Fairmount Properties, in a March 25 press release. “We met with various community stakeholders over the past year, and we connected with many current merchants and property owners in the Village. We will use a district-wide approach to elevate the Village, and we look forward to collaborating with existing merchants and future tenants to do so.”
Ruttenberg said Fairmount Properties looked at each site the university owned to propose a plan to create “synergy among all five of those sites [so] that they together would be able to draw not only the student population, but the broader population within the community and the region.”
“President Mearns has been very focused on making this certainly about the community, but he's got students in his heart first, and we want to make sure that this that this is a village where students can come here during a campus visit and say, ‘Wow, I really want to go here,” Ruttenberg said.
The university will finance the projects, for which Mearns said he expects to generate $100 million in private investment.
Muncie Mayor Dan Ridenour, who attended the meeting, said Ball State’s expansion into the Village will provide new housing options for people who work in Muncie who currently have longer commute times from having to drive in from other counties. He also said the performing arts center will help draw customers to existing businesses in the Village.
“I think the coexistence will do well because, in the end, you're going to have 165-plus additional events every single year,” Ridenour said. “Those extra people — I think the number was 30,000 is the estimated attendance — that's a lot of people. Those people are going to want to eat, they're going to get a cup of coffee, they're going to want to buy some souvenirs. They're going to want to do a number of things. We see that as a great boon not only to Ball State but also to the city.”