In 2008, Tim O'Donnell was hired to work in the theater department at Indiana University Northwest.
The same day he was supposed to start work, the building where it was housed — Tamarack Hall — flooded.
Nine years later, O'Donnell — a theater production manager and technical director — and his department will again have permanent space on campus as the university opens its new $45 million Arts & Sciences building later this month.
One week before the start of school next week, crews were putting finishing touches — testing the new 500-seat proscenium theater's large screen — while students were rummaging through a maze of props backstage.
IUN will take up half of the 126,000-square-foot building with the proscenium theater, 100-seat black box theater, modern art gallery, two dozen individual work spaces for art students, drawing room with large open windows for natural light, a lecture hall and other classrooms.
The three-story building on the east side of Broadway at 35th Avenue in Gary will also feature several upgrades for O'Donnell's department, including green rooms and added storage space for productions.
The larger theater will feature a big screen, partially movable stage and other amenities that give greater flexibility for productions, said Andy Kapocius, executive director of facilities and operations.
It replaces the Arts on Grant, on 37th Avenue and Grant Street in Gary, a building that IUN has rented and used for performances since 2011.
Bonita Neff, head of IUN's departments of Communication, Fine Art and Performing Arts, said the university hopes the building could provide an attractive smaller venue for the arts in the wake of the Star Plaza's scheduled demolition.
On Nov. 4, the university will host an open house for high school students from Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties to see how they could use the building for theater, debate, communications and other uses, she said.
Neff said she anticipates the building could also be used for choirs, small orchestras, ballet companies and for the university jazz series. A grand piano will be set up in the building's lobby, which could hold additional events such as big band dancing, she said.
"I think the vision is that we have the capacity now to really attract some top talent" from jazz, fine arts and theater, Neff said.
"We're looking at the possibility of a resource that's right off the interstate," she said. "This makes it a possibility for such a large audience to come quickly here."
The building will also share 30 percent of its space with Ivy Tech Community College. It will have classrooms, science labs and administrative offices at the southern end.
In the fall, Ivy Tech has 51 classes set to begin. Just under 900 students have signed up for those classes, according to School of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean Dale Downs.
Within its portion of the building, Ivy Tech has three high-tech labs — for microbiology, life and sciences lab prep and physical sciences — offering new upgraded facilities that will be used by anatomy and physiology, biology and chemistry students.