Bell Center

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Hill McClelland Bell Center

Originally submitted by Lindsay Thompson, Drake University, December, 2010

Photo by Lindsay Thompson

1421 27th Street, Des Moines, IA 50311-3020

In 1977, a new physical recreation building was constructed on the Drake University campus. A new building had to constructed in order to replace the Women's Gym that was razed 1975 due to the structure falling apart. The Bell Center was named after former Drake University president Hill McClelland Bell who served from 1903 to 1918. Bell contributed to the development of many of the current buildings on the Drake campus. Because of his legacy left with Drake, he was chosen to be commerated as the new title of the recreational center. The Bell Center is located between the Fieldhouse/Drake Stadium and the Knapp Center on the corner of Forest Ave and 27th street. The Knapp Center was built in 1992 and is connected to the Bell Center. It is approximately 50,000 square feet.


Building of the Bell Center began in the beginning of 1977. The original plan scheduled the building to be done by September 1977. The completion of the project was delayed due to a two month construction worker strike in the summer. The Bell Center was finally completed in November, and an opening ceremony was held in December. The predicted final cost was expected to be between $2.6 million and $2.7 milllion. A portion of the cost was to be supported by the Parents Fund. The cost included construction, architect and engineering fees, site and parking replacement.

Photo by Lindsay Thompson

The construction team consisted of:

  • Architectural firm-Wilkins, Bussard, and Dikis, Ltd.
  • General contractor-Weitz Corporation
  • Electrical/mechanical contractor-Stroh Corporation
  • Cost control and scheduling-CPMI division of Green International

The planning committee was as follows:

  • Ralph Wagoner-assistant to the president and director of development chair
  • Bob Karnes-director of men's intercollegiate athletics
  • Betty Werner-director of women's intercollegiate athletics
  • Charles Heilman-chair of department of physical education, health and recreation
  • Bob Brodie-director of student activities
  • Willis Cunning-director of the physical plant
  • Michelle Sansone-junior in the College of Education

Photo from


The building was built to suite the needs of intramurals and recreation. The Bell Center was built to combine the physical education and office facilities into one building. The building worked in accordance with the Fieldhouse for intramurals and physical education classes. Drake received its first swimming pool on campus when the Bell Center was constructed. Swimming classes were previously held at Hoover High School before the new pool.

Photo from

The Bell Center has the following:

  • Gymnasium
  • Swimming pool
  • Multi-purpose teaching space and dance facility
  • Locker rooms
  • Office space
  • Classroom
  • Laboratory
  • Training/first aid room
  • Weight training/conditioning room
  • Therapy and first aid room
  • Racquetball courts

The gymnasium includes hardwood floor and contains three basketball courts and screen dividers in order to separate the courts. The swimming pool is 25 meters and is six lanes wide with minimal specator space.

Map of where Bell Center is.jpg


  • (1976 June). Start this summer; complete by Fall 1977. Drake Times-Delphic. P. 1-3.
  • (1976 February). "Design/Build" team named; cost proposal being prepared. Drake Times-Delphic. P. 1.
  • Martinec, Bea. (1977 September 9). New gym to open in November. Drake Times-Delphic
  • (1977 November 8). Bell center swings open. Drake Times-Delphic.