Campanile upgrades commence

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  • While renovations around the Campanile have just recently started with the removal of trees, the final product projected to be finished in 2026 may be similar to the above conceptualized image. The details of the plans are not set in stone and may change between now and the start of construction.

  • The renovations currently planned will be largely funded by the Our Tomorrow fundraising campaign, which will officially launch with a celebration on Friday, Oct. 7 at 5:30 p.m. by the Campanile.

  • The Verdin Company will be casting seven new bells on Oct. 6. It is the same company that upgraded the carillon in 1968, and they absorbed the company that cast the original bells in 1929.

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The Campanile, a 96 year old UNI campus icon, is getting a facelift this year. Originally constructed in 1926, the instrument within the Campanile, called a carillon, will receive nine new bells, seven of which will be cast during the week of Homecoming. Additionally, new clock faces will be installed and landscaping around the Campanile will be redone to make the tower more visible.

The carillon, the instrument within the Campanile that allows carillonneurs to play the bells within the tower, will be receiving two new base bells as well as upper octave bells to fill out and complete the carillon. For the Guild of Carillonneurs (a group of students who play the carillon) these extra bells will come in handy. President of the Guild of Carillonneurs, Emily Clouser, said oftentimes musicians have to adapt to the lack of octaves, so they are looking forward to the installation of new bells.

“We’ve had to get creative with pieces that required either C#/Db or D#/Eb in the baseline,” Clouser said. 

Seven of these new bells will be cast on site by the Verdin Company, using the world’s only traveling  “bell foundry on wheels” which allows bells to be cast and created on site. On Thursday, Oct. 6, members of the UNI community will assist the bell casters by passing bronze ingots to the furnace. The bell pour will occur at 8:30 p.m. on Lawther Field. On Friday, Oct. 7, the bell molds will be broken at 10 a.m. with the assistance of audience members and sledge hammers. By Friday evening, the university community will celebrate the completed casting of the bells.

In addition to new bells, the Campanile will also get its old bells refurbished by the Verdin company, which was first partnered with UNI in 1968 to upgrade the carillon from a 15-bell chime to the current 47-bell carillon and absorbed the company which originally cast the Campanile’s bells in 1926.

A few of the bells are experiencing corrosion and rust that will be repaired in Verdin’s shop located in Cincinnati, Ohio. The bells will be removed via crane one week after Homecoming, which is why a gravel path was constructed the length of Lawther field. The current plan is to reinstall the bells this next summer, and have the carillon ready to play again by the time school starts up in fall 2023. 

According to Mike Zwanziger, Assistant Vice President and Director, Facilities Management, the carillon will also receive a new keyboard. Clouser notes the carillon is definitely in need of a new keyboard due to weather and wear.

“Our current [keyboard] is pretty well-worn from temperature fluctuations within the tower and plenty of years of use,” Clouser said. “It sounds pretty clunky when we play and makes it hard to get a good recording of a piece from within the tower.”

The internal structure of the Campanile will also be updated to increase safety and accessibility.

“We are looking forward to having a full spiral staircase to the top, an updated light switch system, and an automated hatch,” Clouser said. “Currently, there is an 84-step spiral staircase that leads to the level where the clock mechanism sits. Carillonneurs must then climb a ship ladder to the final floor where the carillon manual sits.”

The sometimes inconvenient lighting system will also be updated for safety reasons.

“There are five switches which can be easily missed when climbing and descending if a carillonneur is newer to the tower,” Clouser said. “Not to mention the previous worries where lighting was sometimes unreliable so carillonneurs were instructed to carry a fully charged cell phone with flashlight abilities.”

Phase one of the Campanile restoration project, which involves renovations to the carillon and internal structure of the Campanile, is expected to be completed by fall 2023. Phase two of the project involves redoing landscaping and repouring the plaza area surrounding the Campanile. According to Zwanziger, the aim is to have all of the Campanile construction completed by UNI’s 150th anniversary in 2026. 

The renovations to the Campanile will be largely funded by the Our Tomorrow campaign, which is aiming to raise $250 million by 2026 for various projects around campus. 

“We haven’t done a campaign that is this ambitious before,” Senior Development Writer Nicholas Fisher said. “It is certainly historic in nature. Donors are stepping up and we will announce our progress at the event.”

UNI is planning several fun events to officially launch the Our Tomorrow Campaign, with food trucks, live music, prizes, ax throwing, badminton, bags, face painting, giant volleyball, and a Homecoming Parade with guests of honor Kurt Warner and his wife Brenda. All these events are open to the public, and are happening on Lawther Field or right by the Campanile. 

For more information about the Our Tomorrow campaign and for a full schedule of festivities, visit