Von Braun Center

Written by Candice Fawcett
Photos by Steve Babin
Rendering by Matheny Goldmon Architects + Interiors

Anyone who has lived in or even visited Huntsville is probably familiar with the Von Braun Center. As the premier civic and cultural performance center in this and surrounding areas, the VBC has made an impact on hundreds of thousands of individuals from across the globe.

Mission, Purpose & Principles

The mission statement: The Von Braun Center is a multi-purpose facility with the primary objective of facilitating and promoting events and activities in addition to generating economic benefit and improving the quality of life for the Huntsville community and surrounding areas.

The Von Braun Center is an organization dedicated to providing the highest quality of service to every patron who enters the facility. The VBC’s business is service and their goal is to provide a friendly, clean and safe environment for patrons in order to maximize the enjoyment of every event they attend. Executive Director and CEO Steve Maples leads the organization by the philosophy “give every guest more than they are expecting.” Marketing and Public Relations Manager Brooke Izzo stated, “As our motto we use one of Wernher von Braun’s famous quotes: ‘I have learned to use the word impossible with the greatest caution.’”

Background & History

In the early 1960’s, members of the community felt that Huntsville could improve upon the arts facilities available at the time. Martha Rambo, affiliated with the Symphony, Elvira Glover of the Art League, Martha Hamm with Community Chorus, Dexter Nilsson of Little Theatre and others began to voice the need for housing and performance space for the arts in Huntsville. Contact was made with the Hanes family of Winston-Salem where a successful Arts Council had been created. As a result, the Huntsville Arts Council was born. The collective desire for a cultural center building gathered momentum. In 1965, the Public Building Authority contracted with Booz-Allen-Hamilton to make plans for the construction of a civic arts center. The original concept was for a theatre, exhibition space and an art museum. Three prominent recommendations of this project were that a civic advisory board be established; the site should be downtown and; most importantly, that a large arena-style auditorium would be essential for the long-term success of the facility. And successful it was!

The doors to the Von Braun Center opened on March 14, 1975 for the Beaux Arts Ball sponsored by the Arts Council. As the building neared completion, famous Huntsville artist Ed Monroe donated a portrait of Wernher Von Braun to the center. Dr. and Mrs. Von Braun were visibly moved at his stunning work. To this day, the portrait still hangs in the Mark C. Smith Concert Hall.

The Von Braun Center is a multi-purpose facility which includes Propst Arena, Mark C. Smith Concert, The Playhouse and over 170,000 flexible meeting spaces all under one roof. The center offers full in-house services such as catering, concession, audio, visual and exhibitor services. The VBC promotes three community events throughout the year: The Von Brewski Beer Festival, Heads-n-Tails Crawfish Boil and the Family Fun Festival & Expo.

Left to right: Mike Vojticek, Johnny Hunkapiller, Ron Grimes,
Shawn McCown, Byron Clanton, Marie Arighi, Steve Maples, Bruce Mitchell