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Knowing Your History: The Val Air Ballroom

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By Michael Conlon, Editorial Intern
The Val Air Ballroom in West Des Moines has long been an amazing part of West Des Moines and its history. Before the opening of the Val Air Ballroom in 1938, the original building and grounds were used by the Wilson Rubber Factory.

The Wilson Rubber Factory was a jump start business which was created to take advantage of the current needs of production, producing tires during the first World War. After the first World War ended, production needs for the Wilson Factory slowed, leading to its eventual closing in 1918.

The closing empty building left quite the eyesore for the people of West Des Moines leaving behind little more than a large concrete slab off of Ashworth Road. This seemingly useless concrete slab and unfinished factory would become a true gem of West Des Moines.

The Val Air Ballroom opened in June of 1918. Initially it was an open-air dance hall, meaning it was almost completely open to the elements, more of an outdoor dance hall than anything else. The Val Air had numerous canopies and a small building but overall, in its early life it had a simple design, just a dance hall on a concrete slab opened to the stars. Regardless of its design, the Val Air dance hall was still a great location for a good time.

Interestingly the name was selected from a contest drawing of over 2,000 names. The Val Air gets the roots of its name from a combination of Valley Junction and open air, creating “Val Air”.

The success of the Val Air led to major renovations in 1954 to enclose the dance hall. The newly renovated dance hall continued its popularity seeing countless guests during its heyday. The Val Air has put on exciting events throughout its long history. The Val Air is no longer just a dance hall, hosting many different events like boxing matches and political events.