Meredith College in Raleigh raises money to refill its empty lake

The lake amphitheater at Meredith College used to be one of the main attractions on campus – a good spot for everything from studying to theater productions.

But in March, pipes that regulate the lake level failed, causing it to drain unexpectedly. Now, what was once a scenic spot on campus is a big, muddy hole.

Meredith College is trying to raise money to repair the drainage system and refill the lake, which could cost up to half a million dollars. The college says a donor has agreed to match up to $250,000 raised for the project, and Meredith President Jo Allen said close to 700 alumnae have donated more than $100,000. The fundraiser ends Friday.

“It’s a pretty important part of the campus culture, and as a result our alumnae love it and are willing to make a special contribution for its restoration,” Allen said.

Everybody’s a big fan of the lake. It’s a beautiful place, full of great memories for many people.

Meredith College President Jo Allen

The lake sits on the east side of campus near Faircloth Street. The 1,500-seat McIver Amphitheater overlooks the lake and is a popular site for students to study, meet friends for lunch and enjoy time outdoors, Allen said.

The amphitheater also hosts a variety of ceremonies, including Class Day, and until five years ago was the site of graduation, Allen said.

“There’s a lot of traditions that we have at the lake,” she said. “So that was interesting, having to re-imagine some of our traditions.”

Before the lake suddenly emptied, the amphitheater also was used for concerts and theater productions that attracted families from the surrounding neighborhoods, but those, too, have had to be canceled or rescheduled.

The restoration project will likely take three to six months, Allen said, hopefully starting in the next few weeks.

She said the college is working with state and local officials to ensure the lake is restored in a way that is environmentally responsible and sustainable in the long term. The most important goal of the project, she said, is ensuring the lake remains full for decades to come.

“Everybody’s a big fan of the lake,” she said. “It’s a beautiful place, full of great memories for many people.”