Within days of its opening, a steam-plant-turned-party-space had re-energized social life on campus.

[Parties] A former steam plant on the east side of campus reopened in September as a student party space. Tasked with drawing crowds to the Powerhouse,  a student committee first talked about using the airy, industrial building for traditional weekend parties. “We quickly diverted from that route and decided we should have late-night events,” says Bear Kaminer ’16. “That was a really successful approach.” That’s to put it mildly. Since opening on Sept. 5, the Powerhouse has drawn as many as 600 students at a time.

Illustration of many smiling faces Opening Day
At the soft opening on Friday, Sept. 5, about 350 people came to the Powerhouse between 4 and 6 p.m. to mingle inside and on the patio, enjoy snacks from Valentine and delight in the large windows and exposed beams.  “We wanted to show off the space,” says Kaminer, an architectural studies major.


Wings ’n’ Things
Catered by Pioneer Valley Pizza and Wings Over Amherst, a “Wings ’n’ Things” party ran from midnight to 2 a.m. on Sept. 6. The committee hoped to attract the largest possible number of students, but without intruding on the existing, earlier social scene. “We said, ‘Let’s have a late-night event and provide food. Instead of going to your room, come to the Powerhouse. We’ll have a DJ and turn the inside into a dance floor.’” More than 500 students migrated over to the space.

Illustration of a platter of wings and dip

Illustration of box of popcorn The Goonies
A screening of the 1985 movie The Goonies drew only eight students, but the low turnout got the committee thinking about ways to increase publicity and make future movie nights more successful. One idea, Kaminer says, is to offer the over-21 crowd a glass of wine with their popcorn. (The Powerhouse has a pending alcohol license.)

Illustration with sunglasses, record and coconut drink Beach Bash TAP
More than 600 students came to a beach-themed party sponsored by the campus activities board.  There was limbo on the patio and a DJ and smoothies inside. Samanta English ’15, one of the organizers, says the party brought different groups of students together. “It was exciting to watch the numbers grow throughout the night,” she says.


The Powerhouse stretched its legs by hosting a local cover band, Fever, in late September. The live music drew about 600 students and proved to Kaminer that the space would be well-suited to student concerts and theater performances. Future plans include using the building as a daytime study space, and one art student has expressed interest in hanging a sculpture in the room.

The student committee is seeking advice from alumni with expertise in marketing and branding, event production, interior design and related industries. Email powerhouse@amherst.edu.

Adam McCauley illustrations