First Ave. to buy Fitzgerald Theater from MPR

A Prairie Home Companion Fitzgerald Theater
Chris Thile greets the audience at Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul in February 2017.
Nate Ryan | MPR 2017

Updated: 7:35 p.m. | Posted: 2:07 p.m.

First Avenue announced Wednesday that it has agreed to buy the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul from Minnesota Public Radio.

Terms of the tentative deal were not disclosed.

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First Avenue owner Dayna Frank said the Minneapolis-based operator of music clubs was "excited about the opportunities for more events and performances in another iconic space in this community."

MPR CEO Jon McTaggart said in a statement Wednesday said the sale of the nearby theater would allow the company to better serve other audiences, but he expects part of the relationship to continue.

"In fact, we anticipate that MPR will continue to use the Fitz. Now, we will have even more flexibility with our events and performances," McTaggart said.

MPR purchased the Fitz, then known as the World Theater, in 1980. First opened in 1910 as the Schubert Theatre, the performance space was remodeled in the 1930s, and again in the mid-1980s. It currently seats 1,000.

In addition to its clubs in Minneapolis, First Avenue now operates and/or owns several venues, including the Turf Club in St. Paul. It co-operates St. Paul's Palace Theater, with 2,400 capacity.

"St. Paul is becoming a destination for many musicians, just as Minneapolis has been," said Frank. "We're committed to helping to grow St. Paul's music scene as well."

First Avenue's general manager Nathan Kranz said in an interview that the Fitz could hold other types of events.

"Just in the last year we've rented the venue to put on comedy shows, music shows, and we're really excited to continue down the line. Hosting podcasts is another area of the business that we've gotten involved in," Kranz said.

The Fitz was known as the St. Paul home of A Prairie Home Companion when the show was hosted by Garrison Keillor.

Since Chris Thile became the host of the live variety show, now known as Live From Here, fewer dates were scheduled at the theater, down to a total of two this season.

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