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Its size would put it about halfway between First Ave’s main room (which holds 1,600 people) and Roy Wilkins Auditorium (5,000) among general-admission venues. Myth nightclub in Maplewood and the newly revived Skyway Theatre in downtown Minneapolis fill a similar niche.
“It’s a perfect fit,” said Jam Productions co-founder Jerry Mickelson, whose Chicago-based company regularly books concerts at Wilkins and Xcel Energy Center.
The Twin Cities’ other historic theaters all are seated venues. By comparison, reopening the 1,000-capacity Pantages in 2002 cost the city of Minneapolis $8.9 million.
Mickelson pointed to the thriving Fox Theater in Oakland, Calif., as an example of a historic theater updated to bring young night life seekers into faded downtowns. Others that have been successfully reconfigured as general-admission venues include the Ford and Wiltern theaters in Los Angeles, the Ogden in Denver and the Riviera (which Jam owns) in Chicago.
“There are many cities that have taken on the challenge to revitalize their downtown core, and a big part of that is saving cultural institutions like the Palace,” he said.
Seeking a younger audience
Frequent partners, Jam and First Avenue representatives have not signed a deal with the city but say they expect to make an official commitment to bring shows there should the bonding bill pass.
First Avenue owner Dayna Frank said Jam’s involvement “will provide the booking gravitas and experience to put on a lot of great shows here.” City proposals estimate 100-plus events a year at the theater, drawing more than 200,000 annually downtown.
Jon Oulman, who owns the Amsterdam Bar & Hall in downtown St. Paul, expects the Palace to draw “more of the kinds of crowds” that make downtown night life vibrant.
“There’s a younger audience that comes out to concerts at venues like this, one that seeks out more to do when they’re down here,” said Oulman. “A lot of times, we see more business off Wilkins shows than we do Xcel shows.”
Chris Riemenschneider • 612-673-4658