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Erik Burgess, Published October 08 2013

Theatre B considers move to downtown Moorhead

MOORHEAD – With conversations surging about creating a thriving downtown Moorhead, one small business that helped remake downtown Fargo a decade ago is considering a move across the river.

Theatre B, a small nonprofit theater at 716 Main Ave. in Fargo, is outgrowing its space and Executive Director Carrie Wintersteen wants to at least double the theater’s 67 seats within the next two to five years.

Wintersteen, who lives in Moorhead, said the theater could expand in either Fargo or Moorhead. She said it could be “serendipity” that at the same time she is considering an expansion, Moorhead leaders are having conversations about investing in a new downtown.

In a packed community meeting at the Rourke Art Gallery Museum last week, Moorhead leaders said their downtown is ready to bustle, and community members said they want to see more arts organizations and family entertainment downtown.

“We’re open to looking wherever space might be available, affordable,” Wintersteen said. “Especially if the city of Moorhead, as a downtown, is going to be a thriving, interesting space, I think it’s entirely possible that we could have a role in that.”

Theatre B, which opened in downtown Fargo in November 2003, now has an average of 70 to 80 percent ticket sales. Wintersteen said that’s an industry benchmark that signals when more space might soon be needed. She expects the theater to outgrow its current space within the next two to five years.

Wintersteen also said the longtime owner of the Theatre B building sold it to another landlord this summer, and the theater’s rent has just about doubled.

With no room to expand, there are few options for more revenue as the theater continues to add staff and take on more shows, she said.

“It’s not a crisis or an emergency, but it’s certainly not sustainable the way it is,” she said.

The possibility of expanding is still in the “very early stages,” Wintersteen said. She’s pursuing grants and wants to hear from community partners interested in helping them expand, either in Moorhead or in Fargo.

The theater is also surveying audience members, asking them for input on where the new theater could be located and how a new site could affect the theater’s identity, Wintersteen said.

She said she wouldn’t want to expand beyond 150 to 200 seats to help the theater keep its “intimate space.”

Matt Maslowski, Moorhead’s business development and retention manager, said last week he will form a task force of business owners and residents to discuss ideas for the future of downtown.

He said on Tuesday the task force has yet to be formed but that he expects to meet with downtown stakeholders soon.

“Luckily, we have a lot of people interested in being active and being engaged, and where we go with it remains to be seen,” he said.

Maslowski said Theatre B would be a “great cultural addition” to downtown Moorhead.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518