January is typically a slow month for touring acts coming through the Twin Cities, and downtown Minneapolis mainstay First Avenue is taking advantage of the lull in shows by completely tearing apart their Mainroom and reconstructing the south side of the space.
For even the most infrequent First Ave attendee, the changes will be immediately noticable; construction workers have already removed the giant staircase that used to funnel traffic from the upstairs bathrooms to the main floor, plus the free-standing bar that was set up underneath the stairs. The plan is to build a more streamlined spiral set of stairs that takes advantage of some of the unused space in the entryway of upper-level Record Room (formerly the VIP Room) and opens up the rest of the south end of the room to allow a clearer view of the stage.
While giving me a tour of the new renovations earlier this week, general manager Nate Kranz noted that the goal isn’t to increase the capacity of the club. Though he may end up selling about 50 more tickets per show, the goal is to keep the crowd size roughly the same but give people some breathing room and the space to move more easily between the main floor, the bathrooms, the bar, and the merch booth, which will be permanently installed on the south wall. Part of the new construction includes raising up the south end of the room (where the pool tables were previously located) to give audience members standing toward the back of the room a better vantage point.
Kranz also pointed out that the construction allowed them to uncover more of the club’s iconic concete and marble tiled floor, which predates the club and was installed back when the building was a Greyhound bus station.
First Avenue uploaded a video this week that shows off some of their in-progress renovation plans: