The massive improv theater has a new home — and in a rare move for a small arts nonprofit, a Minneapolis organization is purchasing the building.

For the first time in nearly two decades, the Huge Theater Company will own its theater after purchasing a property this month on Lyndale Avenue S. for $2.4 million. The new location is located a half-mile from where the company has been leasing space since 2011.

It’s big for Huge Theater Company to finally have a building, which will help it generate revenue, build equity and expand its classes and improv shows, said co-CEO Butch Roy. The theater has seven full-time and 18 to 24 part-time employees.

“It’s hard to put into words how relieved it is,” he said. “It feels like we have crossed the threshold into a safer future.”

Instead of going through a constant cycle of rents, Roy said ownership gives the theater more stability. He said it would intensify fundraising to support transportation and construction costs.

The theater, which began in 2005, leases space at 3037 Lyndale Av. S. with plans to move to a larger location when its lease expires last month. Theater officials initially signed a 10-year lease with Art Materials to lease part of the building at 2728 Lyndale Av. S., less than four blocks from the old theater house. But then buying the building, rather than renting it, came up as an option.

Roy said bank after bank rejected Huge Theater Company’s request for a loan, saying lending money to a theater with small cash reserves was too risky, especially after losing money during the COVID-19 pandemic. Finally, Minneapolis-based Propel Nonprofits connected the Huge Theater with the Illinois Facilities Fund (IFF), which provided a 15-year loan.

Like many other performing arts groups, Huge Theater was forced to cancel shows in 2020 and 2021 and close its doors for 16 months. Some government aid helped the organization stay afloat financially, but banks did not want to take on loan risks despite expectations of increased revenues in the wake of the pandemic, Roy said.

“On paper, our numbers show a history of growth,” he said.

Its new home, a 1920s-era building, had long been owned and occupied by Art Materials. The art supply store will lease space there while the Huge Theater will occupy the remaining 6,700 square feet.

This nearly doubles the theater’s current space, adding more classrooms and seating for performances. As renovations continue, the shows have been temporarily moved to the South Minneapolis Performing Arts Center.

The first performances at the new location are scheduled for October 13, and the theater will hold a grand opening on October 20 and 21.

“It’s very exciting,” Roy said. “It’s really hard to overstate the difference this can make.”

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