FARGO — The Fargo Park Board and the City Commission on Tuesday night, Sept. 8, both approved the use of more land in Island Park for an expansion project of the Fargo-Moorhead Community Theatre.
The theatre has been closed for months after a beam cracked in December. A consultant later determined the roof, structural beams and catwalks needed to be replaced.
Under the reconstruction plan, work on repairing the roof system would begin this month or in early October and would last 12 months.
Work on the expansion project would start after the roof repair and last about six months.
A fire road also needs to be constructed on the north side of the building to enable a firetruck to gain access to the north side of the building and be able to turn around.
The work would require the removal of three trees in the park.
The Burlington Northern Railroad, which gave the land for the park to the city in 1874 when it was the Northern Pacific Railroad Co., must also approve the project. FMCT said they would work with them on a final approval.
The 52-year-old theatre has a ground lease on the land at minimal price. That lease would be renegotiated with minor changes, including addressing parking issues.
In asking for approval, the nonprofit FMCT said McGough Construction of Fargo would rebuild and expand the theatre in two phases.
The first phase would require removal of the entire roof, the east and west walls and the seating. Steel trusses would then be put in place and a new roof installed. Everything would be put back in place with improved wiring, sound and lighting, and the stage would then be usable.
Seating would increase, too, with new aisle lighting, handrails, new seats with cup-holders and a fly loft for performances.
In phase two, there would be a new east wing and relocated administrative offices. The east wing currently has significant mold problems and must be removed with a new building put in place.
The project also involves a four-room educational wing, updated bathrooms and concession area in the lobby, a new Green Room for cast members and an elevator providing accessibility to the second floor.
A more intimate "Black Box Theatre" is also planned, if funds allow, with seating for 135 people for smaller plays and musical performances.
In a report to the Park District, FMCT said it had 16 shows and 24,800 guests in 2018-2019 and 14 performances and 15,235 guests in 2019-2020 until the structural failure. In recent years, more than 400 volunteer actors, musicians and production staff of all ages have been involved annually, the report said.