at the
Opera House

Batcher Block seats

The following details potential uses for each area in the Opera House building. This plan is meant to be a guide in developing the programming of the Opera House – new opportunities will arise, and this document should not be prescriptive in a way which excludes new ideas. Instead, this plan lays out optimal use, program examples and opportunities, and sustainable revenue streams for the long-term health of the building and the managing organization.

The Batcher Block Opera House can serve as a regional economic driver by incorporating both original programming aimed at audiences within a 90-120 minute radius as well as select, site-specific community-driven programming which may draw a more localized audience. The programming calendar will be highly collaborative in nature, ensuring a consistently full events calendar with many partners to aid in program success.

It is important to note that this building is NOT a catch-all for arts and culture in the region or even in Staples. Instead, this space can act as a natural complement to existing space and efforts across the community, finding a unique voice in its mix of original and site-specific performance.

The building will support a variety of uses, which include:

  • A restored, highly unique performance space with diverse programming and rentals
  • Flexible classroom / event space available for community and private events, including a demonstration culinary kitchen
  • Concessions area to service events and rentals in the building
  • Lodging space to host touring artists and educators as well as, long-term, an artist residency program
  • Office and meeting space for Batcher Block staff as well as potentially for other area organizations
  • Outdoor gathering and performance space
  • Batcher Block Opera House “Museum” or other historical elements, drawing in tour groups
  • Pop-up events such as Farmers Markets, Makers Markets, and more on the first floor

Project Concept:
Restored Opera House

The centerpiece of the building, the historic Opera House space will host a mix of performances, including events produced and presented by the Opera House nonprofit as well as co-productions and collaborations with other groups and event rentals. A healthy mix of internally produced programs, where the nonprofit will need to ensure strong marketing for shows to be profitable, with event rentals, which may be broader in content, will create an ongoing revenue stream. Co-productions and collaborations will fall somewhere in between these financial models – particular attention should be placed on creating sustainable, mutually beneficial relationships with recurring tenants to ensure long-term partnership.

Original Opera House programming should be presented as season series, providing audiences the opportunity to purchase both season tickets as well as individual concert tickets. These shows should be branded as “Batcher Block presents,” with seasons containing between 7 – 10 shows and running from September – May (with greater emphasis on programs September – early November and March – early May along with seasonal holiday shows). “Batcher Block presents” should include:

  • Regional and national performing artists and comedians in the $5,000 – $10,000 booking fee range
  • Minnesota State Arts Board Arts Tour Minnesota programs, Arts Midwest touring programs, and other regional arts programs
  • Traveling small ensemble plays/musicals and dance performances

Included in the “Batcher Block presents” series can also be opportunities to tie artists in with the greater Staples-Motley community through artist residencies, educational clinics in conjunction with local schools, community workshops and masterclasses, and collaborations with local musicians. In addition, original programming can include the creation of a Batcher Block Theater Company, an in-house theater group, and a locally produced recurring podcast or variety show produced by Opera House staff.

Opera House staff should develop curatorial guidelines with a Board of Directors working group or advisory committee. These guidelines will help guide decisions regarding both the “Batcher Block presents” series as well as externally produced programming. In addition, staff will join the Minnesota Presenters Network, a network for reduced-price, cooperative booking, which will allow for greater affordability of performances to come to Staples. In-house lodging at the Batcher Block Opera House will also decrease production costs significantly.

Batcher Block Interior

Additional programming will come from rental agreements with regional promoters. These promoters will have access to touring routes of well-known musicians, and rental agreements can be structured as either a flat rental fee or a cut of ticket sales. These larger rentals offer a lower-risk cost structure with a guaranteed return, as well as concessions sales.

The space will also be available for rental for weddings and other private events. Due to the unique nature of the space and the amount of internal staff time needed specifically for weddings, the space should be priced accordingly and used selectively for this purpose. Other spaces in the building will have greater rental flexibility.

Collaborations and co-productions with area artists and arts groups will meet a stated demand in the community for increased year-round arts programming, and these groups will bring with them existing audiences. Because many of these groups and organizations program regularly, performances in the Opera House should be reserved for site-specific or larger productions, such as annual fundraisers or holiday shows. Co-productions can be structured in several financial models, the most common being a split of ticket sales or a small rental fee and a percentage of net revenue going to the Opera House. The Opera House will also see concessions revenue from these events.

Project Concept:
Flexible Classroom / Event Space

The results of community visioning sessions demonstrated a need for additional arts education programming, as well as expanded general education programming. In partnership with strong regional partners, including the community college, classes can include:

  • Visual / Performing Arts classes
  • Dance / movement classes
  • Additional general education classes
Batcher Block Seating

Again, the space will not serve as a catch-all for all arts education programming in the community. However, specific arts programming will both drive new audiences to the space and build on other Opera House programming, such as masterclasses or workshops from visiting musicians, set design classes, and classes with a large enough community profile that they will complement the stature of the building. While a smaller portion of revenue will be derived from class fees as opposed to event ticket sales, it will still be an important source of consistent income, and the makeup of classes will change based on new demand or new partnerships.

The classroom space will be flexible enough to be used for multiple purposes, as well as double as rentable event space, offering a unique venue for meetings and other events which may be too small for the Timbers event space. This space can also be used for small performances. The event space and first floor can also double as a regional art gallery to showcase different mediums on a rotating basis. In addition, the event space can double as meeting space, both for rent and by tenants.

The first floor “Grand Hall” will be reserved primarily for private event rentals, such as weddings, fundraising dinners, and other events.

Plans for the space also include a culinary “test kitchen” where cooking classes and demonstrations can take place. This kitchen will be in partnership with regional partners who will also teach health-focused cooking classes.


Project Concept:
Lobby with Flexible Seating

The addition of a commercial kitchen space on the lobby level can serve multiple purposes – food and beverage service during events as well as support space for event catering. The nonprofit will obtain its own liquor license and retain beverage sales for all events in the building, as this is an effective source of revenue for many arts nonprofits.

For private events such as weddings, a “preferred vendor” list will be created of local catering companies familiar with the space. The nonprofit will still retain the sale of beverages for these events.

Project Concept:
Artist Lodging + Residency

The 2nd and 3rd floor space which originally served as hotel rooms at the building’s opening will be converted back into work/living space flexible to a variety of uses. Primarily, the residences will serve artists, educators, and others presenting in the Batcher Block, significantly reducing program expenses for providing lodging.

The rooms will also support a Batcher Block Artist Residency program. This residency program is expected to grow over time and begin with gradual programs building on “Batcher Block presents” and other programming; for example, extending the stay of a “Batcher Block presents” performer for several days in order to offer workshops and clinics in local schools or rehearse a performance with local musicians. Over time, the residency program can develop into longer-term, grant-funded residencies for the purpose of creating new work, such as a residency centered around recording an album in the Opera House or at nearby recording studios.


Project Concept:
Office Space for Batcher Block and Other Nonprofits

The office space in the Batcher Block building could be an opportunity to create a centralized space for local arts groups and other organizations, providing an easy way for these groups to work together and call the Batcher Block building home. Flexible office space with shared common areas could create affordable space for these nonprofits and other groups. In addition, the space could be opened for co-working at a drop-in rate for those who work from home or work remotely.

Both the office space and meeting rooms should be open to use by local companies who may desire unconventional meeting and office space, particularly when hosting visitors. Corporate sponsorship or membership could include free or reduced price meeting space, creating sustained revenue streams as well as opportunities to introduce the space to new audiences.

Note: Office space rental is not included in the attached budget for Year 1. It is anticipated that office space rental will graduate in as the building is activated.

Project Concept:
Batcher Block Museum Space

The history of this building is one of its strongest advantages; interpretive tours take advantage of this history to introduce new audiences to the space. While a conventional museum presentation may not generate revenue directly, it does help tell the story of the space and provide substance to the tours, and as such any historic elements should be represented in the building. Instead of a specific, dedicated space for this museum, these elements could be dispersed throughout the building.


Project Concept:
Outdoor Gathering + Performance Space

The outdoor space can contain flexible seating as well as a small stage for outdoor performances. This space can be activated daily over the lunch hour and in the evenings for a community gathering space – something identified in all the visioning sessions as needed – and extend Opera House programming into the neighborhood.

Batcher Block Interior

Project Concept:
Pop Up Events on the First Floor

Multiple events and retail concepts were identified in the visioning sessions as desired for the community. A rotating “pop-up” event calendar can help these events find market traction, and the building can develop a reputation for these types of community-driven events. Events can include:

  • “Makers” market for local artists
  • Farmers Market (indoor and outdoor depending on season)
  • Cultural Bazaar
  • Food truck events

Recurring events can drive traffic to the Opera House and attract new patrons who may not attend performances. The events listed above can follow similar patterns: Food Truck Fridays, First Saturdays Makers Market, etc. The Opera House should sell concessions including alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, and the Opera House can complement events such as a Food Truck Friday with “Batcher Block Presents” concerts taking place simultaneously or immediately following the outdoor event. Multiple uses in one evening not only increases cross-market event exposure but also contributes to the “community hub” and “gathering space” ideas identified as missing in the community visioning sessions.

These pop-up events can follow two business models – either an outside organization rents the space for the day and administers the program, OR the Opera House administers the program and rents booth space or vendor space to participating vendors. The decision should be made per event as to which model works best; organizers with a pulse on different events may emerge and act as champions for specific events, while others may be left up to Opera House staff.


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