Minneapolis Armory eyes New Year's Eve opening, nabs veteran local bookers

The Armory: It's gonna be fun on the inside, really.

The Armory: It's gonna be fun on the inside, really. Tim Kiser

Looks like we might not have to wait until the Super Bowl hits town to party at the Armory.

An announcement is expected soon that local developer Ned Abdul's renovations on the 65,000-square foot historic stone fortress on 6th Street in Minneapolis will be completed in time for a huge New Year’s Eve celebration, though no details of the event have yet been revealed.

And with the enlistment of two established local music bookers, the forthcoming venue seems to be setting roots in the community and preparing for life beyond the week-long series of events planned in February in connection with the Super Bowl.

“The first time I stepped foot into the Armory years ago it was raw and dirty, but I knew it had the potential to blow people away,” remembers John “JT” Tasch, who will book EDM shows at the venue—an appropriate move considering he began his 25-year career throwing rave parties in warehouses that don’t look much different from the Armory does now.

Already responsible for most of the headliner DJ talent bookings in town through his Sim Shows company, Tasch will report to VP of Entertainment & Hospitality, Beecher Vaillancourt. Currently, the owner of the events company V2 Nightlife and the smokeless tobacco chain Infinite Vapor, Vaillancourt also co-founded the beloved but long defunct Foundation nightclub.

“Ned turned down every dime from the city and state to put this thing together on his own,” says Vaillancourt, who worked in Abdul’s Wyman Building as general manager of Epic Event Center, now Cowboy Jack’s. “He doesn’t want to have to table up a bunch of suits when he needs to make a decision, [so] he linked with people who would tell him if they disagree.”

With Vaillancourt and Tasch on the Armory’s front lines, the question of whether the club will succeed beyond game day appears less of a concern—though they're setting a pretty high bar for success. They plan to book and fill the room more than 60 times a year, which is no easy feat for Minneapolis venues in without a historic wall of stars or a bullseye logo. To get there, the Armory plans to work with First Avenue and Skyway Theater as well as with national concert behemoths Live Nation and AEG Live.

The Armory will feature a modular stage that can move back or forward in 30-foot increments depending on the show’s attendance, and the venue's operators plan to do a lot of experimentation with catwalks and performances in the round. The bars alone are 300 feet long on either side of the room. The floors will be heated, allowing for uses that extend well beyond music and into sporting events, boxing, trade shows, conventions, corporate galas and fundraisers.

“Anything with the right draw will be able to work magic in this room,” says Tasch.

Audiophiles will be pleased to know the sound and light setup installed by Super Bowl production vendors Nomadic will remain in place well after game day.

“You can’t just throw some shit in there and see how it goes,” Vaillancourt says with a laugh. “We need to have a good understanding of what’s there when Nomadic leaves town—I have to operate after the Super Bowl.”