Circus Juventas: ‘We’re staying in St. Paul’

Circus Juventas Founder and Executive Director Dan Butler would love to be talking about his youth circus school’s 20th anniversary, and the opening of its latest show “Neverland” this weekend.

Instead, he’s spent much of the past week talking to reporters and parents about land use, building expansion and parking.

Butler blames an article in Saturday’s Star Tribune which he says wrongly portrayed his company’s relationship with the city of St. Paul.

Circus Juventas performs “Showdown” Photo by Bill Raab

“The tone of the article, based on the headline, was completely inaccurate,” said Butler. “The online version said ‘Fighting with St. Paul, Circus Juventas hunts for new home.‘ That means two things; we have a bad relationship with St. Paul and secondly, that we’re leaving —  and that can’t be farther from the truth.”

Butler says, at a time when many people only read headlines, he’s afraid the finer points of the story were lost. Namely, that his company has been growing steadily, and in order to serve its students and audiences, it needs to expand. And that after more than a year of exploratory talks with the city, expanding significantly in its current location continued to raise concerns over parking and congestion.

“We have a great relationship with both St. Paul and Parks and Recreation,” said Butler. “We’ve had one for twenty years. We just both agreed that it may not work. Our needs may exceed what the land can hold.”

Butler says Circus Juventas is now moving on to the next option, which includes a smaller renovation of the main building, and then possibly in five to 10 years establishing a second site in the Twin Cities for classes and performances. The second location would offer a shorter commute to many families, and thereby reduce pressure on its current home.

“We’re at the [Highland Park] site for 17 more years if we don’t get a renewal from the city, but we hope we do,” said Butler. “I designed that building from scratch, it’s a custom built structure and we would never give that space up.

“We’re not leaving St. Paul,” he added, “it’s our home.”