GREEN BAY — The Cup O Joy recently celebrated 30 years with a benefit concert on Oct. 26 featuring Sara Groves and Jason Gray. The next big celebration for the faith-based entertainment venue will be the grand opening of its new home, expected in the spring of 2020.
The Cup O Joy will move from its current location at 232 S. Broadway to 525 N. Taylor St. The new location, the former Masonic Center, offers 25,000 square feet — 15,000 on the upper level and 10,000 in the lower level – and features two auditoriums. The smaller of the two rooms has seating for approximately 200 people, which matches the capacity at the current Cup O Joy. The larger room seats 475 and features theater-style seating along the side and back walls.
Jan Oettinger, director of the Cup O Joy, said the search for a new home started eight years ago.
“We looked at mostly empty shell buildings, warehouses, big box stores; places we could find with unobstructed views for seating,” she explained. “We have a board that has to agree 100%. We could never get everyone to agree. We just couldn’t come to a consensus.”
One of the last buildings considered, prior to finding the new location, was a big box store. The real estate agent was convinced it was a good fit.
“He started doing these drawings,” said Oettinger. “He configured all the space and, in the process, learned a lot about us. It really still wasn’t the right place for us.”
Oettinger grew resigned to the belief that the “The Cup,” as it is known to volunteers, artists and regulars, was meant to stay at its current home. The Cup O Joy had started in 1989 down the street on Broadway in a building that was originally a shoe store and later a print shop. That venue seated 100 people and was home to The Cup until 1999.
“I’m totally content. This is where you want us to be God. I’m good,” said Oettinger about the current location. “Let’s just buy some new carpet and paint the place. Let’s just perk up what we have and just be content. We are quaint. We can live with this. Maybe this is our niche. We are all happy with that. We accepted it. Then the guy who had done all the drawings called and said, ‘I found The Cup.’”
In May of this year, the entire board toured the building, built in 1980, and agreed that it is the new Cup O Joy. Construction inside will begin on Dec. 15. Among the projects is removing a wall in the lobby to build a concession area. Dressing rooms and green rooms will be built for both auditoriums. A recreational/lounge space for the artists will also be created in the lower level. Oettinger explained that some tours arrive early in the morning.
“They come at 8 a.m. and have three bands,” she said. “They are just sitting around. They drive all night. The driver goes to sleep. You are just one little cog in the wheel. This will be their space, maybe a game room.”
Touring bands are fed, so the kitchen and dining area in the lower level will be renovated. Oettinger said more tours can be booked at the new location.
“We are going to be able to bring in music that we are not able to now because I don’t have the space for it,” she said. “I seldom take tours because tours are just too cumbersome to take in a small space.”
The seating capacity in the large auditorium will also allow some performers to do only one show instead of two a night to accommodate the demand. Several artists perform at both 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. at the current location.
“They are exhausted by the end of the second show,” said Oettinger.
Cup O Joy concerts and shows will continue to be offered on Fridays and Saturdays at the new location. Open mic nights will also continue.
“That’s an opportunity for anyone to get on the stage,” said Oettinger, known as Jan O to many. “I find a lot of my opening acts or we can grow artists out of open mics.”
Danen Kane, a contemporary Christian artist who is originally from Denmark, Wis., performed in concert again at The Cup on Oct. 5. He started at an open mic night, but was also a concertgoer. Kane, who has been performing for 17 years, said that he found comfort at the music venue during times of struggle and loneliness.
“I knew that I would find love, that I would find the Gospel,” he said. “The Cup O Joy is not the building. It’s the volunteers that come here every weekend. It’s the Spirit of God.”
“Thousands of people have served as volunteers over these years,” said Oettinger. “God brings the right people at the right time. Some of them are going on 20 years. We are going to need a lot more volunteers (at the new location).”
Serving at the Cup O Joy should not replace involvement in their worship communities, she added.
“When people come to volunteer, I say to them, ‘Do you have a church?’ We don’t want to be your church,” she said. “Whatever their faith, we want them to stay connected and go back and be better. Be more involved and more on fire.”
A $3.2-million capital campaign is underway to support the new location. So far, $1 million has been raised to secure the building. Another $1 million is an endowment to support the building. The remaining $1.2 million will be used for upgrades.
Security-Luebke Roofing is donating a new roof and a donor has agreed to pay for painting. Space is available at the Taylor Street building for groups to rent for events, which will help support the move.
Oettinger said that her dream is to rent out space in the lower level to a music school. The Cup O Joy has assisted musicians at Green Bay East High School and Washington Middle School by coordinating workshops featuring artists from The Cup, including, recently, the Annie Moses Band, a group of six Julliard-educated Catholic siblings.
The new space will provide opportunities for workshops at the Cup O Joy. “Music That Inspires” will continue to be the mission for The Cup, said Oettinger.
“I have businesspeople who come in and ask, ‘What is your five-year plan? What is your 10-year plan?’ When you are working with the Lord, he just wants you to be faithful, so I guess he works out the five-year plan,” said Oettinger. “I feel that we are carrying a message on a melody. It’s a way for people to open their hearts and listen a little bit.”