For a slideshow of the March 5 Furthur concert as well as photos of the 1stBank Center, click here.
The Broomfield Events Center was always a great idea, in theory. A midsized arena halfway between Boulder and Denver, capable of hosting music and sporting events, seemed primed to launch Broomfield as a major player in Colorado’s sports/concert scene at the time the venue opened in 2005.
However, the reality never quite matched the optimism projected by the city and then-venue manager Tim Weins of Broomfield Sports. There were booking issues, parking problems and other troubles, and in early 2009, Weins resigned from managing the venue. The minor league teams that played regularly in the stadium bolted, leaving the arena unused for several months.
In stepped Peak Entertainment last year, a brainchild of two of Colorado’s major entertainment players, Denver Nuggets and Colorado Avalanche owner Stan Kroenke’s Kroenke Sports Enterprises LLC and Phil Anschutz’s Los Angeles-based Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG). Peak sold the naming rights to the stadium to 1stBank (since 1stBank paid Peak, not the city, the amount won’t be made public until Peak Entertainment reports its revenue to the city later this year) and began an ambitious set of renovations.
Broomfield lent $500,000 for the renovations, which Peak Entertainment matched. They ditched the whole lifeless-arena feel that was the Broomfield Events Center’s trademark and installed plush, new carpets.
They repainted the whole lobby with a warm, ambient red that makes it look like more of a classy theater lobby than a stadium. And, most impressively, they ripped out some of the concession stands and food/drink shops and installed a common area with a couple of bars and tables opposite the stage on the second deck. They also installed a giant projector screen that arches across the stage and hung giant paper lanterns from the ceiling.
The overall effect is very warm and intimate, which, considering the venue’s size, is an impressive feat Peak Entertainment has executed admirably. They say the capacity can be scaled to hold anywhere from 3,500 people to 6,500 people, including 25 box suites that can be purchased individually or rented out for an entire season. Eventually, AEG CEO and president Chuck Morris says, the 1stBank Center will house the Colorado Music Hall of Fame.
The Broomfield Urban Renewal Authority (BURA), which owns the center, has agreed to a deal with Peak Entertainment that will give BURA 25 percent of the arena’s net revenues during the first three years of operation, and 10 percent each year after that. If the 1stBank Center loses money during the first three years, then BURA will cover up to $450,000 in losses. In addition, BURA will receive up to 7.5 percent of revenue exceeding $2.5 million each year until its initial $500,000 investment for redevelopment is repaid. Broomfield expects to collect $150,000 to $1.4 million each year from the1stBank Center, says Charles Ozaki, Broomfield’s deputy city and county manager.
What we have here is a serious investment made by some serious players in the entertainment industry. So how well did the promoters pull it off? The promoters tapped Furthur, a band featuring former Grateful Dead members Phil Lesh and Bob Weir, to kick off the 1stBank Center’s concert series, and the band played two sold-out shows March 5-6.
The lobby looks great, although there’s no way to really get around the fact that it’s a stadium dressed up like a theater — not to mention that Peak sold the naming rights (and the local flavor) as if it were a stadium.
The sound, something arenas always have trouble getting right, was crystal-clear in all parts of the stadium — the band’s vocals, which sometimes included five-part harmonies, were as easily audible and distinguishable from the club level as they were from the floor. The cymbals on the two drum sets were a little hard to hear — more of a soundboard issue than an arena one — but the band’s overall mix didn’t suffer anywhere in the arena, even in the boxes far from the stage.
Friday’s show was sold out, but there was plenty of empty space by the social areas towards the back of the club level. It was a welcome respite from the packed stands and the crowded floor, where you could hardly move without rubbing shoulders with a tie-dye-wearing Deadhead. Drinks were predictably concert-priced, but nothing out of the ordinary.
Overall, the show was a great experience, though it helps that Furthur put on a hell of a performance. I wouldn’t hesitate to see another show there, and I’d recommend the venue without hesitation. There are some decent acts coming through pretty soon (like Muse, Carrie Underwood and Daughtry), and all the stars seem aligned for 1stBank Center’s success. Whether Peak Entertainment can succeed where others have failed remains to be seen.
photos at www.boulderweekly.com