March 18, 2011

1stBank Center finally rockin’

BROOMFIELD — There is something about the 1stBank Center that goes to people’s heads.

Whether it was optimism about the promise of a venue bringing professional sports and concerts to suburban Broomfield, or anger that Broomfield spent $45 million in taxpayer money to build a 6,500-seat arena in an empty field, few people could view the venue dispassionately.

Courtesy brian spady

The 1stBank Center in Broomfield has been pulling in capacity crowds since Peak Entertainment LLC, a joint venture of AEG Live — Rocky Mountains LLC and Kroenke Sports and Entertainment LLC, dba Kroenke Sports Enterprises, took over the venue Sept. 1. Here, The String Cheese Incident plays to a full house in March.

The questions continued when concert promoters decided to make the 1stBank Center a hybrid arena/theater suitable for acts too big for clubs but not ready for large venues like Denver’s Pepsi Center.

Skeptics wondered if a suburban venue with “the ambience of a high school gym” could land the acts that would attract music fans from Denver and Boulder,” said Chuck Morris, president of AEG Live Rocky Mountains and one of Colorado’s leading concert promoters.

“There were some people who thought I was out of my mind,” Morris said.

March 5 marked the first anniversary of the venue’s official reopening, and so far results have been positive.

Promoters have been able to book superstars such as Dave Matthews Band, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Carrie Underwood and Arcade Fire. Jam bands such as Phish, The String Cheese Incident and Furthur have played multinight stands drawing capacity crowds.

The lineup and positive reviews from music fans has exceeded arena management’s expectations.

“I felt confident we would do terrific, but sometimes projects turn out better than you expect, and this has been one of them,” Morris said.

Broomfield city leaders share the enthusiasm.

“We’re ecstatic,” mayor Pat Quinn said.

The ability of AEG Live to book first-class performers has been key to the turnaround, Quinn said. Managers also have been more engaged with city officials and the broader community, he said.

Broomfield has a lot riding on the venue’s success. The Broomfield Urban Renewal Authority built the facility. Instead of selling the naming rights, the authority decided to name the venue the Broomfield Event Center in an attempt to boost the city’s profile. During the makeover, the center was renamed Odeum Colorado, but then 1stBank acquired the naming rights for an undisclosed price in a deal that will last five years.

The venue opened in 2006 and immediately struggled. Severe traffic jams and parking problems marred the opening night performance by Bonnie Raitt and remained persistent problems. The minor league hockey and basketball teams that called the arena home struggled to find fans and few bands booked shows.

Broomfield Sports and Entertainment LLC, the arena’s original manager and owner of the minor league teams, asked in January 2009 to be let out of its long-term agreement to manage the arena.

Broomfield spent the first half of 2009 looking for new managers. Its city council picked Peak Entertainment LLC, a joint venture of AEG Live — Rocky Mountains LLC and Kroenke Sports and Entertainment LLC, dba Kroenke Sports Enterprises, which took over the venue Sept. 1.

The hope was the pair would use their savvy and clout to turn the venue around. AEG Live is one of the biggest concert promoters in the nation, and its Rocky Mountain division has deep ties to the area music scene through Morris. Kroenke Sports Enterprises owns the Pepsi Center, Denver Nuggets and Colorado Avalanche.

“We had high hopes, but what they’ve done has really exceeded our expectations,” said George Di Ciero, city and county manager.

Despite the list of stars, the center lost $363,000 in its first fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, under Peak Entertainment. A profit of $497,000 is expected for the 2010-11 fiscal year.

Peak Entertainment and the city expected a loss in the first year because the arena was closed from September to March, said Dave Jolette, KSE’s vice president of venue operations and the general manager of 1stBank Center.

Those months were spent giving the venue a $1 million makeover to convert it from a multiuse arena to a more theaterlike space. State-of-the-art sound and video projection systems were installed, and the interior was redesigned and redecorated.

“We took a building that had great bones, it just had no soul, and we gave it soul and ambience,” Morris said.

1stBank Center’s newfound success has benefited its neighbors, said Chris Stackpole, director of operations for Proto’s Pizza Inc. Proto’s is the lone restaurant at the Arista multiuse development, which sits next to the arena.

Proto’s sees crowds swell the day of concerts and it stays open late to serve concertgoers after shows. The difference between concert nights and regular nights “is night and day,” Stackpole said.

“Business is looking up. In the last year, with Kroenke and AEG, we’ve seen a series of really good shows,” Stackpole said.

But Stackpole knows a slow season could really hurt his change.

“We’re kind of at the mercy of the center,” Stackpole said.

1stBank Center’s successful first year has yet to spur new development at Arista, said Garrett Baum, managing partner of Urban Frontier LLC, which is one of the firms looking to build-out the development.

While there’s more energy, Baum said, developers and builders still are waiting for a better economy before starting new commercial projects.

“It’s great for the center, and ultimately it’s going to be great for Arista as well, but I can’t point to any deal that’s happened because of the switch,” he said.

That’s bad news for Broomfield, because revenue from Arista is used to pay back the bonds the city used to pay for the arena.

Regardless, city officials are optimistic 1stBank Center’s turnaround will last and positively improve Arista’s prospects, Di Ciero said.

Despite their success, managers of the 1stBank Center are determined to keep their heads and stay focused on improving the venue.

“It has been a good, good foundation for us,” Jolette said. “But booking is always competitive and a challenge.”

“The future looks tremendously bright,” Morris said. “But you can’t live on your past laurels. We’re always looking for something new.”

1stBank Center will be home of the Colorado Music Hall of Fame, which will honor important artists and figures in Colorado’s musical history. John Denver will be inducted at a special benefit concert April 21.

“It doesn’t matter what you do with a building, if you don’t put the right names on the building’s marquee, no one will come in,” Morris said.

BROOMFIELD — There is something about the 1stBank Center that goes to people’s heads.

Whether it was optimism about the promise of a venue bringing professional sports and concerts to suburban Broomfield, or anger that Broomfield spent $45 million in taxpayer money to build a 6,500-seat arena in an empty field, few people could view the venue dispassionately.

Courtesy brian spady

The 1stBank Center in Broomfield has been pulling in capacity crowds since Peak Entertainment LLC, a joint venture of AEG Live — Rocky Mountains LLC and Kroenke Sports and…

Categories:
Sign up for BizWest Daily Alerts

Related Content