Dillon Amphitheater looks to 2019
October 23, 2018
Editor's note: This story original ran in the Summit Daily.
The Dillon Summer Concert Series has come and gone, and locals are already looking toward 2019. While there were certainly some growing pains in rolling out the new and improved amphitheater, Dillon views the 2018 season as a success, and a potential springboard for things to come.
"I think the majority of people were super pleased with the new facility," said Kerstin Anderson, marketing and communications director for Dillon. "On any given day there's people touring the facility or just enjoying it as a park, which was part of the intent when we were revamping it. Increasingly we've also been improving the quality of acts down there, and we'll continue to do that."
Construction on the revitalized facility began in July 2017 — a $9.7 million renovation that pulled in $1 million in grant funds from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, more than $125,000 in donations and in-kind services and $5 million in loans on top of allocated funds from the town's general fund. The amphitheater reopened in June this year, featuring a larger stage, new green rooms, restrooms and a concessions building.
“One of our goals of the facility is for it to be as well known for its beauty as it is for the quality of production from our team.”Kerstin AndersonDillon marketing and communications director
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A step up
But restrooms and concessions were only part of the new upgrades that hit the amphitheater, as Dillon also implemented paid concerts at the venue for the first time — including The String Cheese Incident and Wicked Divas — to try and bring some bigger-name artists to town and defray the costs of free shows.
While the venue was never meant to be a money-making venture for the town, the upgrades to the facility have spelled economic success for businesses in the area. According to Anderson, the town typically allocates about $190,000 in funds to put on concerts and movies throughout the year. Through paid concerts and new concessions revenues, the town was able to raise about 40 percent ($76,000) of its money back this season. But the bigger impact came for local businesses in the area.
"One of our core goals is to drive traffic and vitality to the core area through the programming," said Anderson. "Based on our survey data, people who come to shows spend on average about $39 per person outside the venue."
That's big money for local businesses, especially considering the rise in attendance to this year's events. Anderson said that attendance at free Saturday concerts remained relatively stable from years past, averaging more than 3,200 people per show (max attendance is about 3,700). But Friday shows brought in between 1,500 and 2,000 on average, in stark contrast to the 700 people the venue averaged before the renovation. For reference, that means concertgoers spent just under $125,000 at local businesses on a typical Saturday.
Bumps in the road
But there were some struggles in the early days the new venue, which the town is hoping to smooth over before the 2019 season. Perhaps the most prominent issue was the noise levels coming from the theater, a common complaint from nearby residents this year. Anderson said the town is currently working on strategies to lower sound levels and become better neighbors to surrounding residents. She noted that the town has already brought in a number of companies to analyze the "sound sculpting" at the venue; a process that essentially tells town officials where exactly sound is traveling when it leaves the speakers. Additionally, the town is planning on changing the angles of the speaker arrays to keep more sound inside the venue, as well as installing sound meters at the top and bottom of the facility so that bands can better adhere to noise restrictions.
Another issue at the facility was lines of sight and visibility for those sitting behind people in chairs. Anderson said that the plan right now is to restrict the areas where chairs are allowed to the very back of the grass lawn and to the concrete bowl which features stadium seating. Additionally, the town will also likely institute a gate-opening time when individuals are allowed to come in and set up their chairs.
"I think that there is room for improvement over last year," Anderson said. "One of our goals of the facility is for it to be as well known for its beauty as it is for the quality of production from our team."
As the town considers how best to make adjustments to mitigate some of the issues at the facility, there are also a number of ongoing improvements including the completion of the landscaping and the removal of some of the fencing surrounding the venue which will continue into next year. But there's some possible changes coming to programming, based around the input of the community.
Anderson made a recommendation to the Dillon Town Council earlier this month to replace some of the free concerts with paid concerts over the next few years, though decisions are still up in the air. According to Anderson, the Town Council is hesitant to remove any free concerts from the schedule without feedback from the community.
"The question is, is there a desire for local residents to have the opportunity to pay to see some of their favorite bands in their favorite venue, or is the desire greater to see free, more local bands on Friday and Saturday," Anderson said.
A community survey is expected to be released to Dillon residents, along with the greater Summit County area, sometime next week to measure what the community is most interested in. But regardless of whether or not the town decides to add to their paid-concert schedule, the new facility has turned heads, and bigger names appear to be interested in making the trip to Summit County.
Anderson noted that the town is currently engaged in discussions with a number of high-end production companies for potential partnerships, including Live Nation, Swallow Hill and Emporium Presents. Conversations with well-known artists and its representatives have already begun as well, but so far, the Colorado Symphony is the only show booked. The town is also planning a two-day blues show next year, as well as its own reggae festival.
"We are hot and heavy into the planning session," Anderson said. "We have had a lot of interest and we're looking to nail those opportunities down. We're really looking forward to next summer."
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