State Bridge resurrected
VAIL CO, Colorado
After State Bridge lodge burned to the ground in 2007, the venue’s general manager Scotty Stoughton watched the ashes smolder and felt what he calls a “huge void” inside. Not surprising, considering State Bridge had been a big part of his life for more than a decade.
“I got the call at 5 in the morning,” he remembered. “We had just had the most successful weekend ever at State Bridge. We were finally making money and then it all went away. When it burned, it was pretty devastating.”
After the fire, Stoughton stayed away for about a year but the venue’s energy slowly drew him back into the fold and now as the talent buyer and event operations manager, he’s helping current owner Doug Moog bring State Bridge back. There’s been a few concerts and festivals at the former stagecoach stop but nothing like it used to be.
Right now the site doesn’t look like much. In the footprint of where the lodge used to sit, big yellow bulldozers are moving big rocks and piles of reddish brown dirt around. There are six yurts along the periphery. But in less than two months, in time for a Memorial Day bash, there will be an outdoor amphitheater and a stage.
“The whole concept is to create the world’s most beautiful and magical 500-person boutique ampthitheater. That’s the goal – to bring State Bridge back to the people, back to the community,” Stoughton said.
Stoughton has been busy booking acts for the summer lineup. Camp Out For the Cause III, a music festival that benefits non profits (which Stoughton founded), will take place May 28-30. Shakedown Street, Bonfire Dub, Great American Taxi, Elephant Revival, Frogs Gone Fishin, The Seesh, and other local acts will perform, Stoughton said.
The grand reopening party will take place June 10-12 and will include a June 12 show by Colorado favorites Leftover Salmon, who performed many times at the old State Bridge.
“A lot of the booking is being done on the relationships we have since right now, looking at the site, it’s rocks and dirt and the stage isn’t built,” Stoughton said. “It’s been a challenge. But we’re building a really great calendar and the people who have played here before are super excited about it.”
One of those musicians is local resident Jake Wolf, the drummer for Shakedown Street. Wolf performed at State Bridge for the first time in 1998, right after he joined Shakedown Street, a band that played every Memorial Day weekend at the venue. For 14 years, Wolf spent every birthday, May 30, at State Bridge.
“It’s so special to me,” Wolf said. “It was always the first weekend everyone got out and said, ‘hey, the snow is gone, summer is starting. It’s time to kick off the snow boots and slip on the sandals.’ The energy there is so great, I missed it.’
It’s also fitting that Wolf will be there to help christen the new State Bridge, considering he was one of the last musicians to play on the stage before the fire, over Memorial Day weekend, of course.
“I’m so excited, I can’t wait,” he said. “It’s been a long time since we rock and rolled down there for sure.”
Stoughton and Moog have a vision of a State Bridge that’s family friendly and hosts everything from concerts and festivals, to weddings, corporate events and the like. Stoughton would like to host yoga retreats and is currently negotiating a partnership with Gore Range Expeditions to offer stand-up paddleboarding lessons, tours and guided trips.
“I’m really stoked on that,” Stoughton said. “The goal is to take State Bridge from being just a concert venue, where people would come out, enjoy music and have drinks, and elevate it. That will always be a part of State Bridge, but we don’t want to focus on that. Our long term success relies on making this an adventure center, with all types of different activities.”
“Michelangelo said ‘Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it,’ and that’s how I look at State Bridge,” Moog said. “It comes with a beautiful setting and a rich history in the hearts and memories of people around here, and those largely define the ‘sculpture’ that we are still discovering.
“We are guided by some basic goals: happy people, good music, and a sustainable business,” he continued. “That means being green, safe, and responsive to our customers and neighbors.”
Stoughton and Moog have spent nearly two years working closely with County officials to rezone State Bridge.
“It required a whole lot of finesse and patience and we’re forging a great partnership with the County,” Stoughton said.
They’ve also been working with the Bureau of Land Management to lease the campground located east of the property. There will be designated walk-in camping spots, a family camping area and a car camping area.
“State Bridge is surrounded by BLM land and one of our goals was to provide the perfect festival experience,” Stoughton said. “In the past, the campgrounds and bathrooms were left a little messy and haven’t been organized. Bathrooms will be cleaned regularly and someone will be managing the whole area. The BLM deal is big. We had to do environmental impact studies, drainage studies, pedestrian traffic studies.”
The bathhouses have also gotten a makeover and the site’s entire septic was replaced and more electricity had to be brought in.
The nine 1920s-circa cabins on the property didn’t burn and Audrey and Matt McRae, the director of lodging and general manager, respectively, spent the last few months gutting them and doing full remodels, with hardwood floors, newly textured walls, new windows, doors, screens, fixtures and refrigerators.
The cabin that sits on the west side of the property was also remodeled and Stoughton is in the process of getting a license to put in a small liquor store and a convenience store that will carry camping staples like burgers, brats, ketchup, buns and the like.
“The goal is you could come up here last minute and get everything last minute and be totally dialed in,” he said.
High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 970-748-2984 or email@example.com.