Tents falling out of favor
SUMMIT COUNTY – In the throes of a Summit County winter, indoor live entertainment is currently relegated mostly to the bar and nightclub scene. But that could all change, and soon. Both Keystone and Breckenridge are looking to upgrade their current tents – the Pavilion at Keystone with a brand new building in its place, and Breck’s Riverwalk Center with a hardshell cover.It should be noted that neither, at this point, are for sure. But the projects are looking good according to Kim DiLallo, director of communications for the Town of Breck, and Molly Speer, executive director of the Keystone Neighbourhood Company (KNC), who are heading up the respective projects.Breckenridge has been considering how a year-round performing arts center could work since before the Riverwalk Center was built in the early ’90s. The Breckenridge Year-round Performing Arts Center Feasibility Study concluded in 2000 that a year-round center was not economically feasible to operate, and was initially priced at a minimum of $6 million to construct.The town’s continued research eventually led to the hardshell covering idea, brought to the council by the Harry Teague Architects firm in 2004. The Aspen-based company was told to investigate further at that point, and in 2006 produced a cost estimate of $1.5 million – one more palatable to the town. With the $750,000 Breckenridge has set aside to replace the tent this year, the council wondered what the community could do through fundraising to supplement the remaining costs, according to DiLallo. The projected costs have now been placed closer to $2 million, she said, and the town would put up two-thirds of that, while looking to the fundraising committee to come up with the last third. The committee is made up of representatives of the primary users of the Riverwalk and is looking into name sponsorships for rooms inside the Riverwalk, among their private donations solicitations. So far, they’ve raised more than half their goal of $750,000.Although the Town of Breckenridge does not have plans to program anything for the winter yet, if the covering gets the go-ahead, it will be equipped with vents, which a heating system could be hooked up to if desired. The hardshell covering, according to DiLallo, would improve the acoustics, temperature and lighting within the facility, effectively opening the door for better theater productions and the Breckenridge Film Festival for showings. Six large clear doors in the back would work like garage doors and offer accessibility to the lawn.
The issue is at the forefront again as the Riverwalk tent reaches the end of its 10 to 15 year life span. One option the town council is considering is keeping the status quo, or buying a new tent. But that would mean continuing to deal with the current challenges the tent presents. Breckenridge’s public works puts a crew on the job for two weeks each season putting up the tent and two weeks taking it down, along with a one-day need for 25 workers each time they set up and break down. DiLallo also cited the noise issues which have arisen with the switch of Highway 9 from Main Street to Park Avenue, the informal 10 p.m. curfew due to its location near residential properties, and the temperatures that can drop to uncomfortable levels – for performers and audiences – in a High Country summer.On May 8, the Breckenridge Town Council will look at the results of the latest research from the Harry Teague firm, including a design development study and the associated final financial figures of putting the hardshell cover on the Riverwalk.They’ll also take a look at what the community fundraising project has come up with.”The council is really very interested in how the arts community and the community itself – what their level of support behind this project is,” DiLallo said. “The town is still willing to run the Riverwalk Center as they have in the past. This gives the community the opportunity to partner with public funds, if they say, ‘Hey, we want something better than a tent.'”And DiLallo said in order for the town to stay on its timeline, it will need to make the decision whether to move forward with the hardshell covering, or replace the tent, at the May meeting. If approved, it would be scheduled for completion before the summer of 2008.Those interested in contributing to the “Raising the Roof” fund for the Riverwalk Center can contact Deb Edwards at (970) 453-0391.
Keystone’s projectOn the other side of the county … the Keystone Neighbourhood Company, “an umbrella association in charge of all common areas at River Run, Ski Tip Ranch, Trappers Crossing, Alders, and Settlers Creek Neighbourhoods at Keystone Resort,” also began thinking about replacing their tent, the Pavilion at Keystone, about five years ago. Since 10 percent of funds collected from the KNC’s Annual Real Estate Assessment (or money collected from the taxes on real estate purchases in the area) are required to go into a community facilities fund, the KNC executive board is looking to create a brand new performing arts center and multi-use facility where the Pavilion now stands.Executive director Speer and business manager Josh Blanchard traveled to various performing arts centers in the region to see what was out there, including the Vilar Center, the Arvada Center and the Denver Center for Performing Arts. Through their research, Speer decided on a black box theater-type space with moveable seats and without sloped seating, similar to the Lake Dillon Theatre. Speer estimated the cost at $5-7 million for the center, which could accommodate 400 seats, or 600 standing attendees.Year-round programming in Keystone would begin as soon as the facility is built, if given the green light. They hope for bigger acts, better theater productions and a more versatile building.The KNC already partners with the Lake Dillon Theatre, and artistic director Chris Alleman said he would look forward to the kinds of shows it would open to him if the permanent facility were built. Alleman and crew currently have to set up and break down the theater sets each night for shows presented at the Pavilion tent. He said while the theater in Dillon is perfect for plays like “Equus” and “Why Do Fools Fall in Love,” which were put on in recent seasons, productions like “Oklahoma!,” “South Pacific” or “Oliver!” could be performed at the building the KNC is envisioning.
According to Speer, the Keystone project is looking at a July meeting to get approval from the Keystone Neighbourhood Company home owners to use the allocated funds for a permanent performing arts center at the current Pavilion location. If approved, the building would be completed by 2009 or 2010.Lacking a wintertime facility, especially during the peak season from Christmas through the end of ski season, Summit County could be missing out. “A lot of acts bypass this market because there isn’t a venue suitable to their attraction,” owner of Peak Performances Michael O’Brien said. “Bands that have outgrown club shows, the next level up, are not available to us because there isn’t a year-round venue.”Both Breckenridge and Keystone have already designated that the centers would also be used and available for groups other than just performing arts, such as conferences, weddings or rehearsals – a trend in the industry.”All the newer facilities are moving toward being multi-purpose venues out of economic necessity,” said local talent booker O’Brien. “If you’re just putting a tent over raw space, you don’t have the ability to shape the room as much as if you have a modern year-round facility.”Leslie Brefeld can be reached at 668-4626 or email@example.com.