JW Roth has long admired the business savvy of Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz, whose AEG Presents Rocky Mountains dominates the region’s live-music industry.
Roth also knew that the ambitious, nationwide projects under his Notes Live umbrella — which at the moment have crested $1 billion in anticipated construction costs — could not click into place without a major corporate booking partner.
Only then could his $55 million Sunset Amphitheater project thrive in a market like Colorado Springs, which usually plays second fiddle to the nationally ranked Denver concert scene, and serve fans along the Front Range’s ever-growing live music circuit.
“It was the hole in my business plan of ‘How do I put butts in seats?’ ” said Roth, whose upscale, 8,000-capacity Sunset amphitheater this week set a July 12 date for its official groundbreaking. “It was also a hole in (tour) routing for AEG Presents, and Colorado Springs is now at the point where it can stand as its own live-music market.”
New renderings shared with Pointypress this week show a filled-in layout at Sunset, including a semi-circle wall enclosing tiers of seating, and elevated VIP suites that recall a baseball stadium as much as a concert venue. Next to it, the Roth Seafood & Chophouse and Hospitality Collection will be a luxury-focused, 45,000-square-foot development featuring Bourbon Brothers Smokehouse & Tavern and Boot Barn Hall, along with the anchoring Sunset amphitheater and Notes Bar.
The complex is part of the Polaris Pointe development along Spectrum Loop, south of the Powers Boulevard extension, Roth said.
“I’m an ambience and vibe guy, which is why I wanted to have views of the majestic Pikes Peak,” he said. “I was never going to build it in a boring cow pasture.”
When he first announced the $40 million project (now revised to $55 million overall) in April 2022, Roth said he hoped to open the Sunset amphitheater by sometime this year. Now the target date is June 2024 — although with major work already having been completed, it might be even earlier.
“We’ve already created the ‘bowl’ (excavation work and soil shaping), all the utilities are in, and we’re ready to start coming up out of the ground,” he said, noting that he plans to host 40 concerts per year at Sunset. “We don’t have the first act booked yet, but it should be the first half of June 2024.”
Finalizing the venue was tricky, given that it could potentially compete with other major Springs venues. Some in Colorado Springs might also quibble with the city’s designation as an entertainment desert — a provocative term Roth used last year — since the city also boasts multiple indie music venues (including the storied Black Sheep), the Pikes Peak Center (capacity 1,989) and the Broadmoor World Arena, which at 7,343 capacity can already host bands supposedly big enough for Sunset.
That’s not even including high-profile outdoor venues in the Denver metro area such as Red Rocks Amphitheatre (capacity 9,545), Fiddler’s Green Amphitheatre (capacity 18,000) and Levitt Pavilion (20,000). It makes top-tier booking and promotion essential to drawing consistent music fans, Roth said. And since AEG Presents already books the Broadmoor and controls much of the Front Range market, it made sense to reach out to them early on.
“I really had three choices: Live Nation, AEG or Oak View Group,” he said. “It’s difficult to put something together as a (large-scale) venue builder without them.”
Now the Springs project — which includes the staggeringly priced, $20 million high-end seafood and steak restaurant — is helping Roth’s other Notes Live venues take shape, such as under-development concert halls and entertainment campuses in Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Okla., and Houston.
Sunset will be the blueprint for the next year or so of development, helping the other projects “morph as they go,” Roth said. His Notes Live also has other planned venues in Georgia and Tennessee. The first of those — a 1,700-capacity indoor venue in Gainesville, Ga., that sits on an entire city block Roth purchased — will have its grand opening celebration on July 7 and 8. It includes the 14,500-square-foot Boot Barn Hall (named after the existing Colorado Springs venue Roth owns) and Bourbon Brothers Smokehouse.
“It’s a very collaborative process at this point,” said Roth. “The AEG partnership is 50-50, unlike some deals where they just lease the venue. We’ll win together, and we’ll lose together.”
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