The three long-time music pros who run AEG Presents Rocky Mountains’ 800-concert-a-year operation aren’t your typical concert promoters — they’re men on a mission to bring music and culture to Denver and music fans throughout Colorado.
After working together for two decades, first at Live Nation and now at AEG, CEO Chuck Morris and co-presidents Don Strasburg and Brent Fedrizzi have joined forces with developer Kevin McClintock, senior partner at Westfield Co., to build a 4,000-cap venue in a former Denver industrial park. After painstakingly designing a first-of-its-kind indoor seating terrace with a moveable stage that can nearly double the venue’s capacity, the music entrepreneurs had one more puzzle to solve — finding the right name for their new venue.
“We kept talking about how we were on a mission to build a venue of this size and after considering different names, someone suggested we call it the Mission Ballroom,” said Morris, a longtime concert promoter who came up with pioneering Denver promoter Barry Fey and is now borrowing elements from some of his favorite venues like Red Rocks to create a concert venue for a city that “per capita goes to more concerts than anywhere else in the world.”
“We are always on a mission to deliver the best possible experience for artists and the community,” said Strasburg, who personally designed Mission Ballroom’s seating terrace by drawing out chalk patterns on the ground and dancing inside them to find the right mix of comfort and usable floor space. “This is who we are and we know this new 4,000-seat venue will live up to the expectations of this amazing community,” he tells Billboard. “We’re not going to settle for anything but the best.”
While most venues use curtaining systems to control the size of the venue, Mission Ballroom utilizes a moveable stage (similar to Seth Hurwitz’s new venue The Anthem in Washington D.C.) engineered to accommodate any modern touring show and capable of resizing available floor space and scaling the venue from a capacity of 2,200 to 3,950.
“You feel the pain when the room is too full and you feel the pain when the room’s not full enough,” explains Strasburg. “This room can be flexed to create the perfect environment without changing the integrity of the room.”
Behind the Mission Ballroom’s large dance floor will be elevated seating and dancing positions on steep vertical risers that leave plenty of room to sit or dance with clean sight lines of the stage for individuals of all heights.
“We wanted to come up with a room that was purely focused on live music, but able to function properly for multiple types of audiences,” explains Strasburg who said AEG discovered the site and begin working on the design three years ago. When it opens in the summer of 2019, the 60,000 square-foot Mission Ballroom will anchor North Wynkoop, a new 14-acre mixed-use destination by Denver-developers Westfield Company, located at the north-end of the post-industrial River North Art District, or RiNo for short. Besides a large seating and dance floor, the Mission Ballroom will have multiple bars and offer reserved seating in two VIP areas that flank each side of the stage with a GA lane in front of each section.
“We created a front row along the balcony rail that will always be general admission,” says Strasburg, saying that VIP sections positioned too close to the stage often drain the energy of a venue with fans who are valuable, but not always the most engaged.
“We know there are certain people who want a higher level of experience, however, it’s really important that the energy from the most die-hard fan, no matter what their income, goes directly to the artists,” explains Strasburg.
The venue is the company’s first 4,000-seat venue in Denver — AEG Presents Rocky Mountains is the leading promoter in the state and operates a number of venues including the Bluebird Theater (550-cap), Gothic Theatre (1,100-cap), Ogden Theatre (1,600-cap) as well as Colorado venues like 1STBANK Center (6,500-cap) in Broomfield and Fiddler’s Green Amphitheatre (18,000-cap) in Englewood. They also promote more than 100 concerts a year at the iconic Red Rocks venue in nearby Morrison, which was an inspiration for some of the design elements of Mission Ballroom.
“This venue gives us another option in our portfolio for bands to grow their careers in Colorado,” explains Fedrizzi, “This completes our chest of tools — you’re going to have artists who want to do things that are special, like an underplay, and this would be a perfect option for them.”
North Wynkoop and the Mission Ballroom will be located along the busy Brighton Boulevard corridor and “the entire River North area is exploding with vibrancy. This location is a perfect fit for The Mission Ballroom with parking, easy access to light rail, and only a stone’s throw from downtown, it is the right place for us to be” explains Fedrizzi.
“We’re one acre of the 14 acres and the anchor for the entire project,” explains Fedrizzi, adding the site will also include retail, restaurants and a boutique hotel.
If the Mission Ballroom is successful, AEG plans to export the model to other markets around the globe where the company operates, says Rick Mueller, AEG Presents President for North America.
“It will serve as a prototype that we can keep building for fans that really want to go experience great music,” Mueller says. Similar venues are being planned for Nashville and Berlin.
“It’s a great capacity and the venues are very functional for both concerts, private events and special engagements,” he explains. “We think this is the future of music and a critical component to our commitment to investing in building new venues. From my perspective, it’s an exciting time. While there are a lot of venues out there, there’s not a lot of great venue like the Mission Ballroom. We plan to continue building great venues.”
To learn more visit www.missionballroom.com.