Dave Namesnik just started his seventh week as general manager of the Broadmoor World Arena and the Pikes Peak Center for the Performing Arts, but he’s already working hard on his No. 1 goal: to bring more A-list entertainment to Colorado Springs.
Namesnik’s predecessor, Dot Lischick, retired May 20 after serving as general manager since the arena opened in 1998. Lischick, an industry icon, set a very high bar; she brought a variety of world-class acts, trade shows and sports events to the 8,000-seat arena.
Namesnik has the chops to continue that record of success, having logged 14 years as assistant general manager of the Budweiser Events Center in Loveland. In fact, he and Lischick have collaborated for the past six years, talking about once a month.
“We kind of just picked each other’s brains to see what’s out there,” Namesnik said, “because it’s all about relationships.” Even though Colorado Springs is a secondary market to Denver, “we can route well with Denver, where artists can play both venues,” Namesnik said. An example is singer-songwriter James Taylor, who played the World Arena on July 18 and appeared at Fiddler’s Green Amphitheater in Denver the following night.
Individual artists may have exclusivity agreements with certain venues, but “I can tell you, from my short time here, there’s lots of opportunity for the Springs entertainment market to continue to grow,” Namesnik said.
Along with existing sites like the Broadmoor World Arena, Pikes Peak Center and Ent Center for the Arts, others are helping to put Colorado Springs on the entertainment map — new venues such as Weidner Field and Robson Arena, and projects like the proposed Sunset amphitheater and the renovation of the City Auditorium.
JW Roth, founder and board chair of entertainment company Notes Live, is developing the 8,000-seat outdoor amphitheater in north Colorado Springs.
Roth thinks Colorado Springs’ population growth is at a tipping point that will allow the city to grow in significance as a standalone market.
“I think there’s room now for us to become players,” he said.
Linda Weise, president of Community Cultural Collective, is spearheading the renovation and remodeling of the City Auditorium, which will add several smaller performance and event spaces.
Colorado Springs used to be a place that artists drove through on their way to somewhere else, she said.
“The fact that we now have a portfolio of options makes us a very attractive city for any number of entertainment genres,” Weise said.
Namesnik ran the day-to-day operations and did booking for the 7,200-seat Budweiser Events Center, working with major concert promoters like AEG Presents and Live Nation, as well as smaller, independent promoters.
He’s traveled frequently to Los Angeles, California, and Nashville, Tennessee, and attended numerous industry conventions to meet with agents.
“It’s all about relationships,” he said. “It’s not like the agents or talent are calling us; we’ve got to be proactive.”
Tours often are planned two to three years in advance. “If you’re not on the list that far out, you’re not going to get a date,” he said.
Venues like the World Arena are known as hard tickets — “we have a fixed amount of seats, whereas if you look at, say, Cheyenne Frontier Days, that’s more of a soft-ticket show. Whether there’s 10 people or 30,000 people, they get the same amount of money. We’re constrained on how many seats we can do, so we’re not going to pay as much as one of those big outdoor festivals,” Namesnik said.
Indoor facilities typically do not have as many concerts during the summer, when summer festivals dominate the concert scene, he said.
Tour stops don’t always go to the highest bidder, either. Artist preferences play a big role, Namesnik said.
“They are definitely very picky about the venues they play,” he said. “They may once in a while try something new, and you get that one opportunity to take good care of them and provide a great experience. If you do, they’ll want to come back. If something goes wrong, they might not.”
Namesnik said every staff member at the venues is trained to recognize that living on the road is difficult, to treat artists with respect, and to provide a safe, secure, clean and friendly environment.
“At the end of the day, they want to sell tickets,” he said. “As long as we can move tickets and get butts in the seats, that helps them as well.”
Some artists and promoters already consider Colorado Springs a strong market, he said — “that’s a big reason why I wanted to come here. The Pikes Peak Center is well known to a lot of promoters and agents, and a place where artists love to come.
“Colorado’s a great music state, and I think the sky’s the limit for the market.”
NEW OUTDOOR VENUE
Roth, who also established the 1,000-seat Boot Barn Hall at Bourbon Brothers, aims to make Sunset amphitheater “the gold standard in the amphitheater space.”
“Every venue has two customers,” he said. “The first is the customer buying tickets, and the second customer is the artist. You have to treat both of them equally.”
Roth said he has hired architects and consultants from around the world to design a space that will pamper both ticket buyers and artists.
Located in the Polaris Pointe development, the $40 million amphitheater will boast 60 VIP luxury suites with firepits, four five-star restaurants, a rooftop bar that will serve 150 of the world’s rarest bourbons and sweeping views of Pikes Peak.
Roth’s also building what he calls “one of the most over-the-top artists’ compounds, which will include private dressing rooms, private showers, private meet-and-greet locations, private dining facilities, private kitchen with a private chef and a viewing deck of the entire Front Range. There’s not another like it in America.”
The venue will employ about 300 people, some 175 of them full time, he said.
Original plans called for opening the venue in September 2023, and Roth still hopes for a fall schedule, but the venue’s full operations likely will launch closer to June 2024.
“We’ve completed our financing and we’ve completed our offsite parking arrangements,” Roth said. “But we are still in the Planning Department. I expect to have administrative approval later this month. Within a week or so after administrative approval, we will file our building plans and ask for a permit.”
Roth said there’s no question that Colorado Springs is becoming a more attractive venue for A-list acts.
“I have this conversation a lot with promoters and with big touring acts out of both coasts, as well as Nashville,” he said. “Six or seven years ago, we weren’t considered a market; we were we were considered an offshoot of Denver.
“But today, our population has grown to where the industry looks at us as a market, which now gives Colorado Springs the opportunity to start fishing in a much bigger pond,” he said. “As we grow in significance as a standalone market, there’s room for us to become players.”
Roth said he does not have any bookings yet for the Sunset, but AEG “has been a good partner of ours for the Boot Barn Hall and a good sounding board. We’ve built tremendous relationships with touring acts over the last three years; we’re showcasing a lot of decent size, midlevel 2,000-ticket shows” at the Boot Barn.
Roth will start the booking process for the Sunset in September 2023.
He expects the Sunset to be Notes Live’s crown jewel, but he’s working on half a dozen large and midsized venues across the West and South that will be operating within the next year and a half.
Roth said he thinks the most important thing local venues can do to improve the entertainment scene is to collaborate.
“I want to see our city really flourish in the arts, culture and entertainment space,” he said, “and we want to be a part of that. I want to be a good neighbor and a good friend to the other venues.”
REVIVING A CLASSIC
Large spaces alone do not create a thriving cultural and entertainment community, and Weise’s City Auditorium project is adding smaller venues to the city’s portfolio, along with creative workspaces for artists.
According to architect Chris Wineman, plans call for keeping the 200-seat Lon Chaney theater (though its name might change) but moving it to the opposite side of the building and adding dressing rooms, backstage support and AV capabilities.
The main auditorium would be subdivided into a space that would seat about 650 people but could be reconfigured to accommodate up to 800.
The building also will contain rehearsal spaces, classrooms, meeting rooms, new dining options, a recording studio and technological upgrades throughout the building.
“As far as entertainment goes, when you look at a midsized theater like the one that will be in City Aud, this is perfect for the indie artists that now typically drive through Colorado Springs on their way from Albuquerque to Ogden,” Weise said. “Now they can stop.”
The main theater also has an orchestra pit, “so there’s a lot of opportunity for smaller cultural works like chamber operas. We have a number of organizations that are looking at this space to be incubating new works.”
Weise created the Community Cultural Collective, which submitted a winning proposal to the city of Colorado Springs for significant repairs and renovations to the 1923 building as well as improvements to its functionality.
The original expectation was to complete the $52.9 million project by the end of 2024, she said. But unanticipated construction issues, such as having to bring in steel beams one at a time through the roof, have made a second-quarter 2025 completion date more likely.
Weise said she is excited about the new amphitheater and is “thrilled that the City Aud can be part of the conversation in a meaningful way.
“All of this activity, it’s incredibly inspiring,” she said. “I look forward to continuing to work alongside my colleagues, whether it’s the new amphitheater or my colleagues at the Ent Center. All ships rise at moments like this.”