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AEG Live Rocky Mountains set to take over Fiddler's Green Amphitheatre in January 2014

Journey, seen here performing at Fiddler's Green, then known as Comfort Dental Amphitheatre.
Journey, seen here performing at Fiddler's Green, then known as Comfort Dental Amphitheatre.
Eric Gruneisen

After ongoing discussions for the past few months, AEG Live Rocky Mountains has finalized a fifteen-year deal with the Museum of Outdoor Arts to take over Fiddler's Green, the 18,000-seat Greenwood Village amphitheatre that opened in 1989 and recently reverted back to its original name after stints as Coors Amphitheatre and Comfort Dental Amphitheatre.

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The original lease, which was signed by MCA Concerts in 1987 (and later transferred to Universal, then House of Blues and eventually Live Nation), is set to expire in December. "The two groups have a synergy," says Cynthia Madden Leitner from the Museum of Outdoor Arts of the partnership between AEG and the non-profit her father, John W. Madden, Jr., founded in 1981. "Part of it is being from Colorado, but they also support the arts and music, and our 501(C)(3) has been doing that for thirty years.

"They have the same vision for Fiddler's Green that we do, for the area, upgrading Fiddler's Green and bringing in more community events back, such as the symphony," Madden Leitner continues. "My father, John Madden, started that years ago, bringing the symphony to the amphitheatre, and this is kind of the spirit of the original vision."

AEG, led by lauded promoter Chuck Morris, is set take the reigns in January. When the concert season ends this fall, Morris and his longtime team -- which includes award-winning talent buyer Don Strasburg and veteran promoter Brent Fedrizzi -- will begin taking stock in what changes need to be made. To that end, AEG is planning to pour five million dollars into renovations.

"Having a real budget to go in and make major changes is really exciting," Strasburg enthuses. "With the five million dollars that we're able to spend on the Fiddler's Green renovation and remodel, it gives us the latitude and the ability to make the broad changes that sometimes you have to do over time because of financial limitations. So it's really exciting. This is the biggest remodel budget we've ever had to work with by far."

While AEG has long term plans to work with the Museum of Outdoor Arts to incorporate artwork throughout the venue, including a possible living wall, the immediate efforts will focus on upgrading the fans' experience, everything from concessions and restrooms, to, later, enhancing the artists' experience -- specifically, giving attention to the back staging and loading areas, which haven't received any significant changes since the venue first opened. These changes are critical to the vitality of the venue.

"We take a lot of pride in the venues that we operate and run, and try to give back to the community and have their experience be the best that we can," says Fedrizzi, Chief Operating Officer. "A fan works hard and spends their hard-earned dollar on a concert ticket. We want them to have a good experience from the minute they arrive. And that also goes for the artist. We want the artists to be comfortable and have a great show and have a great experience.

"Being on the road as an artist, it's a grueling life for them," he goes on. "They need to be taken care of when they get to every city. They're traveling by bus, mostly, and so we want the venue to be set up properly. When they get there, we want the amenities backstage, whether it's their dressing rooms, or the catering area, which is always important, or the staff that they're working with as they set up the show throughout the day -- all of that's important to create a good experience for them, so that when they hit the stage, they're not worried about anything other than putting on the best show they can.

"The fans and the artists are equally as important, and we want them both leaving happy," Fedrizzi concludes. "And we really take a lot of pride in doing that. I think with the Fiddler's project, the fact that the Museum of Outdoor Arts is entrusting us to be a great partner with them and take Fiddler's into the next decades is a testament to our staff and what we do on a day-to-day basis."

"We have the resources to fix it up," adds Morris, who says he's invigorated by challenges like this, noting that this sort of thing is exactly what keeps him in "this wacky business," as he puts it. "I love challenges," he enthuses. "I've been doing this for 43 years. I love the fact that we've taken over some other places where we could take a building and really bring it to life. We think with a little love and care and what we do, which is make buildings even better, we think it's going to be win-win for the music community."

Don Strasburg (center) with the members of Furthur last summer at Red Rocks.
Don Strasburg (center) with the members of Furthur last summer at Red Rocks.

Ironically, Morris helmed Live Nation Entertainment (previously Clear Channel Entertainment, and before that, SFX and Chuck Morris/Bill Graham Presents), the company that currently books and operates Fiddler's Green, prior to leading AEG Live Rocky Mountains. Equally noteworthy, when Morris and his team of fellow former Live Nation staffers launched their local AEG outpost, the company didn't have any real estate of its own to speak of in which to book its shows.

These days, in addition to booking shows at Red Rocks and the Pepsi Center, AEG does shows at the Ogden Theatre, Bluebird Theatre and Gothic Theatre, which it took over this past January, as well as 1STBANK Center, the former Broomfield Events Center, which AEG likewise took over, renovated and relaunched in March, 2010. Needless to say, Morris and company have ample experience in this area.

"I mean, remember, we're the people that took over the old Mammoth Gardens and made it the Fillmore," he points out. "And of course, 1STBANK, and Don, when he first got out of college with the Fox Theatre, and me with my first two clubs, Ebbets Fields and Tulagi's. We love that. It's a chance for new accomplishments and a chance to make something beautiful happen, and that's what keeps my energy going."

If you ask Morris, the reason for the company's ongoing success in such a highly competitive market is simple: "I have the best team in the business," he concludes. "I have people that love the business. They love what they do, and they don't watch the clock."

"The reason our team is able to put so much effort and energy into what we do," Strasburg explains, "is because we recognize that our job is to really make sure and do our best for the community to make sure they have the absolute best live concert experiences as humanly possible. That, for me, and that responsibility is the number one motivator. It's an honor to have that responsibility for all of us.

"We're all very different. The musical tastes we have. All of the bookers in our office really have different tastes, from Danny Sax, who definitely likes the harder-edge music, Scott Campbell, who certainly has an affinity toward some of the more independent and some of the more electronic music, myself, who has been more of a groove type, jam person. Brent is more into a country music and arena rock thing, and Chuck has a very wide range, from country all the way to folk and all different types of music.

"We all love different types of music, and we all come from different places, but the love is exactly the same," he concludes. "So we all respect each other's talent and tastes, and we bring a little different insight into what each sphere of this community might want."

See also:

- The ten biggest concert buzzkills

- 25 reasons the Denver music scene rules

- The 20 most coveted Colorado music-industry jobs





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