As reported in this space last month, AEG Live, led by Chuck Morris, who heads up the company's Rocky Mountain division, announced plans to produce a multi-day, inner city concert series next summer. On Tuesday, the concert promotions company hit a pretty substantial road block when it heard from Craig Piper, the president and CEO of the Denver Zoo, who expressed his opposition to the proposed Mile High Music and Arts Festival slated to take place at City Park. As a result, AEG has said it will spend the next month seeking out alternate sites, which could mean the group will essentially be back at square one.
“It saddens me to have to explore alternative sites," said Morris in a statement released today. "The residents of the City Park area have been wonderful to work with and representatives from the City have been very open to our proposal. The music festival itself would’ve raised millions of dollars for this beautiful park and the surrounding neighborhoods. Having began dialogue with the Zoo staff in early September, it is extremely disappointing they’ve waited this long to announce their position. We have said from day one that unless the Zoo blesses the event, we cannot have the festival in this location.”
If Morris sounds a little deflated it's easy to see why, considering all of the meticulous planning and efforts he and his team have already put into organizing the event thus far. From hiring seasoned traffic flow engineers to lobbying local government officials to seeking the endorsement of neighborhood groups through town hall meetings, Morris and company have really left no stones unturned in their quest to put together what they hope will become an annual summer concert series in Denver that's on par with festivals like Austin City Limits.
While Piper's timing undoubtedly throws a kink into AEG's resolute time line, his concerns are perfectly valid and understandable, at least from a business standpoint. His vested interest is in the well being of the Zoo's animals, not in helping broaden the city's already vibrant cultural landscape. At the same time, ideologically, it's hard to sidestep the irony of an institution that takes animals from their natural habitat and places them in a caged environment being concerned with subjecting those same creatures to excessive noise levels. Regardless, the unfortunate part here for for AEG is that Piper didn't voice his dissent until the end of November, after the initial meetings had already taken place. Morris and his associates claim they immediately responded by hiring an acoustical engineer to assess the projected sound levels the animals might be exposed to. They also tapped Howard Pollack, who promotes the Oklahoma City Zoo Music Series, to meet with zoo execs. None of those efforts, however, were convincing enough to persuade zoo officials into giving their blessing.
"Although we felt the information provided to the Zoo staff was satisfactory, unfortunately, our research did not satisfy their concerns," Morris said. "We felt we had done our due diligence, and that information reflected that a festival in City Park could take place. However, when Craig Piper notified City officials and our office on Tuesday about his position not to endorse the festival, we decided to explore other sites. Even though we are more than surprised by the timing of his decision, we will abide by it and respect his authority.”
With roughly seven months left until its proposed dates in mid-July, Morris and his crew have their hands full. The clock is ticking. To that end, when I spoke with Morris about the festival last month, he said he loves new challenges. “It keeps me young," he said. "I hate automatic pilot. The idea of starting fresh with some new ideas and having a company that really does a lot of things off the grid is exciting. AEG has done things a lot differently."
-- Dave Herrera