Denver parks soon to host admission-based events -- but bigger isn't necessarily better

Admission-based events are more than likely coming soon to a city park near you!

Last Thursday night, the Denver Parks and Recreation Advisory Board approved in a ten-to-seven vote a controversial policy allowing ticketed events in select city parks, including Civic Center, Confluence and Skyline.

The policy took several years, several public hearings and several rewrites to craft. The idea to open the parks to admission-based events sparked opposition from the start. But in the end, a majority of the board was committed to writing a policy that would work. Now it's up to parks department manager Kevin Patterson to implement it.

Among the policy's tenets, according to department spokeswoman Jill McGranahan:

  • The maximum size of a ticketed event shall be 7,500 people. (By comparison, she says, City Park Jazz regularly draws 10,000.)
  • A ticketed event shall occupy no more than twenty acres or 20 percent of a certain park, whichever is smaller.
  • No more than one event shall be held at any one park within a fifteen-day period.
  • Organizations shall be limited to holding one event every thirty days.

The idea for admission-based events in city parks got a lot of press back in 2007, when the Mile High Music Festival asked to hold the two-day event at City Park (which was nixed due to concerns from the Denver Zoo). McGranahan says the parks department has had trouble convincing people that mega-gatherings isn't what it has in mind.

"People haven't let go of the notion that there will be huge, large-scale events in the parks," she explains. "This was created for nonprofits who want to hold fundraisers in the parks."

McGranahan says the department estimates it will make about $500,000 per year from the new policy, which requires that the department get a cut of the so-called "seat tax" or of the event's admissions fee. All profits will go back into the parks, she notes.

"It's never been a question of money," she says. Instead, the department is simply responding to myriad requests it's gotten over the years from people wanting to hold ticketed events, though she admits the department hasn't kept good track of them.

There is no official timeline for when the new policy will be implemented, but McGranahan says it will probably be in place by spring. To apply, visit the parks permit web page.

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Melanie Asmar is a staff writer for Westword. She joined the paper in 2009 and has won awards for her stories about education, immigration and epic legal battles. Got a tip? She'd love to hear it.
Contact: Melanie Asmar