Colorado Springs Planning Commission approves controversial 8,000-seat outdoor amphitheater | The grandstand

A controversial 8,000-seat outdoor amphitheater proposed for Colorado Springs’ far north side was approved by a split city planning commission last week.

The Nov. 9 decision followed more than seven hours of debate and discussion in which the amphitheater’s developer touted the economic and livability benefits of the project, and nearby residents objected to noise, parking and traffic issues they fear the venue would be created.

Area residents are expected to appeal the commission’s decision to the Colorado Springs City Council, which would have the final say on the project. An objection must be filed with the city clerk’s office by 5:00 p.m. on November 18.

The subject of the planning commission was the $40 million Sunset Amphitheater that Springs-based entertainment company Notes Live plans to build as part of Polaris Pointe’s commercial development just southeast of Interstate 25 and North Gate Boulevard. The 18-acre project would be built along Spectrum Loop south of the Powers Boulevard extension that runs through Polaris Pointe.

Notes Live envisions Sunset as a world-class venue, including VIP stadium seating and luxurious fireplace suites, hosting 30 to 40 big name concerts per year, mainly from May to September. It could also host weddings, graduations, church services and other events, company officials say.

With the Air Force Academy and Pikes Peak as a scenic backdrop, the Sunset would offer the kind of high-end entertainment experience residents can only get by heading to Red Rocks and Fiddler’s Green in the Denver area, officials said Planning Commission Notes Live. They have targeted a 2024 opening for the venue.

“It will make Colorado Springs a destination for world-class artists,” said Robert Mudd, Notes Live’s President and Chief Operating Officer. “It will be an asset for touring for music acts and the arts, as well as community events, which will be significant. … From a design and architectural point of view, we are building something that should be timeless.”

Notes Lives estimates the economic impact of the venue — from ticket sales, food and beverage purchases, visitor spend and the like — to total $102.3 million per year and $1 billion over 10 years.

Planning commission members also heard from community, business and civic leaders who said the amphitheater will attract tourists, enhance the area’s cultural scene and become a type of amenity that would attract young professionals.

Several residents told the planning commission that they also liked the concept of the project – just not in their backyard.

Thousands of homeowners in Greyhawk, Flying Horse, Northgate Highlands and other neighborhoods live close to the amphitheater and don’t want the sound of concerts invading their backyards and bedrooms on summer nights.

Notes Live officials responded that several noise abatement measures — such as installing the stage at the far west end of the site and erecting four restaurant buildings behind the last seating area to act as soundproofing — would prevent noise levels from exceeding the city limits for residential areas at night exceeds hrs. Sunset concerts and shows would run until 10:30pm Sunday-Thursday and 11:30pm Friday-Saturday.

Local residents also protested the project’s park plan. When it opens, the amphitheater would seat 3,036, which would exceed the 2,648 seats Notes Live’s parks and transportation consultant needs for a sold-out show that draws 8,000 people.

But Notes Live will rely on off-site parking at Bass Pro Shops, charter school The Classical Academy and the Ministry of Compassion International for about 60% of those 3,000+ parking spaces. Only 216 permanent parking spots would be available on-site for concert-goers, while Notes Live also plans to park 469 vehicles along the Spectrum Loop.

With insufficient on-site parking and despite off-site parking, some concert-goers park in the neighborhood and may return drunk and disorderly when they pick up their vehicles, some residents complained. Roads around the venue, they added, become congested with vehicles on concert nights and could prevent fire engines and ambulances from responding quickly to emergencies.

“As a resident, I’m totally against it,” says Janine Sledz. “Move it somewhere else where people don’t already live. These are pre-existing neighborhoods and we will have a great deal of inconvenience.”

A Notes Live consultant said multiple parking areas – a concept known as distributed parking – would prevent long lines of vehicles from forming if they all left the venue at once. Also, 1,878 parking spaces would be within a half mile radius of the venue and all 3,036 parking spaces would be within a 2 mile radius. Up to a dozen free shuttle buses served visitors on concert evenings.

Polaris Pointe developer Gary Erickson said it wouldn’t make sense to install surface lots that would go unused for several months of the year while more ground is covered with asphalt, potentially causing drainage problems. City Fire Marshal Brett Lacey also told the commission that the fire department does not anticipate problems responding to event night emergencies.

The planning commission voted 6 to 3 to approve a development plan for the amphitheater. By a 5-4 vote, commissioners approved variances to allow shared parking on lots within 2 miles of the venue instead of 400 feet; reducing the number of on-site parking spaces required from 700 to 300; and add a half mile to the length of Spectrum Loop where vehicles can be parked.

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