Fifth-generation Colorado native JW Roth looks at Colorado Springs and sees an entertainment desert — specifically, a dearth of high-quality music and entertainment venues.
So he’s building his own, a massive “coliseum” north of the city’s core.
He’s got some authority on the region, given that his family settled here before Colorado was even a state. His forbears’ names are still visible along the Front Range, from his mother’s side (see Pferdesteller Park in the Highland neighborhood) to Denver’s Henry Roth House, at First and Fox streets, which sits on the National Historic Register.
“My great-grandfather was a barrel cooper,” Roth said Wednesday via phone from Colorado Springs. “My grandfather was a (journalist) in Denver and my grandmother was an activist, who worked heavily in arts and culture, which is why they named the park after her. Now my son (Mitchell Roth) will inherit the next spot.”
Roth, a businessman who has taken seven companies public over the years, turned his successful prepared-foods company, Roth Premium Foods, over to his son so he could focus on his passion for live music. Roth food products are now available in 12,000 grocery stories nationwide, said Roth, who began his career by selling firewood door-to-door as a teenager.
Now he’s putting everything into his newest venture, Notes Live, which he expects will fill a hole in the Front Range’s fiercely competitive music scene, the Gazette first reported on Wednesday.
“I grew up on a small ranch that bordered the Greenland Ranch, between Colorado Springs and Denver, and worked for a ranch here that was part of the lease on that property,” Roth said. “I checked cows on that land as a junior high kid, and now I’m building an amphitheater on the same ground.”
The $40 million, 8,000-capacity Sunset amphitheater (or “coliseum,” as Roth called it), which he hopes to open in 2023, leads planned, additional venues in Georgia, Florida, Tennessee and Texas from Notes Live. The first of those — a 1,700 capacity indoor music venue in northern Atlanta that sits on an entire city block Roth purchased — will open by Christmas.
However, Colorado Springs’ Sunset venue is the flagship of Roth’s ambitious plan for Notes Live, and one situated on the Polaris Pointe development — a 60-business, 200-acre retail complex across from the city’s U.S. Air Force Academy.
The key is that it’s an upscale experience, said Roth, who wants to create “the most luxurious amphitheater ever built.” Amenities will include 60 VIP luxury suites with firepits, a rooftop bar with 150 kinds of bourbon, and four two-story restaurants offering seafood, a chophouse menu and more — inspired partially by the upscale food and drink at Coors Field, where Roth has season tickets, and other sports venues.
The Sunset venue also joins Roth’s current, mid-sized venue in Colorado Springs, the 1,000-capacity Boot Barn Hall, which hosts the same touring acts that tend to play Denver’s country-centric Grizzly Rose. (Roth noted he had a working relationship with Grizzly Rose owner Scott Durland.) Boot Barn Hall is booked independently, competing with titans such as AEG Presents Rocky Mountains, the region’s dominant promoter, and Live Nation, although Roth said he hopes to work with both at some point.
Boot Barn Hall, which opened in February 2019, sits on the same campus as Roth restaurants Bourbon Brothers and Buttermilk, A Breakfast Eatery. However, the Sunset amphitheater is so-named because it will offer a view of the sun disappearing over Pikes Peak, “right behind the stage as each concert begins, flanked by the (Air Force Academy) on the left and the iconic Air Force chapel on the right.”
Denver metro-area outdoor venues such as Red Rocks Amphitheatre (capacity 9,545) and Fiddler’s Green Amphitheatre (capacity 18,000) and Levitt Pavilion (20,000) already book some of the area’s biggest outdoor concerts, not to mention the festivals, massive indoor venues (Ball Arena, the FirstBank Center, Mission Ballroom, etc.) and theaters that already compete for the same touring stars. In its story about the Sunset amphitheater on Wednesday, the Colorado Springs Gazette posed the question: “Red Rocks south?”
Despite soft-peddling the Notes Live press release that identified Colorado Springs as an entertainment desert, Roth said his markets are some of the fastest-growing cities in America, and that his venues will cater to the upscale demographics “looking for a place where the overall experience is as good as the music itself.”
“I didn’t set out to compete with Red Rocks, which I’ve been going to since I was 16,” Roth said. “No one can replace these other venues, and I want to be a good neighbor and a good partner. There’s enough quality and quantity to Colorado’s outdoor music that we can all flourish.”
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