A private promoter wants to take over the Overland Park Golf Course (OPGC) in September 2018 for an admission-based music festival that could host between 60,000 and 200,000 people over three days. …
This item is available in full to subscribers.
If you're a print subscriber, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one.
Click here to see your options for becoming a subscriber.
If you made a voluntary contribution in 2022-2023 of $50 or more, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one at no additional charge. VIP Digital Access includes access to all websites and online content.
A private promoter wants to take over the Overland Park Golf Course (OPGC) in September 2018 for an admission-based music festival that could host between 60,000 and 200,000 people over three days. At a public meeting on Feb. 1 at Schmitt Elementary School, it was clear the proposal is dividing the neighborhood.
Overland Park Golf Course is a quiet, bucolic space just north of Evans Avenue, east of South Santa Fe Boulevard’s rushing traffic and west of the Platte River. Many neighborhood residents would like it to remain just the way it is. For others, a major music festival is an opportunity worth closing the course for four to six weeks and allowing thousands of people into the area for a three-day event. They think it would “put us on the map” and bring money into the neighborhood.
Matt Edgar lines his shot up at Overland Golf Course. The course could soon be the site of a 200,000-person music festival, although not everyone's amped at the idea. Photo by Sara Hertwig.
The promoters are AEG, the giant, national entertainment company behind the Coachella music festival in Indio, California, and Superfly, the company behind both Bonnaroo in Manchester, Tennessee and Outside Lands in San Francisco. They want a five-year contract on OPGC for up to six weeks annually to accommodate festival setup and teardown and to repair any damage.
AEG’s local consultant, David Ehrlich, compared the festival with Outside Lands in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, which features local food and wine, art exhibits, comedy acts and family-oriented activities, as well as top musical acts like Radiohead. He estimated Denver’s festival could grow to 60,000+ people per day. A three-day ticket could cost more than $300.
A Ruby Hill resident asked (to much applause), “Why a golf course and not somewhere else?” Ehrlich answered, “The festival requires a headliner. You can get a lot of people on a golf course. What people want is to be outside on the grass—not in a parking lot.
“Denver is arguably one of the last, and one of the top cities in the country without its own true organic festival, reflective of its community,” Ehrlich said in an interview.
Overland Park was chosen because of “its interesting different view planes, trees, nice covering. Conceptually, it’s very similar [to Golden Gate Park].” Ehrlich said the promoters are also considering a site in Westminster; he hopes to know by May if Denver will negotiate a contract.
District 7 City Councilman Jolon Clark called the festival “an opportunity” with an estimated $60 million economic impact. The city would get between $1.5-$2 million from lease fees and seat taxes, which could increase with more attendance. Moreover, local jobs would be created and, as with Outside Lands, local nonprofit groups would be involved and benefit.
At the meeting, and in a later interview, Clark said, “I’m excited about the process,” saying Mayor Hancock promised the neighborhood’s wishes would guide the decision and City Council would have final say. “We have to find out what are the core concerns and can they be mitigated. We continue to check the boxes,” Clark said.
Those core concerns include moving huge crowds through the neighborhood, traffic management and parking. Like Outside Lands, this is envisioned as a “non-car festival,” with people coming via light rail, Uber/Lyft, bicycle and on foot. Keeping cars out of the neighborhood could be a contract stipulation.
A recurring question was whether the money the city gets will be directed to the neighborhood. Clark acknowledged lease fees go directly to the golf course and seat taxes go to the general fund, but said, he’d “fight to the death to secure the neighborhood’s fair share.”
Helene Orr, who lives on West Jewell Avenue across from OPGC, is among the most vocal opponents. “I don’t think public spaces should be leased to the highest bidder,” she said. She has collected almost 500 written and online petition signatures against the festival.
In an interview, Orr said, “It’s not a real process to me. We won’t be in on the contract. We can say ‘XYZ’ but how will we know?” She believes the city intends to turn Overland Park into a permanent, large-event venue and points out that Levitt Pavilion—under construction in nearby Ruby Hill Park—will host 50 smaller music events annually, beginning this summer.
Many attending the public meeting were worried about protecting the golf course and its wildlife. Orr shares those concerns. “The golf course is part of a major riparian corridor and a certified Audubon habitat. There will be people crawling all over the river and disturbing wildlife and bird life.”
Denver’s Director of Golf, Scott Rethlake, said festival promoters would reimburse the city for all lost golf fees, protect the turf and restore any damaged areas. City representatives visited San Francisco to learn about the impact of Outside Lands, which annually hosts more than 200,000 in Golden Gate Park. Rethlake said they heard that festival was less damaging than a PGA tournament was to a nearby golf course.
Rethlake said the lease fees would also enable the golf course, which doesn’t receive any direct city funding, to speed up some maintenance and capital development projects. He flatly denied that Overland would become a permanent venue. “It will always be a golf course.”
The proposed festival has plenty of supporters. Rob Lovell and Rana Razzaque live directly opposite the driving range, which would host the mainstage. “We want to see progress. It will be noisy for three days, but it will bring in world-class artists. A few large trucks are a small price to pay for a top-notch festival,” Lovell said. “It could be a keystone of an arts and culture scene on South Broadway.”
“This should bring increased infrastructure into the area. This would increase the focus on traffic,” Razzaque said. “They are aware of the issues. We’re pleased they’ll do an environmental impact statement and install fencing to protect the trees.”
Jack Unruh, a supporter who lives a few blocks south of Overland Park, said, “Part of the [perceived] injustice is that it’s not free. But it would never happen if it were free.” He pointed out that OPGC has seen many uses in its 125 years. “Its use as a golf course is the most stable use, but there have been auto races and harness races. Car campers. And the last edition of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show was here.”
“So far, I have not heard any downside that specifically concerns me enough to cloud my own enthusiasm…right now I am far more concerned about how this event may create a serious divide among our neighbors,” said OPGC neighbor Paul Bodor.
We have noticed you are using an ad blocking plugin in your browser.
The revenue we receive from our advertisers helps make this site possible. We request you whitelist our site.