A Mile High Time In Denver

The inaugural Mile High Music Festival is in the books, drawing an estimated 90,000 fans to Dick’s Sporting Goods Stadium’s adjacent soccer fields to soak up two days of scorching music and sun.

Despite temperatures that reached 102 degrees July 19-20, the five stages were virtually jammed and AEG Live Rocky Mountains chief Chuck Morris reports only two people were treated for heat-related problems and a single arrest was made for public intoxication.

"It was a pretty outrageous festival, especially for a first year," a tired but happy Morris told Pollstar. "I’m so proud of my staff and everybody who put it together for what we accomplished. We have a lot of work ahead of us to tweak different things to make it better but, by and large, the attendance, the sound, everything was fantastic."

Some 50 artists performed over two days, with Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers and Dave Matthews Band topping the respective lineups. While the festival itself was staged across 24 soccer fields in the Denver suburb of Commerce City, the stadium’s concourse was open, providing fans additional restrooms, beer stands, restaurants – and most importantly, shade.

Dick’s Sporting Goods Stadium was pressed into service as the festival’s venue when original plans to stage the event at Denver’s City Park fell through because of concerns from zoo officials.

In the end, Morris considered the venue switch "a blessing in disguise."

"This place is only 10 minutes by freeway from downtown Denver but there’s really no close neighbors," Morris explained. "It has no sound requirements, tons of parking and no curfew. There’s no anything.

"You can call it luck, but it turned out to be much, much easier to deal with and the kids loved it. There are 24 soccer fields that are lit up at night when the show’s over, beautiful green grass and tremendous amenities 50 feet away in the stadium for people who wanted to go in there."

While Morris would not confirm attendance or gross ticket sales, he cited an estimate of 90,000 in the local press and said he had no argument with it. As for the all-important question of profit or loss, he noted that most festivals expect to lose money the first year or two but conceded that "we’re very happy with the financial results from a first-year festival; extremely happy. I can’t complain."

If the 90,000 paid attendance estimate holds, that would equal Bonnaroo’s first-year attendance in 2004 and surpass Lollapalooza’s 60,000 reported in its first year at Chicago’s Grant Park.

Despite the festival’s successful coming-out party, Morris isn’t content to sit on his laurels. He and his staff, including partners Brent Fedrizzi and Don Strasburg, are already looking at ways to improve Mile High next year.

"We have to tweak a few things, but for the first year when you only have to use the word ‘tweak’ I think it’s pretty amazing," Morris said.

Among the improvements already being considered are more visible food and beverage stands, water stations and sprays, easier parking and making some changes in placement of stages.

"We have a list already of about 40 things we want to improve," Morris said. "We want more trees put in, more tents for eating and for shade, and improve the VIP experience. People can go into the stadium and the concourse, which is totally covered, and many did and buy beers and food there. But that’s one of the things that we really want to improve.

"We’ve been doing this a long time and we know the only way to go is to get better and never worse. I’m amazed how few problems we had, literally. From traffic congestion to sound quality on all the stages, it was just brilliant. There was almost zero bleeding from the stages, which is almost always a problem for some festivals.

"And, hopefully, we want to beat the lineup, which will be hard to do. I thought the lineup was superb."

In addition to Tom Petty and DMB, other artists included John Mayer, Steve Winwood, The Black Crowes, Colbie Caillat, Jason Mraz, Gavin DeGraw, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Ingrid Michaelson, Rodrigo y Gabriela, OneRepublic, The Roots and Flobots.