A $40 million, 8,000-seat outdoor amphitheater that would host top-name music and entertainment acts is planned for Colorado Springs' north side, where it would offer concertgoers a state-of-the-art venue in an open-air setting akin to Red Rocks and Fiddler's Green near Denver.
The Sunset, as it would be called, would help lift Colorado Springs out of an "entertainment desert" while it attracts thousands of people to nearby restaurants and stores, said Springs businessman and entrepreneur J.W. Roth, whose Notes Live entertainment company plans to develop the venue.
The amphitheater would be built on 6.5 acres in the 200-acre Polaris Pointe development southeast of Interstate 25 and North Gate Boulevard. The venue, to go up south of the new Powers Boulevard extension that runs through Polaris Pointe, would have west-facing seats pointed toward a mountain backdrop and the Air Force Academy, Roth said.
"We call it the Sunset because the headliner show every night during concert season will begin when the sun sets behind Pikes Peak," he said.
Roth hopes to begin site preparation work in about 45 days, complete the venue by late summer 2023, and host shows before the end of that year. He envisions a full concert season in 2024, with the most attractive dates between Memorial Day and Labor Day, though shows also could take place other times of the year.
The Sunset would be arguably Roth's most ambitious project.
He developed the indoor Boot Barn Hall at Bourbon Brothers, also at Polaris Pointe; the 1,000-seat music venue hosts meetings, banquets and trade shows in addition to shows. Boot Barn Hall stands next to two Roth restaurants — the Bourbon Brothers Smokehouse & Tavern and Buttermilk Breakfast & Burgers.
A second Boot Barn Hall and Bourbon Brothers complex is under construction in suburban Atlanta and targeted to open in December, Roth said.
His Notes Live, of which he's founder, chairman and CEO and which includes a network of more than 60 institutional and individual investors, owns and operates the Boot Barn Hall and restaurants, Roth said. The group also is in talks to expand the Boot Barn Hall concept to cities in Florida, Tennessee and Texas.
Roth also has other enterprises: He founded a Springs company that manufactures, distributes, and sells freshly prepared foods and sells them in more than 8,000 stores nationwide.
But the Sunset will be a special project, Roth said.
"I love live music, I love our city, I love Colorado Springs," Roth said. "It is my home, it's been my home for 60 years. I want to see the culture and the arts culture in Colorado Springs flourish. And I've just had great success with Boot Barn Hall. The community has just embraced it."
As envisioned, Roth said the Sunset will have a lower bowl with 4,000 fixed seats; 60 VIP fire pit suites and a lower bowl, each with 500 fixed seats; and lawn seating for 3,000.
Four, five-star restaurants — each with two stories — will have views of the stage; Roth plans to open a seafood and chophouse restaurant as one of the restaurants.
The Sunset won't compete with other venues, Roth said, but will complement the likes of the 9,500-seat Red Rocks, the 17,000-seat Fiddler's Green and The Broadmoor World Arena, the 8,000-seat indoor facility in Colorado Springs.
Other local, larger-scale venues that host shows and concerts include the indoor Pikes Peak Center for the Performing Arts and Weidner Field, an outdoor multipurpose stadium that opened last year. Both are downtown.
Roth said he believes there's room for the Sunset in Colorado Springs — just like there are multiple venues in the Denver area.
"Does Ball Arena look to compete with Red Rocks?" Roth said of Denver's municipal arena. "Does it look to compete with Fiddler's Green. I think the answer is no.
"There's a lot of artists and there are a lot of tours," he said, "and I don't think that the venues all need to get up in the morning and decide they're going to compete with each other in the sense of trying to land or book certain artists. I just don't feel that."
Roth said the Sunset will feature A-list talent — "the same kinds of tours that you would see at Red Rocks or at Fiddler's Green."
No companies have been hired to book and promote events for the Sunset, but Roth said he expects to talk with the Anschutz Entertainment Group and Live Nation, California-based entertainment companies that are two of the nation's largest music and concert promoters.
Polaris Pointe, where the Sunset will be built, was designed as a retail complex by Springs developer Gary Erickson, who launched the project in 2010.
Bass Pro Shops, which opened three years later, anchors Polaris Pointe; the development also is home to dozens of stores, restaurants and service-oriented business.
But as brick-and-mortar retail development has waned in the face of competition from Amazon and other online shopping services, Erickson shifted his strategy at Polaris Pointe.
Several hundred apartments have been built at Polaris Pointe, while Erickson also has sought to make Polaris Pointe an entertainment hub with several people-generating attractions.
Polaris Pointe is now home to a Topgolf driving range and entertainment center; an iFly indoor skydiving venue; and the AirCity360 family entertainment complex. A Dart Wars indoor Nerf battle arena also is coming to Polaris Pointe, Erickson said.
Even before Erickson focused on entertainment attractions, Polaris Pointe became home to a Magnum Shooting Center and Overdrive Raceway, an indoor go-kart track.
Erickson said he next wants to bring a hotel and water park to the development.
Both concepts had been part of his plans for Polaris Pointe several years ago, but were shelved after the Great Wolf Lodge and Water Park opened a few miles to the south in the InterQuest Marketplace development.
But now with an 8,000-seat music venue on site, Erickson says a hotel will become a major need for Polaris Pointe.
"People are going to want to come spend the night and walk across the street to a hotel room instead of driving home after enjoying their band and having a few drinks, he said."
In 2010, the Colorado Springs City Council designated Polaris Pointe — originally called Copper Ridge at Northgate — as an urban renewal project, a controversial decision at the time because the property was little more than an undisturbed greenfield site.
The urban renewal designation allowed sales tax revenues generated by new development at Polaris Pointe to be used to build the extension of Powers Boulevard, between Voyager Parkway and Interstate 25.
Though Powers is a state highway, the Colorado Department of Transportation had no funding for the extension; instead, City Council members at the time used the urban renewal designation as a tool to pay for what they said was a sorely needed road project in a fast-growing part of town.