Imagine wading in a duck pond searching for your lost disc-golf driver while the Zac Brown Band performs “Knee Deep” on a nearby stage. Or how about pulling your raft out the Boise River and hearing Neil Young blasting “Down By the River”?
It’s within the realm of possibility if Boise officials and concert promoters find common ground in the city’s flagship park.
The Parks and Recreation Department is exploring the idea of an Ann Morrison Park concert series next summer. The city is soliciting proposals from promoters.
There’s no guarantee that a concert series will be approved, or that the city even will receive a formal proposal, says Parks and Rec Director Doug Holloway. He will decide whether to make a recommendation after the Oct. 24 deadline for proposals.
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But Ann Morrison Park could rock in 2017.
“We would love to do it,” says Nic Miller, Boise’s director of economic development. “But it’s got to be done in a way that is consistent with the use of our parks.”
The city has crafted a formidable list of requirements putting full responsibility for concert production on the promoter. “Everything,” Holloway says. “It won’t cost the city anything.”
These mandates — which may or may not be up for negotiation — include one concert free to the public per season, a $3 park-improvement fee added to each ticket and no permanent infrastructure.
“This is why it’s going to be a challenge for someone to pull it off,” Holloway says. “We, the city, aren’t necessarily wanting to be in the concert business. We’re just providing the location, the venue, for someone to be able to do this.”
The decision to seek proposals was set in motion after an inquiry from Austin, Texas-based Paragon Presents, whose president is Paul Thornton, a former Boise promoter. Thornton says he isn’t sure whether Paragon will make a formal proposal.
“We’re just evaluating to see if the economics can work and if it makes sense,” he says.
Among the unknowns are the size of concerts and the price of tickets.
At least two other promoters in Boise, Knitting Factory Presents (which put on this summer’s shows at Memorial Stadium) and CMoore Live (which produces concerts at Outlaw Field), also are analyzing the scenario.
Mark Dinerstein, president of Knitting Factory Presents, says his company would be “honored” to put on shows at Ann Morrison Park. “It is exciting,” he says.
For Boise’s park system, a concert series would be another creative way of maximizing use. “We’re trying to be very progressive,” Holloway says. It also could be profitable, he adds. “It looks like the tax-paying public could make some money on the deal between the rental on the park and the money on each ticket sold.”
From an economic standpoint, Ann Morrison Park concerts would offer a vibrant, attractive perk for Boiseans who live Downtown, and for out-of-state millennials considering moving to Idaho for jobs.
Miller likens the concept to the Twilight Concert Series in Salt Lake City’s Pioneer Park. The young-adult-targeted series draws up to 15,000 fans on Thursdays and books hip acts such as Diplo and Jenny Lewis.
“I’m a concertgoer,” Miller says. “... It would be cool to have something that was outdoors, affordable and was like the Twilight.”
Holloway stressed that concerts would not prevent anyone from visiting Ann Morrison Park, even if they wanted to spread a blanket outside the fenced-in, ticketed concert area and enjoy a picnic.
“There could be a fireworks tie,” he envisions, referring to the city’s annual Fourth of July display. “People could show up to listen to Steve Miller or whoever might be at the venue and just enjoy the evening and listen to the music without having to see the artist.”
Promoters say it’s too early to predict what type of acts might be booked. Thornton of Paragon Presents guessed it would be “mid-range stuff” — shows that draw 3,000 to 7,000 fans. Nobody is picturing anything as large as the annual Boise Music Festival, which drew as many as 50,000 fans during its two-year stint in Ann Morrison Park as a free event.
Kevin Godwin — regional vice president of Townsquare Media, which produces the Boise Music Festival — has fond memories of seeing touring acts at Ann Morrison Park.
“I think the ambiance of that park is really cool,” he says. “It’s a beautiful park. That part of it’s really great. Beyond that, it’s really tough to do anything without a lot of money. You’re starting from scratch with infrastructure.”
The Boise Music Festival relocated to Expo Idaho in 2012.
“A lot of it had to do with the fact that it just made itself a heck of a lot easier,” Godwin says, “from a security standpoint, parking standpoint, utilities, bathrooms, lots of places for entry.”
In Austin, Paragon Presents recently partnered with the Austin American-Statesman to create the outdoor, 7,200-capacity Statesman Skyline Theater. It’s similar to the idea being considered at Ann Morrison Park, but the Austin site has the added benefit of power and a nearby building that provides dressing rooms, showers and production offices.
“It’s on the park right along the river in the heart of Downtown,” Thornton says. “We just opened it this season and fans love it. The survey results have been great.”
Concert series requirements
▪ Potential concerts would happen May through October.
▪ An admission fee would be charged to concert attendees.
▪ The promoter would provide one concert free of charge to the public each season.
▪ A $3 park-improvement fee would be added to the cost of each ticket sold. Proceeds would be used for maintenance and improvements at Ann Morrison Park.
▪ The park would remain open to the public during all concerts. However, the promoter would have the ability to create a secured staging area in order to charge a concert entrance fee.
▪ There would be no permanent infrastructure or manipulations made to Ann Morrison Park. The provider would be solely responsible for setup and removal of all temporary infrastructure and crowd-control measures.
▪ The provider would comply with all requirements for special events as defined by Boise city code.
▪ A fixed amount or percentage would go to a local charity or charities.
▪ The city would retain the right to have sole discretion and approval of all entertainers proposed by the promoter.
▪ The agreement would be for one year with a two-year extension option.
▪ The promoter would be required to pay the greater of a proposed percentage rent or the minimum annual guarantee of $3,000.