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Superfly Productions, the company behind Outside Lands in San Francisco (pictured), will bring a new fest to Denver in 2018. Photograph by Steve / Flickr via Creative Commons

After Controversial Vote, City Council Approves Denver’s Largest Music Festival

The economic boost was a key motivator for city council members as they approved the Superfly Productions-backed festival for a five-year contract.

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Starting in September 2018, Superfly Productions, the company behind popular music festivals like Bonnaroo in Tennessee and Outside Lands in San Francisco, will bring a three-day music festival to Denver’s Overland Park Golf Course. The Denver City Council voted 10–3 Monday night to approve Superfly’s bid for a five-year stay at the golf course. The yet-to-be-named festival will be Denver’s largest music festival by far, with the contract capping daily attendance at 80,000 people.

The city council approved Superfly’s bid despite a healthy dose of debate among council members, neighborhood residents, and Superfly Productions. Among the “No” votes was Councilman Kevin Flynn (District 2), who cited the Admissions-Based Events regulatory policy, which was approved in 2010, as his reason for voting down the bid. Essentially, this policy outlines where and how private companies can use Denver parks for events people must pay to attend. The City Council-approved contract doesn’t abide by some of these regulations.

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For example, the policy states that city parks can only be closed for four days, including setup and teardown. The Superfly contract allows the company to close Overland Park Golf Course for up to five weeks surrounding the festival. Only seven park facilities are approved for these types of events, and no golf courses are on the list. The policy also states that daily attendance must be capped at 7,500 people or the maximum capacity of the park—whichever number is lower. The music festival’s contract is capped at 80,000 people. (Read the official music fest contract here.)

Councilman Jolon Clark—who represents Denver’s District 7, where the festival will take place—voted to approve the bid. When asked about the 2010 policy, he argued that it was simply irrelevant. “From a community standpoint, the Admissions-Based Events policy was never about golf courses,” Clark says. “It was about free, accessible public parks, and what we do on fee-based spaces, such as a public golf course, is fundamentally different from what goes on in our free spaces.”

Beyond the policy argument, other council members cited neighborhood concerns as a reason to vote the measure down. Councilman Paul Kashmann (District 6), another “No” vote, says he was unwilling to approve the festival without seeing finalized plans for how organizers will deal with transportation, security, and trash. “I needed to see proper neighborhood protections built into the plans [to approve the measure],” Kashmann says. “Now, these plans won’t be resolved until 60 days before the event. We just have to trust and believe that [Superfly Productions] has a solution.”

Clark, however, sees the delayed plans for these matters as a positive. “This ensures that the plan will account for real-time issues,” Clark says. “Plus, all the plans need to be approved by city agencies and departments. When the City Council votes on contracts, it’s not up to us to vote yes or no—it’s not up to us to get the approved plans.”

Regardless of the disagreements that came up in the approval process, the focus is now on how to move forward. Flynn and Clark agreed that Superfly Productions has done well when it comes to community outreach and preparation. Flynn even went as far as to call Overland Park Golf Course “the least bad option out of all the places they could’ve chosen.”

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A key motivator, Clark says, was the economic benefit to both local neighborhoods and the Denver Golf Enterprise Fund. The Denver Post reports that the City of Denver could profit by as much as $2 million. Additionally, over the five-year stay, the festival will bring in more than $1 million for the Denver Golf Enterprise Fund, which funds city-owned golf courses. Clark says the money is much-needed, as that specific fund is currently behind on deferential maintenance costs. Surrounding neighborhoods, Clark says, can also expect somewhere around $700,000 for infrastructure and other improvements to come from the festival.

Oh, and there’s also the music. If Superfly’s success with Bonnaroo and Outside Lands are any indication, the event will be well worth the price of admission.

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