Moving Pictures: A first look at the newly renovated 1st Bank Center
It's hard to excited about an arena. Any arena. I mean, we're talking about a place whose sole purpose for existing is to host large scale events that are impersonal by nature, and often times marked by shoddy sound and over priced drinks. And while I can't rightly speak to those things as they apply to the newly renovated 1st Bank Center just yet -- I haven't experienced the revamped sound system in a concert setting and drinks were on the house last night -- I'm geniunely excited to see a show at former Broomfield Events Center (also formerly known as Odeum Colorado), which I had a chance to tour last night. I'm so excited, in fact, that I'm hankering to see Furthur there this weekend -- a band whose Grateful lineage I'm about as fond of as the root canal I had yesterday.
When you arrive at the 1st Bank Center -- it took us thirty minutes or so to get there from the front door of the Westword offices on 10th & Broadway to the venue, in very light traffic -- the first thing you notice is how warm the place feels. Seriously. Whatever earth tone they chose (wine?) to paint the place really is soothing, and the window treatments dress the place up nicely, as well. But it's going to take more than just slapping a fresh coat of paint on the joint to attract concert fans -- something the folks at Peak Entertainment (the name given to the management partnership between AEG Live Rocky Mountain and Kroenke Sports Enterprises) are clearly keenly aware of, from the looks of it.
Again, while I can't yet speak for the sound -- though Paper Bird sounded quite lovely last night as we toured the facility -- it's clear the Peak Entertainment folks thought the renovations through, from the upper lounge, located in the back of the venue on the upper tier, which is outfitted with a half dozen tables and stools, offers near perfect sight lines and is currently available to any ticket holders, to the 25 private suites, which are every bit as luxurious as those at the Pepsi Center and share similar unobstructed sight lines. (The upper lounge area will eventually serve as the Colorado Music Hall of Fame, which will feature exhibits and memorabilia from Colorado-based acts.)
Peak payed especially close attention to "lighting mitigation," as they put it, which is basically a fancy way of saying that the lighting doesn't pose a distraction. And it doesn't. Each suite, for instance, is outfitted with yellow gel lights underneath the cabinets, which fill the space with enough light to see without being intrusive to those outside the suite on the main floor. Likewise, the aisles in the main bowl are lit with very subtle blue gels, which accomplish the same effect. And there's also darkening shades on all outside windows preventing natural light from distracting audiences.
And the focus was not just on keeping light out, there's also this really cool uniquely shaped continuous screen that frames the stage on the top wraps around the sides, in which projections, we're told, will be beamed, customized to each event. They can either look like curtains if they so choose, or feature tye-died visuals, depending upon the act. Oh and the lantern balls. Can't forget the lantern balls. There's a trio of lantern bulbs in various colors hovering from the rafters on either side of the bowl. Evidently, they're one of a kind, and were hand sewn locally. Nice touch.
We noticed a number of other amenities including four bars, two upstairs -- one on the southern end of the building, the Mountain View Lounge, which will be halved to handle artist catering on one side and dedicated to suite holders on the other, and one of the northern side of the building, Bridge Point, which will be available to all ticket holders -- and two downstairs. In other words, there's plenty of places to get your drink on. There's also walk-out terrace balconies that wrap the entire building on the upper level, presumably so folks can duck out for some fresh air when weather permits.
Inside the bowl, the set up reminded me a bit of the Fillmore, in terms of size and presentation, and World Arena, with the rows of seats on all sides. The idea, evidently, was to make the place fill more like a theater than an arena. On that end, I'd say mission accomplished. It doesn't feel like a soulless field house. You get the sense -- or at least I did anyway -- that seeing shows here is going to be far more intimate than your average arena experience.
And it looks like Peak's got the back-end locked down, as well. Production ace, Shawn Stokes from the Pepsi Center, is overseeing the production side of things at 1st Bank, and he told us that the place has easily accessible loading docks and is capable of accommodating full-scale productions, however unorthodox they may be.
Although the jury's still out on the sound, all in all, with the renovations, the added parking, the proximity of RTD's forthcoming park-n-ride, which is just across the highway -- not to mention the inevitable light rail line -- the 1st Bank Center is certainly poised to become one of the state's premiere mid-sized venue, as Peak promises. Even if you're like me and not a gigantic fan of arena shows, this place seems to have everything in place to offer a pretty enjoyable experience overall. We'll see.