Five Reasons Why It Would Be Stupid To Demolish Boettcher Concert Hall

Categories: Architecture

Colorado Symphony Orchestra
Boettcher Hall is the home of the Colorado Symphony Orchestra.

I've never been a big fan of the City & County of Denver when it comes to architectural and artistic decisions. They've repeatedly dropped the ball on everything from I.M. Pei's Zeckendorf Plaza, which was demolished in 1996, to the proposed destruction of Civic Center Park's beauty in 2006, to running starchitects like Steven Holl and Santiago Calatrava out of town. And now those big thinkers are at it again with a plan to raze the Boettcher Concert Hall -- which is part of the Denver Performing Arts Complex -- and replace it with an outdoor amphitheater. News about the plan broke in July, when Colorado Symphony Orchestra chief executive officer Jerry Kern revealed a series of e-mails between himself and Kent Rice, director of the city's Arts & Venues Department, who said that demolition was the leading plan. (See our related story on the CSO's Jerry Kern.)

Hopefully, this idiotic scheme is now dead in the water. But this is Denver, so you never know. With that in mind, here are five reasons why destroying Boettcher is one of the city's most wrongheaded ideas in recent memory.

See also: Jerry Kern Has Made a Lot of Noise With the CSO -- But Can It Survive Discord With the City?

Denver Arts & Venues
The Denver Center for the Performing Arts borders noisy Speer Boulevard.

1. An amphitheater wouldn't work in that location
I'm sure there's a lot of money to be made by the companies who would take down Boettcher and its external staircase and move the Jonathan Borofsky "Dancers" sculptures -- and there's plenty more money to be made by the design and construction outfits who would build the new amphitheater. And I know in my heart that these are the interests behind this otherwise ludicrous idea.

What I don't understand is how an amphitheater on that site could possibly work as a concert venue. I'm not talking about the winter months; Red Rocks is world-famous and has survived many winters. No, I'm talking about the traffic noise on Speer Boulevard, which would drown out everything save for a performance by a metal band. A constant din is the normal condition there, and it turns into a roar if there's a game at Mile High Stadium or the Pepsi Center -- and there often is.

I sometimes wonder how the city officials can come up with this stuff, but what's even more confounding is that they can say it out loud while keeping straight faces.

Denver Arts & Venues
The lobby of Boettcher Concert Hall.

2. The schedule could be refreshed and updated
One of the things that has put the bull's-eye on Boettcher is the dwindling audience for classical music, and classical music is the main course in the concert hall because the Colorado Symphony is the primary tenant.

This seems to me to be a management issue that can be solved with much less effort than it would take to demolish the building and replace it with a gargantuan folly. Does the schedule at Boettcher need to be diversified? Diversify it. Add other acoustic musical acts like jazz groups or folk musicians if that's what's needed. This has already happened to a limited extent, but if it needs to happen more often, then do it more often. The building has nothing to do with this issue.

Having observed the process of sentencing a building to death, I've noticed that it's important that the subject look a little shabby to convince the gullible that the best idea is to trash it. This has gone on at Boettcher for years, which can convey a threadbare, run-down quality in places. But that problem could be solved for a few million dollars to pay for a thorough exterior and interior cleaning and a light refurbishment -- a fraction of the tens of millions that it would take to realize the ridiculous plan to destroy Boettcher and build a nonsensical amphitheater.

Denver Arts & Venues
Adding seats changed the nearly perfect proportions at Red Rocks.

3. Times change, as do trends
Roughly twenty years ago, the late Barry Fey, a legendary Denver music promoter, got behind the idea of tearing out all the benches at Red Rocks Amphitheatre and rebuilding them so that the beloved venue would have twice the seating capacity that it was intended to have. The fact that this would inalterably change the nearly perfect proportions of the terraced bowl created by Burnham Hoyt -- or that it would erase all the hard efforts by those thousands of worthy Civilian Conservation Corps workers who built it -- was beside the point. It was about making more money.

As the contentious discussions continued over several years, Fey (who, incidentally, is credited with helping to save Denver's symphony back in 1989) realized that the age of the mega-concert was over and changed his mind about the expansion, a concept that was his in the first place.

The point, in relation to Boettcher, is that just because the audience for the concert hall is smaller than it used to be, that doesn't mean it will always be that way. And with some inspired bookings -- or some kind of pop-star status being afforded to a good-looking conductor, sparking a classical-music craze -- it might just wind up being too small.

Location Info


Boettcher Concert Hall

14th St & Curtis St., Denver, CO

Category: Music

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Boettcher Concert Hall is an acoustic nightmare. You completely lose the auditory impact that enhances the music. This tomb, I mean room, does just the opposite of what it should do. Instead of focusing the sound of the orchestra forward to the audience like a great set of speakers, it dissipates the sound from the stage in all directions, making the orchestra sound like some of the sections are in different rooms. Tear it down now. Build a real concert hall the blows your ears off at the end of Pines of Rome!


A developer with real ambition and vision would work to convince the city to run Speer underground between Larimer and Stout.  The city could get their desired amphitheater (if they really want it) between Boettcher and the creek while muffling Speer traffic noise.  More high value real estate opportunities would be created compared to demolishing Boettcher and digging out an impractical traffic-side amphitheater.


The sympony has priced itself out of my range. I used to go frequently when my parents were alive, despite the fact that the seats left me with a sore back for days. But now I must budget my entertainment spending and cannot afford more than an occasional symphony performance.  However, it is  utterly ridiculous for the city to suggest that demolishing Boettcher is a solution, especially for an outdoor venue that would be subject to constant traffic noise.  Boettcher can be remodeled, reduced in size if necessary, and used for more than just symphony concerts.

Tyler Christopherson
Tyler Christopherson

it would be a terrible decision to demolish Boettcher…. why would this even be an option?

Kevin Doyle
Kevin Doyle

idiotic idea. Get good acts in there and the people will show up.

Eric Frees
Eric Frees

I've never been there but an outdoor venue there wud be 100x worse than Fiddlers. Now a palace to rival Sydney's opera house?

Jonathan Blair
Jonathan Blair

I'm not sure you can trust any ideas the current Mayor of Denver has.

Brian V Dietz
Brian V Dietz

While I don't disagree with all of your points... Boettcher is a terrible venue. Classical music doesn't work in the round.


I can think of many NEW ways to "think inside the box", rather than "blow up" the box.
Why not convene a group of architects, musicians performers, and concert-going citizens and have a serious design "Charette" (design exercise)  to clarify our goals and options on how to take this Denver jewel into the 21st century !
A quick make-over is not enough and to destroy it for something else is extremely short-sighted and tone deaf.  As a licensed architect and semi-professional violinist , I would be happy to enlist some of my colleagues and work with the CSO, and Arts and Venues on  budget-wise solutions to transform our community asset.  Michael Paglia makes some excellent points here as why we need to make the effort to save Boettcher Hall.


@Jan89 Hi Jan! Just wanted to let you know that we consistently have "Price Level 4" seats which are just $17 - $22 a ticket. And contrary to popular belief these seats are by no means "the bad seats." Additionally, we waive all service fees when you buy them from us in person. We also have student tickets, senior discounts, and subscription packages as low as $33 a ticket! I hope this helps with the notion of "pricing you out"!

muhutdafuga topcommenter

Because someone would make a buck out of the idiotic idea.

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