An agreement with Logjam Presents entertainment company to put on concerts at the city ballpark is headed to the full Missoula City Council for approval.
The Administration and Finance Committee heard details of the proposal on Wednesday and approved it for the council's consent agenda on a voice vote.
The lease agreements give Logjam the exclusive rights to start booking concerts at the stadium starting next year while lowering the Missoula Osprey baseball team's lease payments toward the public debt service, bills that Mayor John Engen described as "unsustainable."
"In the end, what this does is provide more security to the city in terms of the viability of our ability to pay the mortgage," Engen said. It also will help build a maintenance fund for future repairs as well.
In addition, "Missoula further cements its place in the western United States as a music capital, and a whole bunch of people are going to have fun," he said.
Council member Jesse Ramos thanked Logjam and Engen for "creative work in solving this problem by using the private sector and not going to the taxpayers to bail us out."
Logjam owns the Top Hat Lounge (550 capacity), the Wilma (1,500) and the KettleHouse Amphitheater (4,500) in Bonner, with plans to build an as-yet-unnamed 1,500-capacity venue in Bozeman.
The company plans to hold four to six concerts per year at the stadium, coordinated around the baseball schedule.
Logjam is responsible for staffing the events and will use its own catering license to sell beer and mixed drinks and keep that revenue. Mountain Baseball will do likewise for food at the concert.
Logjam President Nick Checota has said that with some modifications, the capacity of the baseball stadium can be increased from 8,000 to 10,000 people. It could also draw acts who are uninterested or unwilling to "scale down" for the amphitheater.
After the city took ownership of the stadium, Mountain Baseball, the company that owns the Missoula Osprey, signed a lease for $120,000 per year to pay debt service on the property.
While it always made its payments, other minor-league teams around the state only pay a "fraction" of that, Engen said.
The Missoula Redevelopment Agency proposed a refinancing of the debt, but the idea was shelved after Logjam proposed a deal.
Under the agreements, Logjam will pay $70,000 per year and Mountain Baseball, the Osprey's owner, will pay $40,000.
There currently is no dedicated maintenance fund for the park. The new leases will establish one. During the first year, there will be a $1 surcharge per ticket to the fund. In the second year, it increases to $1.50 and the third year to $2 and remains at that level for the duration of the lease, which can run up to 10 years. The first $10,000 from the maintenance fund will go toward debt service.
Regarding councilors' concerns about parking, Mountain Baseball president Matt Ellis said the extension of Wyoming Street to Russell has "relieved" some of the pressure on parking. Logjam will continue to encourage shuttles and parking downtown, like it does at the amphitheater.
Engen said parking strategies will be flexible moving ahead. Councilor Gwen Jones reminded everyone that Russell Street will be under construction for another 24 months, which could be a factor.
The lease with Mountain Baseball also limits the number of fireworks displays to three per year.
Jones also had a question about noise on school nights. Checota said there would probably only be a few concerts that fall on weeknights during the school year. In general, he said it can be difficult to get acts in a small market on a Friday or Saturday, since bands can sell more tickets in a larger city. He said concerts will almost always go until at least 10 p.m., since they need to start by 7 to allow people time to get to the show.