What was supposed to be a routine vote to allow Logjam Presents to put on concerts at Ogren Park was nearly derailed Monday night after neighbors called foul over possible noise, traffic and parking problems during large performances.
Last week, the matter was approved by the Missoula Administration and Finance Committee, and listed on the city’s consent agenda, which typically means it will pass without discussion. However, the lease earned its own discussion and vote after a flurry of email exchanges among neighbors and the City Council.
Gwen Hoppe, who lives in the Riverfront neighborhood, asked for the lease agreement to be sent back to the committee for more discussion and revisions. She was concerned that the concerts would extend past 10 p.m., and that live music performing until 11 p.m. will interrupt the sleep for “some of us who get up at 5 in the morning to work.”
She also was worried about traffic moving through the neighborhood during concerts, noting that while the Riverfront Neighborhood Council agreed to open a gate on Hickory Street that’s usually closed during Osprey games, few of the residents knew about that. In addition, Hoppe wondered aloud whether the 10-year lease being proposed is too long.
“Even though (Logjam Presents owner Nick Checota) is a great guy and is good with the neighbors now, that doesn’t necessarily mean that will continue,” Hoppe said.
But after Checota was questioned on these points by council member Gwen Jones, the council unanimously passed the measure.
“I appreciate the comments from the neighbors and the efforts made by all parties,” said council member John DiBari. “In the lease, there is an opportunity for us to amend if necessary. … The intent of this lease and the parties is to ensure we have responsible stewardship of that venue.”
The 10-year lease gives Checota exclusive rights to book up to eight concerts a year at the city-owned Ogren Park stadium, and lessens the financial burden for Mountain Baseball, the company that owns the Missoula Osprey baseball team.
Mountain Baseball has a lease under which it pays $120,000 per year for debt service on the property, but that was proving burdensome. Under the new lease, Logjam will pay $70,000 per year, and Mountain Baseball will cover $40,000. The remaining $10,000 will come off the top of a new dedicated maintenance fund for the park, with a $1 surcharge per ticket the first year that increases to $1.50 in 2020 and tops out at $2 per ticket for the remainder of the lease.
Checota said he expects to bring in acts that will draw anywhere from 7,000 to 10,000 people, beginning in 2019. He pledged to work with the city and the neighborhood to figure out the best travel plan, similar to what they do at his KettleHouse Amphitheater in Bonner. That venue has a capacity of 4,500 people.
“Each solution is unique and we need to work with the city and staff at each show,” Checota said. “We are committed to working with the city with that.”
He said concerts will end at 10 p.m. on weeknights, and by 11 p.m. “at the absolute latest” on weekends. At the KettleHouse, where there isn’t any curfew or noise ordinance, the acts usually end by 10:30 p.m., he added.
Council member Gwen Jones thanked the neighbors and Checota for working together to come up with answers to their concerns.
“I know the neighborhood invested a lot in these issues over the years, and want to make it work in the best manner possible,” Jones said. “The leases are a good thing at this point in terms of making Ogren Stadium more financially sustainable.”