Restaurants, hotels and bars in Missoula no doubt enjoyed a big economic boost from the sold-out Mumford & Sons concert on Aug. 11 at Ogren-Allegiance Park, but it wasn't all sunshine and roses.
The grass field inside the baseball stadium took a beating from the heavy stage combined with a rare August weekend of heavy rain.
Enough precipitation fell to prompt a flash flood warning, and that — combined with the weight of the stage equipment — damaged a portion of the outfield grass. That forced the Missoula Osprey baseball team to cancel at least four consecutive games, including Monday night's game, because they were worried about players injuring themselves on overly soft ground.
Local entertainment company Logjam Presents, headed by CEO Nick Checota, brought the show to Missoula. There were 13,500 tickets sold to the event, making it easily the largest concert of the season in Missoula, and Checota estimated that between 6,000 and 7,000 ticket-holders were from outside the area.
“I want to emphasize that this is a weather thing,” he said. “If this was dry field conditions, you wouldn’t have any of these problems.”
Indeed, the baseball stadium has hosted concerts like Paul Simon, Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson in years past, and without rain there were no baseball cancellations. Checota signed a lease with the city last year to exclusively host shows, and he paid for upgrades to the facility.
Checota said Logjam spent $72,000 to rent a floor covering to protect the field, including the area under the stands, and the flooring system did not protect the field “as anticipated.”
“The product we rented was a similar product used at the Pearl Jam Concert at Grizzly Stadium last year and is the same product used by major baseball parks around the country to protect the field when a baseball stadium is used for concert events,” he said, noting that the product is used at Fenway Park in Boston and T-Mobile Park in Seattle for concerts.
“There were lessons learned all over the place,” he said. “Some things you can’t plan for and some things you can. Rain is one thing you can’t really plan for. We had flash flood warnings and the rainfall we got (about 2 inches) was significantly above the rainfall averages for this time of year.”
Checota said he’s going to evaluate floor companies to see how to “mitigate” the problem in the future and improve it. That’s because he feels like the concert overall was a very positive experience for both Missoula businesses and show-goers.
“We have a two-year lease there with extension options in place, and we want to keep doing shows out there,” he said. “We feel like the city’s supportive of that. We’ll work though this issue. This was more of a learning process and we’ll try to adjust. I’m really empathetic with (Mountain Baseball, the company that manages the Osprey). It’s a tough thing to lose a weekend of baseball. It’s a hard thing for that team to deal with.”
He said Mountain Baseball got to keep money from all the food and non-alcoholic beverages served at the show.
“We had 13,000 people in and around downtown, people staying in hotels and eating food,” Checota said. “The Sawmill District had a pre-function party. I heard the Meagher Bar was slammed on Sunday, and so were places like Al's and Vic's. It was super beneficial around the Missoula community, all the business from the concert. That doesn’t mitigate the fact that it was hard on baseball for sure.”
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Jim Thomas, the bar manager at the Old Post Pub in downtown Missoula, said Sunday’s business was crazy.
“Absolutely,” he said. “It was even more than we thought. We were understaffed for it, so we got rocked. We have a patio and dining room, and we had a full house. Since we have such close proximity to the baseball field we got hit pretty good.”
Thomas believes large shows like that one are good for businesses in Missoula, and therefore the local economy.
“Everybody comes to town and spends money in bars and restaurants,” he said. “It’s good for everyone except maybe baseball fans. I saw lots of pros and cons on social media, yea and nay. You’ll get that on all sides. But I heard it was an awesome concert and everybody enjoyed it.”
Checota, who also owns the Top Hat restaurant and bar downtown, said his business was extremely busy on Sunday as well.
Checota added that Logjam also paid several thousand dollars to hire a pump truck prior to the show to get all the standing water off the field. He noted that it’s common around the country for cities to lease baseball stadiums to concert promoters to ensure financial viability. He said he’s been working with Mountain Baseball to have professional landscapers add dirt and repair the field.
“I haven’t seen any invoices yet, but we’re supporting them however we can,” Checota said.
Osprey vice president Matt Ellis said the four canceled games represents 15% of the home schedule.
“It’s a pretty significant loss,” he said on Monday. “We’re really hoping we can get it ready for Tuesday night, but we won’t know until (Monday night or Tuesday morning.)”
Ellis agreed that weather played the most significant role in the damage.
“Yesterday and today were the first real sunny, hot days we've had for the field to dry out,” he said.
The Missoula Osprey’s game-cancellation policy states that any ticket purchaser who buys a ticket to a game that gets canceled can exchange it for any other home game later in the season. However, if someone is unable to attend any remaining home games, the ticket won’t be refunded. Local fan Keith Koprivica emailed the Missoulian to bring attention to that issue.
“I am out the money paid for four tickets that I cannot use and that the Missoula Osprey organization refuses to provide a refund for,” he said. “Let this be a cautionary warning for potential ticket buyers.”