The biggest concert of the summer in Missoula is happening this Sunday evening, Aug. 11, with roughly 10,000 fans expected to pour into Ogren-Allegiance Park for the sold-out Mumford & Sons show.
And the only public boat ramp in the urban part of town on the Clark Fork River happens to be located just a few dozen yards from where equipment has to be loaded into the back of the stadium.
A lot of logistical hurdles have to be cleared for an event this size, according to the City of Missoula and concert promoter Logjam Presents. One of those includes closing the Silver Park boat ramp near the stadium to vehicle traffic from 11 p.m. on Friday until 7 a.m. on Monday.
That means the ramp will not be usable by floaters needing to pick up rafts, although it will remain open for floaters who can get in and out of the river on foot. The entrance for show equipment and all the large vehicles used by the band is located right next to the ramp, so the closure is intended to keep the area free for workers setting up the stage, sound system and everything else associated with the show, according to city officials.
Logjam Presents CEO Nick Checota said the Osprey stadium is the smallest American venue on Mumford & Sons' tour this year and the parking lot is needed to make way for what he calls "production world" for the show.
"It's a big show," he said. "We've got video walls and a thrust that comes out in the crowd. This is a Top 50 tour in the world right now. It's the same level of production as Pearl Jam. It's the same size stage as Pearl Jam."
Checota said there was no way to accommodate a band that popular in Missoula without closing the parking lot and boat ramp to make way for 13 semi-trucks and 10 tour buses.
"All of my staff own rafts and we're all big fishermen, so we get it," he said. "We're sympathetic. I've talked to a lot of guides and we're super-sensitive to the fact that people with vehicles won't be able to take out there. But everyone felt like it was no big deal. There are a couple people who are being very vocal but I think the criticism is coming from a very small number of people."
The city owns the civic stadium, but took over a lease in 2012 that requires payments of $120,000 a year to service the stadium’s debt. Last year, the city signed a lease agreement that means Logjam Presents will pay the city $70,000 a year for exclusive rights to book concerts at the stadium. Mountain Baseball, the company that owns the Osprey baseball team, also pays $40,000 a year. An additional ticket fee paid by Logjam will cover the $10,000 difference to pay off the debt.
Checota said he got all the proper permits to close the boat ramp.
"We're obviously big water people and we care about it," he said. "We donated $106,000 to (Trout Unlimited) last year and we're going to donate close to $130,000 this year. We're sympathetic but nonetheless it's something we've got to do."
At least one man voiced his concern about the closure to city officials. Jon Rieck recently sent a letter to Mayor John Engen.
“As a taxpayer, public land owner, river user and resident of Missoula county I am deeply concerned about this decision,” Rieck wrote. “We have used this ramp during concerts and Osprey games in the past and have had no issues accessing the ramp to pull our boat out of the river. It seems to me that there could have been some more discussion and perhaps a compromise on the promoter’s part to allow other user groups to access the ramp while they are using the stadium for a one-day event.”
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He asked Engen to reconsider the restrictions to at least allow traffic to access the ramp even if parking isn’t permitted in the lot.
When asked for a response, the city’s spokesperson sent the Missoulian the following statement:
"We’re aware the boat ramp closure may inconvenience some floaters, and we apologize for the disruption,” the statement read. “We've had extensive discussions with the concert promoter, and have compromised by allowing pedestrian access to the ramp via the Riverfront Trail.”
The city said each concert hosted at the stadium will be unique in its required traffic configurations and accommodations for performers.
“Going forward, we'll work together with the promoter on each event to ensure public enjoyment, financial support of the civic stadium and the least possible impact on the non-concert-going public,” the statement continued. “We're recording all public comment we receive about the August 11 event. City leadership will debrief and review residents' feedback after the concert and will work with the concert promoter to find the best practices for future events."
Walker Scarborough manages the fishing guides at the Missoulian Angler Fly Shop. He said his staff isn’t too concerned about the temporary closure, even though it is the only public boat ramp in downtown Missoula.
“Nobody’s up in arms about it being closed for a couple days,” he said. “It makes it a little bit of an inconvenience. We definitely use it. I’m not gonna lie, it’s a great resource, timing-wise, to be able to run trips real locally. It’s definitely an enjoyable access point. But we’re kind of lucky that we have hundreds of miles of river out there and other access points, and most of it’s fishing well this year.”
He said tubers and people have options to get out anywhere in town, but people with large boats pretty much have to use the Silver Park ramp to unload if they’re floating through town.
“Admittedly, I haven’t gotten the impression that a lot of (fishing guides) are too upset about (the closure),” Scarborough said. “I think it’s smart to consider the over-pressure on the facilities and stuff going on down there.”
The Riverfront trail and Silver Park will remain open, but Wyoming Street from California Street to Orange Street, and Hickory Street from First Street to Cregg Lane will be closed on Sunday to allow foot traffic to and from the concert.
The Ogren Park and Silver Park parking lots will also be closed Saturday and Sunday to accommodate the band’s large vehicles. McCormick Park and Currents Aquatic Center will be open. On Sunday, vehicle access to McCormick Park will be via Orange Street and Cregg Lane only, and vehicles headed to these destinations will be allowed to pass. Silver Park users may access the park on foot or by bicycle via the Riverfront Trail.
Concert goers are encouraged to visit the Mumford & Sons event page at logjampresents.com to learn more about the entry process, prohibited items and best practices prior to their arrival at the event. In addition, Logjam Presents will have an information desk open from 11 a.m.–5 p.m. at the Top Hat in downtown Missoula on Sunday, Aug. 11.