1stBank Center, the sports and entertainment venue visible from U.S. 36 in Broomfield, will go dark Nov. 30 and likely will be torn down by next spring.
The 16-year-old, city-owned venue built to jump-start development near the busy Wadsworth Boulevard and U.S. 36 intersection is heavily in debt and never broke even for Broomfield, which on Tuesday decided to put the facility to rest.
“It’s time we ripped the Band-Aid off,” city manager Jennifer Hoffman told the Broomfield Urban Renewal Authority’s Board of Directors on Tuesday night before the panel voted to end its operating agreement with Peak Entertainment.
Peak Entertainment, a partnership of AEG Presents Rocky Mountains and Kroenke Sports & Entertainment, has managed the arena since 2009.
The 6,500-seat arena, marketed for concerts and semi-pro sports events, never found its place in metro Denver’s fluid entertainment market and it has been a persistent financial drain on Broomfield, siphoning millions from other urban renewal zones to cover repayment of bonds used to build it.
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The unanimous vote to terminate the operating agreement, which begins the process of identifying a new use for the 11-acre 1stBank Center site, is not a surprise, city officials say.
The city studied turning the facility into a convention hall or even a new home for University of Colorado basketball teams. Those ideas never got traction, officials said Tuesday night.
Razing the structure could make way for something that could complement the burgeoning Arista development and benefit Broomfield, Hoffman said. The transit-oriented development has grown up to fill the southeastern corner of U.S. 36 and Wadsworth Parkway and includes a hospital, office and medical buildings, and more than 2,000 units of housing.
The city owns the 11-acre parcel adjacent to U.S. 36 where the arena stands. “This is a sweet spot for us,” Hoffman told the Broomfield City Council, which is also the BURA board. If approved, a full demolition of the center could be finished by next spring, she said.
“It will be sad to tear it down.”
The 1stBank Center opened in November 2006 as the Broomfield Event Center as a multi-purpose entertainment and sports arena, according to the city. Peak Entertainment took over operations and management in 2009, and the next year sold naming rights for the arena to FirstBank Holding Co.
The arena hosted a semi-pro hockey and basketball team as well as the Denver Roller Dolls roller derby squad. It also drew acts such as Dave Matthews Band, Carrie Underwood and The Lumineers.
Council member Stan Jezierski said the center helped Broomfield stand out from other metro cities. “It’s one of the few things that made us unique in the metro area,” he said. “It will be sad to tear this down.”
Most Broomfield residents were not around during the center’s heyday, which was just after Peak took over, Hoffman said.
The center costs $1.2 million to operate annually, excluding the cost of policing the facility. “The continued use of Broomfield public safety to support the Event Center creates a financial liability as well as a safety risk to Broomfield Police Officers and to Broomfield,” the staff memo states.
The annual debt service for the Event Center during the past five years of the operator agreement has ranged from $250,000 to approximately $1 million from BURA, according to the city.
If the arena remains, it will need $5 million to $6 million in maintenance over the next two to five years, including a new roof and updated HVAC systems, the city says.
Councilmember Todd Cohen said the Event Center is too much of a financial burden to be maintained.
“We need to stop pouring money on the fire,” Cohen said.
Hoffman did not say when she plans to present a schedule for the planned demolition. She also had no estimate on the cost to take down the building. A consultant will be brought in to advise the city on its next steps.
The 1stBank Center, owned by the Broomfield Urban Renewal Authority, was constructed for $45 million and financed by issuing $59.8 million in bonds.
The decision was made to bond for more than needed so the city would have a cushion to make the bond payments until the anticipated tax revenue was realized, Hoffman said.
The bond payments were supposed to be repaid from taxes generated from within the Wadsworth Interchange urban renewal area. But sluggish progress of the Arista development stunted the anticipated tax revenue until 2020, according to a city staff memo.
To support the original 2005 bond sale of $59.8 million, almost $36 million was taken from six other Broomfield Urban Renewal Areas between 2009 and 2019. “There is no plan to reimburse the other URAs, as essentially Broomfield would be paying back Broomfield,” the memo states.
Since 2020, the Wadsworth Interchange Urban Renewal Area has generated only enough revenue to cover the event center bond payment. Additional funds have been pulled from BURA to support the cost to operate the venue and its parking lots, the memo states.
About $34.2 million in principal remains unpaid on the event center bond. By the time BURA pays off the bond in 2029 it will have paid about $135 million, according to the city.
Concerts lately have demanded a lot of police presence
Meanwhile, the arena has never approached the estimated 180 to 190 annual events for which it was constructed, the city says.
Since Peak assumed operations, the busiest year for the event center was 2016 when 33 concerts were held. In 2017 there were 27 concerts, 2018 had 17 concerts, 2019 had 13 concerts. Bookings dropped to five concerts in 2020 and six in 2021, due to COVID restrictions.
So far this year, Peak has booked fewer than 10 concerts and events in the arena, with only three additional shows scheduled over the next six months. During this same period other regional venues — many operated by Peak — have captured audiences and opened new possibilities for Peak as those venues continue to have more shows and events, the city memo states.
“If you have ever been to Mission Ballroom or the refreshed Fillmore Auditorium, you will see what we are up against,” Cohen said. Mission Ballroom, which also is run by Peak Entertainment, is in RiNo and has capacity for 4,000 people. The Fillmore is the Live Nation-owned concert hall on East Colfax Avenue in Denver that has a capacity of 3,700 people.
The city points out the type of events booked into 1stBank Center has evolved to include an increasing number of electronic dance music, or EDM, wrestling and mixed martial arts events.
Broomfield police and emergency services have also had to deal with more calls at the event center, including 738 medical calls to the arena since 2016. The city says that 73% of all medical calls came specifically from EDM shows. An EDM show held in February resulted in 79 medical responses, eight indecent exposure citations, multiple drug-related arrests, and a number of neighborhood noise disturbance complaints.
The number of incidents at the event center that require a police response is “objectionable,” council member Jean Lim said.