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Mt. CB Council okays temporary venue at site of Biery-Witt Center

“There has never been a tent like this in Colorado”

By Alissa Johnson

The Crested Butte Music Festival is planning to expand into a temporary performance venue at the site of the future Biery-Witt Center in Mt. Crested Butte. The venue will be centered on a large, round “Spiegeltent” to host symphonies, opera, galas and other artists.

The Mt. Crested Butte Town Council recently reviewed the proposal, including a Planning Commission recommendation to grant a conditional use permit for the venue. It will be located in the parking lot north of the Grand Lodge, close to the intersection of Gothic and Treasury roads.

“Nothing like this has ever happened, especially in the parking lot. There has never been a tent like this in Colorado,” explained community development coordinator Todd Carroll.

“It’s ambitious, so the Planning Commission has been working with [the music festival] to come up with a lot of possible conflicts, from parking to ventilation to water to power. [The music festival] has been doing a lot of work to make us more comfortable with our concerns,” Carroll continued.

According to the application description, the round tent includes a 32-foot vestibule. Depending on the performance, the tent can accommodate audiences between 230 and 300 people plus performers and staff.

The venue will also include two office trailers, a catering tent, a “green room” tent, a small ticket office and one to three trailer-mounted restrooms. The tent would be used most Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings, June through August, plus one Tuesday evening.

According to Crista Ryan, operations director for the festival, most events will be held in the venue—a significant change from last year when the festival hosted events at 16 different venues. While some smaller fundraising events will be held in private homes, the majority of performances will be held in the Spiegeltent.

“It’s a game changer for us,” Ryan told the News. In addition to providing a consistent venue, Ryan said, the tent also allows the festival to provide donors and patrons with a more streamlined schedule during an already busy time of year in Crested Butte.

The Planning Commission recommended The Council approve the permit provided that certain conditions are met. A parking agreement needs to be worked out with Crested Butte Mountain Resort, a sublease finalized with the Mt. Crested Butte Performing Arts Center, and exterior lighting and ventilation plans also need to be completed and approved by town staff.

Conditions also dictate that performances go no later than 9:30 p.m. and use of the facility goes no later than 10 p.m. The Crested Butte Fire Protection District must also give its final approval of the venue prior to operation.

Community development director Carlos Velado confirmed that many aspects are in the works, including an agreement to get water to the site. Gunnison County Electric Association has also been consulted to get electricity to the site, which will require installing an electrical box on the venue-side of the Rec path.

“That site is still to be determined, and of course it would have to approved by the town,” Velado said.

Town Council member David O’Reilly wanted to know if conditions outlined by the Fire District had been met.

“The fire department did approve the plan and had some conditions. Some will be assessed at the site when the tents are going up… to make sure there’s access to fire hydrants and they can get emergency vehicles in and around the whole venue. That will be an ongoing relationship between the fire department and the music festival,” Carroll said.

“I didn’t see anything in here about a possible conflict of dates on the USA Pro-cycling Challenge,” said councilmember Gary Keiser. “Did you get that worked out?”

“All we can say is that the music festival has been in contact with the folks at Medalist for the bike race,” said Velado.

Music festival executive director Alexander Scheirle, who attended the meeting by phone, confirmed that he had been in communication with Dave Ochs, director of the Crested Butte/Mt. Crested Butte Chamber of Commerce, and didn’t see a conflict. The music festival will not be hosting an event on the day or days the race could come to Mt. Crested Butte.

“I don’t know if that decision has been made yet, if it will come through town, but we sure hope so…,” Scheirle said. “We talked to Dave Ochs and he reached out to Medalist with photos and the site plan, saying they could use this if they want… They think it is very cool. Those are his words.”

“We anticipate having that event, so we directed the applicant to try to coordinate that,” Velado said.

Velado also complimented the music festival for being ahead of the game in terms of timing so that questions and issues with the tent and venue can be addressed.

Councilmember Nicholas Kempin noted that some letters from the public had expressed concern about parking spilling over into nearby private lots. Velado confirmed there would be an attendant to manage parking.

“I don’t know that we can guarantee that will prevent people from parking at Ponderosa or the Nordic Inn, but there is a certain comfort level,” Velado said.

The council unanimously supported the permit, with one additional condition that the town have the opportunity to approve the sublease agreement between the music festival and the performing arts center. Ryan says the festival plans to unveil the tent’s design and origins in March—for now, it’s safe to assume this isn’t your traditional white wedding tent.

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