Improvements at the Fillmore this year include new flooring and additional tiers of standing room and seats at the back of the room for better visibility. (Live Nation Colorado X2)
Denver’s Fillmore Auditorium is celebrating its 20th year as a Live Nation venue — and its past and future as a local music institution and one of the premier indoor concert venues in America.
“I couldn’t be prouder of what the Fillmore means to live music in Colorado,” said Eric Pirritt, president of Live Nation Colorado. “To watch this project unfold, looking at the past in awe while being thrilled about the future, is just incredible.”
The building opened in 1907 as Mammoth Roller Rink. It was later a sports center featuring ice skating, hockey, boxing and wrestling.. It wasn’t until 1960 that the venue hosted its first concert, by soul icon James Brown. Known as the Mammoth Events Center, it hosted legendary acts such as Jimi Hendrix, The Who and the Grateful Dead.
The venue was sold in February 1999 to Bill Graham Presents. Later, that entity combined forces with Live Nation, and the venue reopened as the Fillmore Auditorium, the first Fillmore outside of San Francisco at the time.
Since 2007, the Fillmore Auditorium has been booked by Pirritt and his team at Live Nation Colorado. The Fillmore annually ranks as one of America’s top 10 grossing and attended clubs in Pollstar magazine.
The 3,600-capacity venue has hosted nearly 3 million music fans and 2,000 acts of all genres, including The Allman Brothers Band, Dierks Bentley, Leon Bridges, Zac Brown Band, David Byrne, The Chainsmokers, Chance The Rapper, Coldplay, Deadmau5, Bob Dylan, Foo Fighters, Green Day, Imagine Dragons, and even a visit by President Barack Obama.
The Fillmore is celebrating its 20th with a $3 million face-lift that’s taken place over the last two years. After a complete reworking of the backstage area in 2017, it now has four full dressing rooms with showers, two touring production offices, one local production office, a new catering kitchen and dining room and a game area, plus new restrooms on the lower level, O’Connell said.
The latest phase of improvements finished in September, adding four tiers of seating and standing space, new flooring throughout the venue, improvements to bar and merchandise locations, an update to the VIP Mezzanine, and video monitors that project a high-definition image of the stage.
New artwork from The BirdSeed Collective, which features local artists, is being installed.
Pirritt said Live Nation put the money into the renovations “simply because the changes are incredible, and the look on people’s faces is priceless when they walk in the doors.”
Sean O’Connell has been the general manager since 2008, half of its life since it became the Fillmore Auditorium.
“We’ve done great things recently with all the renovations,” O’Connell said. “The artists will be more comfortable, and the fans are going to get a whole new experience.”
Ticket prices vary, but according to O’Connell, “typically a ticket is anywhere between $25 and $50. We also do VIP on the balcony overlooking the stage as well as a box-seating area with 12 individual boxes.”
The concessionaire is Centerplate. The F&B company has been providing hospitality to the venue for the last 12 years.
“We have 23 POS stations, in-seat, and VIP service,” O’Connell said. “We feature a lot of local flavor. We have craft beer from over half a dozen Colorado breweries, including our partners at Breckenridge Brewery, and a wine bar.”
“We like to make sure the food options are high quality,” he said. “We have a great variety of offerings, at many price points, from $5 beer to high-end cocktails.”
A new addition this fall will be Denver favorite Marquis Pizza.
The Fillmore Auditorium prides itself on its community involvement. On average the Fillmore donates $25,000 a year to Denver nonprofits, O’Connell said.
“We have a 25-cent-per-ticket charity fee,” O’Connell said. “That money goes to local charities which are chosen by staff.” Some of the beneficiaries have included Conscious Alliance, the Love Hope Strength Foundation, the Colorado Symphony, Musicians in Action and Colorado Special Olympics. The venue management also has roles in several community organizations.
O’Connell is proud that the Fillmore Auditorium is considered one of the top music destinations in the city. “Having Red Rocks in our market keeps the bar very high,” he said. The acclaimed outdoor amphitheater is 10 miles west of Denver.
“We get a lot of the bands that would play Red Rocks during the winter when they are closed,” he said.
He’s also happy the venue can feature “up-and-coming bands” like AJR and Greta Van Fleet.
Pirritt said the Fillmore Auditorium was a perfect fit for Live Nation’s Colorado strategy.
“With the recent acquisitions of Denver’s Summit (1,350 capacity) and Marquis Theatre (500 capacity) it’s all come together to be able to present more and more acts at various stages of their careers,” Pirritt said. “Both the Marquis and Summit have had a ton of work put into them as well, Summit especially. We’re excited to have amazing venues across the city of Denver in our portfolio.”
Pirritt added that the long history of great music at the Fillmore Auditorium is something Live Nation always keeps in mind.
“It may sound cliché, but the vibe here is out of this world,” he said. “When the lights go down, it’s something else. I know a lot of acts personally that say there’s no other venue like it. I’ve been in a lot of venues across this country and I agree. There’s no place like The Fillmore Auditorium.”