Denver Direct: Zoo – Festival Wrapped Up?

Monday, December 24, 2007

Zoo – Festival Wrapped Up?

Thanks again to Dave Felice who has written and posted letters to officials in the Zoo – AEG Music Festival standoff at Here’s his latest summary.


In its edition of December 21, the Rocky Mountain News quotes concert organizer Chuck Morris as saying he’s “mad about…the way it was handled,” referring to the Denver Zoo decision to withhold support of a music festival Morris proposed to stage in City Park.

According to the newspaper story by reporter Daniel Chacon, “(M)usic promoter Chuck Morris, president and CEO of AEG Live Rocky Mountain Division, said he respects (Zoo Director Craig) Piper’s decision but wished he (Piper) would have made it known sooner.”

Chacon’s story goes on, quoting Morris: “We (AEG) met with them (Zoo officials) September 12 and never was any major problem . . . about the sound brought up.”

The leader of the Denver Zoo for nearly four decades, Clayton Freiheit, died on October 28. The Zoo’s Board unanimously named Piper to succeed Freiheit on November 29. In public meetings, Morris had stated that he understood the zoo was going through a “difficult time”and Morris indicated he was delaying further meetings with zoo officials.

According to the Rocky Mountain News, Zoo representative Ana Bowie said Morris never told Zoo officials “that the decision to stage the two day event at City Park hinged on the Zoo.” In neighborhood meetings, Morris said he would not go forward if the Zoo determined there would be risk to the zoo animals.

In a statement provided to, Piper said:”Unfortunately, there is no data to help us determine the potential additional impact to animals of extending the exposure to loud music to two-and-a-half days as proposed.”

Piper said zoo officials “discussed this with a number of our professional colleagues around the country who host music concert series at their zoos or who have them in adjacent park facilities. We have found a number of venues (which) allow music much louder than Denver and Denver Zoo currently allows, without ill effects, however,none of these concert series subject animals to multiple days of loud music.”

In each case, they host shorter performances and have decibel limits in place much like our current approach. Piper added, “(T)o our knowledge, there is no similar model where zoo animals have been exposed to extended loud music to help us determine how we could accomplish this safely in Denver.”

Citing “fundamental responsibility…to protect the animals,” Piper concluded, “(the) Denver Zoo is unable to endorse the proposed music festival in City Park. We wish that it could be held at another more appropriate venue that would not risk the lives of the animals.”

After Piper notified city officials of his decision, Anschutz Entertainment issued a statement saying the organization would be”exploring alternative locations” for the proposed festival. Earlier,in at least one public meeting, Morris said “there was no second choice” to City Park.

In its statement, Anschutz Entertainment representatives say they arranged for promoter Howard Pollack to meet with Denver Zoo officials. Pollack has been staging the Music Series at the Oklahoma City Zoo for over 20 years. According to AEG, Pollack and the staff of the Oklahoma City Zoo has not “had a problem with animal safety”during that time.

Piper also expressed concern about the financial impact of the proposed festival, saying the Zoo could lose up to $300,000 over a weekend.

The Rocky Mountain News reports Morris offered to compensate the zoo,quoting Morris as saying “We were talking about buying out the whole zoo for what they averaged that weekend.”

District 8 Councilwoman Carla Madison, a member of the Public Amenities Committee, was the only member of the Denver City Council to express support for the festival plan. Madison appeared in a video prepared by AEG before the proposal was presented to the public.There was no immediate comment from Madison following the Zoo’s decision. Madison’s district includes City Park.

Other animal welfare organizations, such as the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and the American Humane Association, have not made any public comment on developments in Denver.

The full text of the Rocky Mountain News story is available at The statements by AEG and Craig Piper are both available at