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Mumford & Sons: Logjam evaluates debut concert at ballpark

Posted at 3:20 PM, Aug 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-19 17:20:07-04

After holding its first concert in Ogren Park at Allegiance Field last Sunday, Logjam Presents is evaluating its successes and mishaps in hopes of improving shows in years to come.

About 13,000 people attended the concert featuring Grammy-winning British rockers Mumford & Sons. The show was the first held since Logjam reached an agreement with the city of Missoula to hold up to eight concerts a year at Ogren Park during the next 10 years.

“For a first concert, I think overall it went well,” said Logjam owner Nick Checota. “It was always our intention to hold one big concert this year, learn all we could and adjust. We’re still in the process of compiling the lessons we’ve learned.”

As purveyors of live entertainment, Logjam owns and operates the Top Hat, Wilma Theater and KettleHouse Amphitheater in Missoula, as well as the Elm and Rialto in Bozeman. But those venues can’t hold the audience needed for larger shows, so Logjam is working to turn Ogren Park – homefield of the Missoula Ospreys Pioneer League team – into that setting.

Built in 2004, Ogren Park is owned by the city of Missoula and had been under lease to Mountain Baseball, owners of the Ospreys, for $120,000 per year. However, the lease proved burdensome. As part of the deal reached with the city, Logjam will now pay the city $70,000 a year, Mountain Baseball will pay $40,000 a year, and an additional $10,000 will be raised for the city through a dedicated “maintenance fund” surcharge added to ticket sales ($1 the first year, $1.50 in 2020 and $2 after that).

In addition, Logjam has agreed to improve infrastructure at Ogren Park to better handle large concerts.

“The ballpark is not designed for concerts, it’s designed for baseball,” Checota said. “So it’s like building a concert venue from scratch. It’s a huge undertaking.”

The stadium was built to seat 3,500 baseball fans. The existing entrance gates, concession stands, bathrooms, office space and parking can’t accommodate a band with 13-semi trucks of equipment, 10 tour buses, a 90-person tour staff and 13,000 fans.

“It’s a lot of logistics,” Checota said, “and requires a lot of infrastructure.”

Logjam has already invested $150,000 into building a new gate, paving the back lot and increasing the power to 1,600 amps. For the Mumford & Sons concert, they also set up mobile kitchens, bathrooms, a “green room,” a stage and a large tent to serve as a dining hall for crew and staff.

Logjam also put down plastic tiles on parts of the outfield to protect the grass and allow for semi-trucks to drive on the field to set up the stage and large video screens.

Several thunderstorms came through the day before and the afternoon of the event, with a lot of wind and rain.

“We had to dismantle the stage, and then put it back up,” Checota said. “And the big tent blew down, and we had to set that back up. It required a lot of extra time and effort.”

Although the rain stopped before the show began, the field was pretty muddy.

“It was a lot of wear and tear on the field, for sure,” Checota said. “But we have a financial responsibility to help get the field back in good shape and will do whatever it takes.”

As of Friday morning, groundskeepers were working on the field, which appeared in decent shape, and the Friday night game against the Great Falls Voyagers was still planned to begin at 7:05 p.m. as scheduled. But late in the day, the game was canceled because centerfield was still too soft and was deemed unsafe for play.

“Next year, we plan to cover the entire field with plastic tiles to better protect the field,” Checota said. “We also plan to improve the entrance gates, and the concession services. The lines were too long, and we need to work on that. We also need to improve access for Uber and Lyft drivers.”

Checota has asked his employees to write down and share lessons for improvement. He is also planning to hold meetings with city officials and residents who live in the Ogren Park neighborhood. In addition, Logjam has sent out a questionnaire to everyone who purchased tickets to the Mumford & Sons show in hopes of receiving good feedback.

“We want hear from everyone, and incorporate their concerns,” Checota said. “We’re certainly not perfect, and we’re always striving to improve our customer experience and build a good, strong relationship with the community.”

-Dave Stalling reporting for the Missoula Current