Carbondale PAC3 looking to expand year-round operations | AspenTimes.com

Carbondale PAC3 looking to expand year-round operations

Michael McLaughlin
The Aspen Times

Musician Leon Russell performs to a sold-out, standing room only crowd at PAC3 in Carbondale.

The Third Street Center in Carbondale put out a request this month for proposals to find other ideas that would keep the Performing Arts Center at Third Street, or PAC3, sustainable year-round.

The sole proposal it received was from a familiar source, the current executive director at PAC3, Josh Behrman.

PAC3 is located within the Third Street Center in Carbondale, which Behrman transformed from an old-school gymnasium into a 500-seat, multi-use performance area in 2011.

Behrman's current lease with PAC3 is month-to-month for the rest of 2013. He's hoping his new proposal with the Third Street Center will allow him to continue booking acts into 2014.

"We've really run the gamut from A to Z when it comes to the acts we've brought in," Behrman said. "We've had rock, classical, jazz, punk and more while trying to determine just what Carbondale wants to see at PAC3."

Third Street Center director Jody Ensign said a request for proposals was put out three weeks ago in an effort to see if there were other ideas on how to make PAC3 more sustainable year-round. The venue has struggled at times with attendance, especially in the summer and fall months when the valley sports such a wide variety of entertainment selections.

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"This is not an indication of dissatisfaction," Ensign said. "We're looking to make PAC3 a more complete venue. Josh has done a very good job. It's a difficult business to manage year-round. PAC3 can be a great economic boon for Carbondale."

The deadline for proposals was Friday, with Behrman presenting the only proposal the Third Street Center received.

Behrman said he restructured his proposal, making it more feasible to keep offering the same level of entertainment while working with the Third Street Center to create more usage and sustainability with PAC3.

Behrman and Ensign haven't had an opportunity to sit down and discuss details about his proposal, but Ensign said the Third Street Center would continue to work with Behrman and look for the best way to move forward into 2014.

In the past, Behrman worked as the event contractor at Snowmass Village, where he created, booked and operated numerous summer events in Snowmass. The biggest and most significant was the Snowmass Chili Pepper & Brew Fest, which through the years featured Ziggy Marley, the P-Funk All-Stars and the Neville Brothers.

He also booked his own shows at the Wheeler Opera House, where he presented Lyle Lovett, Jack Johnson, Ben Harper, David Crosby and many others.

Ensign ultimately wants the PAC3 space used in a more flexible manner that can adapt to a wider variety of events.

So does Behrman.

He's seen some genres work well, such as Americana and Texas style as well as the always-popular Grateful Dead genre. He's brought in national acts such as Leon Russell, Bruce Cockburn, The Wailers, Sam Bush and comedian Paula Poundstone.

But Behrman said he needs to think out of the box to increase the variety of acts and attract an even wider audience.

One of his goals in his proposal is finding performers that haven't come to the valley and see what kind of response those acts receive.

For example, he's booked two Roller Disco Skating Nights on Nov. 15 and 16, with the first evening already sold out. Behrman also is looking to bring in some Latino bands, another genre that hasn't been offered much in the valley.

"We want to open our doors to everyone," Behrman said. "There are a lot of options for a space like PAC3, like private parties, lectures, movies. Maybe we need to reach out to the local schools and give students a chance to perform at PAC3 more often."

Luke Harris, 33, grew up in Carbondale and said he attends at least one show a month at PAC3. Harris believes the quality of acts and low prices at PAC3 make it one of the best entertainment deals anywhere.

"It's amazing the wide variety of genres offered at PAC3," Harris said. "It's like PAC3 is ahead of its time. People don't quite get it yet, what a great deal it really is. It can't be easy competing with all the free shows throughout the summer. I really don't want to see the concert venue change — that's for sure."

The request for proposals was somewhat of a wake-up call for Behrman and the community that a space like PAC3 can't be taken for granted. He admits being heavily invested professionally, emotionally and financially in the success of PAC3.

"A lot of my personal money went into the capital investment that transformed the old gymnasium into the current performance space," Behrman said. "My proposal is to work together with the Third Street Center to make PAC3 sustainable year-round. My staff is in it to win it; we're not going to give up. The support I get from my staff and our board of directors motivates me to make this work."

Ensign said several parties did come forward with an interest in making a proposal for using the PAC3 space but instead offered to possibly work with the Third Street Center in the future.

"We're going to sit down and go over Josh's ideas," Ensign said. "I don't see PAC3 changing 100 percent overnight. It's going to be an organic growing process of how it can evolve into a fully used facility."

mmclaughlin@aspentimes.com