The Rocky

The Rocky



The Rocky

The Rocky













Estes Performance, InCorporated (EPIC), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization doing business as the Rocky Mountain Performing Arts Center (RMPAC), is seeking $25 million to build a state-of-the-art, 200 to 600-seat performance facility in Estes Park, Colorado.  The quality of the performance center and its seating capacity will make possible world-class performances that otherwise would not be logistically or economically feasible in the Estes Valley.

With its year-round schedule of local and national performances, visual arts displays, arts education programs, seminars, conferences and professional meetings, the Rocky Mountain Performing Arts Center will become the focal point of downtown Estes Park and the entire Estes Valley, a magnet attracting residents and visitors of all ages.  

However, the Rocky Mountain Performing Arts Center will be considerably more than just a splendid theater.  Immediately off its main Elkhorn Avenue entrance will be a commercial wing called Performance Plaza, housing a boutique hotel and fine dining with an atrium, the Winter Garden, connecting it to the Performing Arts Center.  The Fall River will actually run through the Winter Garden, along with its adjacent portion of the River Walk downtown, accessible in all seasons.  

Revenues from the Performance Plaza will serve as an income stream that helps assure the long-term sustainability of the non-profit performance center (see Project Qualities on p. 5).  This revenue opportunity has been professionally evaluated and is projected to provide over $800,000 in annual income.  This will provide more than 80% of the Rocky Mountain Performing Arts Center’s annual budget of $980,000 (projected budget when the Center is in operation for three years).  Other revenue includes the ticket income, sponsorships, and rentals.  

The performing arts—theatre, music, and dance—are critical to a vibrant society. They inspire creativity and innovation, build community pride, bridge diverse cultures, remind us of our shared humanity, and inspire our children. They provide a significant boost to the local economy by creating jobs, increasing tax revenues, and attracting new and repeat visitors. 


The mission of Rocky Mountain Performing Arts Center is to become the focal point for the cultural life in Estes Valley, Colorado by creating a state-of-the-art performance center that will become a catalyst for downtown economic development while simultaneously enhancing the quality of life for residents and guests alike.

In fulfilling our mission, RMPAC will:

  • Attract new and returning visitors by providing presentations by nationally and internationally acclaimed professional artists.
  • Collaborate with other regional institutions by providing a professional residential home for the Estes Valley’s many performing arts groups.
  • Become the medium that brings the arts to the young people of the region – the arts consumers and supporters of the next generation.
  • Offer professional development opportunities for businesses, non-profits, artists, and arts organizations.


For well over a century the Town of Estes Park has been one of the most popular tourist destinations in the nation, thanks in no small measure to Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park’s neighbor to the west.  In 2014, 3.4 million people visited Rocky Mountain National Park, making it the fifth most visited national park in the nation.  Many of Estes Park’s visitors each year, however, never enter the park.  In 2011, the last year for which such information is available, that estimated number stood at 1,156,770.  

The Rocky Mountain Performing Arts Center will be located within feet of the corner of Elkhorn and Moraine Avenue, Estes Park’s busiest intersection.  Virtually every one of these visitors, whether they travel west to visit Rocky Mountain National Park or not, will pass this site during their stay, the vast majority more than once.   

By comparison, these combined visitation figures for Estes Park are larger than the total populations of Denver and Colorado’s next nine largest cities.  They are also significantly larger than the populations of those major American cities from which the majority of Estes Park’s visitors come:  Los Angeles (3,792,621), Chicago (2,695,598), Houston (2,100,263), Dallas (1,197,816), Kansas City (459,787), and Omaha (408,958).  

Tourism Facilities in the Estes Valley 

Current facilities consist of almost 3,000 rooms in 109 hotels and motels.  Other overnight accommodations include bed and breakfasts, guest ranches, condominiums, vacation rentals, and RV and tent sites.  The YMCA of the Rockies, four miles west of downtown, has 655 rooms that sleep 3,000 in lodges and cabins, and four dining rooms.  Its annual visitation exceeds 250,000 guests.  There are six conference facilities in Estes Park—the town-owned Conference Center, the YMCA of the Rockies, and four hotels with 2,500 or more square feet of meeting space.  In November of 2014, the Town of Estes Park completed a new 37,000 square foot event center.  (It hosts events and non-competing performing arts that complement the performances and programs at RMPAC.  Like the RMPAC, it is designed to bring new visitors to Estes Park and to do so throughout the year, serving as a stimulus to the local economy.) The latest Rocky Mountain National Park summer survey (2010) found that 64% of visitors stayed overnight within 20 miles of the Park; of these 33% of these stayed for five or more nights.

Consumer Spending

Research conducted by Summit Economics, LLC estimated that in 2010 spending on entertainment and recreation by local Estes Park households totaled $1,970,472, an average of $4,341 per household.  This is higher than the average estimated household spending on entertainment and recreation in the state of Colorado ($3,675) and in Larimer County ($3,474).

Also during 2010, according to Guest Research, average daily visitor spending (among those who indicated they spent money in Estes Park) was $138 per person, and $165 for those who said they stayed overnight.


  1. The 72,000 square foot Rocky Mountain Performing Arts Center complex consists of three major components: 
  2. 31,838 square foot theatrical auditorium and support facilities.
  3. 18,676 square feet of boutique hotel and restaurant on three levels in the Performance Plaza.
  4. 8,987 square foot, 55 feet high glassed-in atrium and circulation area connecting the two (known as the Winter Garden).
  5. Over 12,500 square feet of basement to provide for support services and limited parking to the theater and the Plaza.

RMPAC will be located at 116 East Elkhorn Avenue in the heart of Estes Park and its pedestrian tourist traffic.  This site formerly was occupied by Park Theatre Mall, which burned in October 2009.  The Board of Trustees has secured the commitment to transfer ownership of this site from Robert and Sharon Seeley, with the property being valued at $2.3 million.  Site ownership may be transferred to RMPAC when $6 million of the capital campaign goal has been pledged.  Robert  and Sharon Seeley, the current owners, will be remunerated through payments from EPIC in accordance with the terms of their insured gift annuity.  Payments will continue for the remainder of their lives.

The theatrical auditorium and support facilities will include:

  • Auditorium with orchestra and balcony seating (751 seats total), and flood mitigation features, which include emergency pumps and dual redundant backup generators.
  • Winter Garden (for intermission and reception gatherings) 
  • Fall River and River Walk 
  • Founders Room (overlooks Fall River)
  • Art Walk
  • Orchestra Pit
  • Box Office, Center Entrance, Hotel lobby
  • Green Room
  • Star Dressing Rooms (2)
  • Cast Dressing Rooms (2)
  • Pedestrian and Landscaping Terrace Levels (3)
  • Rehearsal Staging Space
  • Scene Dock
  • State-Of-The-Art Stage Equipment, Rigging & Lighting
  • Lighting & Technical Booth

Principal architect Roger Thorp of Thorp Associates has provided initial architectural guidance and renderings, and is expected to continue to provide architectural services as needed throughout the project.

Project construction is being managed by award-winning Hensel Phelps, headquartered in Greeley, Colorado and one of America’s largest general contractors and construction managers.  Hensel Phelps’s world-wide projects include the Colorado Convention Center, the King Academic and Performing Arts Center, the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, the History Colorado Center and the Hyatt Regency Convention Center Hotel, all in Denver; the Discovery Museum and the Larimer County Courthouse in Fort Collins, as well as work on seven buildings for the Smithsonian Institution and reconstruction of the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. 

Construction of the complex will begin when 90% of the $25 million is pledged towards the capital campaign, or as otherwise deemed prudent and timely by the Board of Trustees.   Plans currently call for the Town’s Development Review beginning in April, 2015, and ground-breaking on the Performance Plaza in September, 2016, with grand opening expected in April, 2018.  


Sustainable Business Model

What makes the Rocky Mountain Performing Arts Center truly unique is its sustainable business model.  The non-profit performing arts center will be managed and operated by Estes Performance InCorporated (EPIC) dba Rocky Mountain Performing Arts Center.  The commercial space (Performance Plaza) will be managed and operated by a limited liability company (Performance Plaza LLC).  RMPAC will raise the capital funding for the total facility, operate the performing arts center, and own 80% of the LLC, which will allow RMPAC to collect tax-free passive, rental income earned by the LLC.  

The other 20% of the LLC is owned equally by the founding members of EPIC; Curt Gleaves, Richard Zellner, and Stanton Black.  However, it should be noted that they share financially only in 20% of “excess profits,” of which none are anticipated.  Mr. Black is Manager of the LLC and also President of the EPIC Board of Trustees.  He will be required to resign from the EPIC Board when the LLC is funded.

Performance Plaza will necessarily operate as a separate entity from RMPAC and therefore typical expenses such as maintenance, marketing, management, taxes, etc. are considered paid before the estimated payment to RMPAC.  

The original business plan for the Performance Plaza side of the RMPAC was for retail and/or residential tenants who could contribute substantially to the Center’s financial sustainability.  After evaluating professionally the options for commercial uses, with the help of consultants we have adopted a combination of boutique hotel with facilities that include both an elegant and a casual restaurant with both a street-side full service bar and a rooftop bar.  The hotel will expand the choices for Estes Park’s residents and guests as well as for some of our performers.  This combination of boutique hotel lodging and fine dining will fill an important niche in Estes Park’s central business district, not only providing services not now available to the tourism market but providing the greatest income potential to share with the Performing Arts Center.  This enhanced revenue stream is significantly greater than anything we were able to project from retail tenants, significantly enhancing our underlying business model We see the share as sufficient to attract national star performances as well as underwrite local performers. 

After expenses, the passive rental income generated by Performance Plaza will produce for the Performing Arts Center an annual stream of income conservatively estimated to exceed $800,000, equivalent to that of a traditional $20 million endowment.  Yet the additional cost to include the Plaza construction is only $8 million to $10 million.  Construction of the hotel and restaurant space will be completed first to assure this revenue stream is available when the performing arts center construction is completed.  

The remaining dollars needed to support RMPAC’s annual budget will be generated through tickets sales, performance sponsorships, an annual fundraising, program fees, and space rental income.

The importance of this business model and the income it will provide for the ongoing financial support of RMPAC and its programs cannot be overstated.  We believe that our business plan will serve as a national model for other communities seeking to build and operate a financially sustainable performing arts facility. 

Engine of Economic Development

The Rocky Mountain Performing Arts Center is the largest single economic development project in downtown Estes Park in more than 25 years.  It will directly benefit Estes Park by creating jobs, generating new sales tax revenues from the commercial and residential retail space in Performance Plaza, and by increasing the business of neighboring commercial properties. 

The downtown location of the Rocky Mountain Performing Arts Center will attract a highly desirable clientele, including a significant number of “cultural tourists,” the fastest growing segment of America’s tourism industry, among them individuals who might not otherwise have been interested in visiting the Estes Valley.  Many of these new guests will be retirees whose travel and vacation plans are not limited to the hectic months of summer. 

A recent study prepared by Summit Economics, LLC for Visit Estes Park demonstrates that spending by tourists and the resulting taxes they pay greatly reduces the costs to local residents of police and fire protection, community services, utilities, public works, and other community development activities. The study concludes that “investment in tourism promotion is a critical investment for the economic health and continued growth of the Estes Valley.”  The Rocky Mountain Performing Arts Center is a key part of that investment.  It promises to add significantly to Estes Park’s tourist-based economy.  In demonstration of that fact, EPIC dba Rocky Mountain Performing Arts Center has become a founding investor-member of the new Estes Park Economic Development Corporation.

But the RMPAC will not belong to Estes Park alone.  It will serve as a theatrical destination for residents in communities along the Front Range, one of the fastest growing suburban areas in the nation.  Front Range residents have a long-standing love affair with Estes Park. The RMPAC, with its full schedule sure to please a variety of audiences, will provide yet another reason to visit and revisit. 

Economic Return

The Rocky Mountain Performing Arts Center will contribute significantly to Estes Park‘s existing economic base.  According to the research and metrics provided by four recently commissioned studies2, we conservatively estimate an annual economic impact on the Estes Park community of $8.74 million upon full operation.  (Using the on-line estimator developed by Americans for the Arts [a national arts advocacy group] the annual economic impact will be $9.9 million.)  RMPAC and its audiences also have the potential of adding over $318,000 in new sales tax revenues annually to the Town of Estes Park.  The combined impact on the local economy and local tax proceeds can thus be expected to reach $9,054,000 annually.  Added to this will be new sales dollars generated by local entrepreneurs in collaboration with the Center.  Hotel and restaurant business will augment both the economic impact and the tax proceeds.  

Music Entrepreneur Incubator Program

Helping to prepare the next generation of professional artists is central to RMPAC’s vision.  Unique to the Rocky Mountain Performing Arts Center, and also available for corporate sponsorship and associated naming rights, is its planned September-to-June Music Entrepreneur Incubator Program.  This innovative program will bring young musical talent to Estes Park to study, interact, and perform, thus closing the gap between formal training and professional acceptance.  During a series of five-week modules, major performing artists will be invited to join these young artists as both teachers and performers, creating an artist/apprentice relationship that can produce original musical projects of the highest caliber.