Checota looks to Bozeman, Spokane to grow Missoula’s concert route

“It’s mind blowing for us the appetite for music that Missoula has. I think the Bozeman market is totally under served right now. There’s a lot of growth there, a lot of money there, and a lot tourists there,” Nick Checota said Thursday. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current)

Logjam Presents is gearing up for its second concert season at the KettleHouse Amphitheater and, along the way, it’s looking to package ticket sales with other offerings, such as rafting the Blackfoot River and timing it to end with an evening show.

The 4,250 seat outdoor amphitheater on the Blackfoot River opened last July with Lyle Lovett and His Large Band. Now, Nick Checota, owner of Logjam Presents, looks to connect the dots and bring more concerts through Montana.

“We’re under design for a Bozeman venue the same size as The Wilma – a 1,500 capacity indoor venue,” Checota said Thursday. “My goal is to get (musical acts) from Denver to Seattle, or Salt Lake to Seattle, by giving them a Bozeman stop and a Missoula stop, and the other potential market I’m analyzing is Spokane.”

Checota added another jewel to Missoula’s entertainment crown by buying and refurbishing the Top Hat Lounge and The Wilma in the downtown district. He followed last year by working in partnership with KettleHouse Brewing Co. to build and open the namesake amphitheater just east of Missoula – and within walking distance of the brewing plant.

With Missoula firmly on the entertainment map, adding a stop in Bozeman and possibly Spokane would offer Logjam better deals and more music for Montana.

“I can buy three dice with one artist at once, and I can get more shows because I can make a logical path from Denver to Seattle,” Checota said. “It’s mind blowing for us the appetite for music that Missoula has. I think the Bozeman market is totally under served right now. There’s a lot of growth there, a lot of money there, and a lot tourists there.”

When Checota purchased the Top Hat in 2012, the venue was selling no more than 6,000 tickets a year. Now, he told a delegation of state legislators on Thursday, Logjam Presents is on track to sell 180,000 tickets at its three Missoula venues. The company’s total revenues are pushing $10 million.

This summer, Checota added, the company looks to package tickets with other opportunities, such as a Blackfoot River rafting experience with Lewis and Clark Raft Co.

“You’ll come here and park, and they’ll shuttle you up the river, you’ll do your float and get off here for a concert,” he said. “They take your raft, the Top Hat provides the lunch and KettleHouse provides the beer.”

Checota said his company was surprised when it looked into its ticket sales and found that 27 percent were purchased by attendees who live more than 200 miles away.

That serves as a robust tourism draw for Missoula, which Logjam promotes by advertising in Missoula’s nonstop airline destinations, including Portland, Seattle and Dallas.

“We have built up quite a social presence with 100,000 likes on our Facebook page, an email list of 75,000, and our web traffic is almost 100,000 unique users a month at this point,” he said. “Our digital advertising started targeting Dallas, Salt Lake, Denver, Seattle and Portland, and heavily targeting Montana and driving markets as well, like Boise and Spokane, for this outdoor venue.”