LONGMONT — A nearly 10-year prohibition at city parks is about to end.
Tuesday night, the Longmont City Council approved a plan to let the Longmont Symphony Orchestra sell beer at Roosevelt Park during the annual Oktoberfest celebration in September. That marks the first time since 1996 the council has permitted alcohol sales in a park.
While the decision ends nearly a decade of temperance, it also marks the city’s first foray into using the renovated Roosevelt Park for major community events. The city acknowledged a reluctance to schedule events there because the noise upsets neighbors.
“We talk about having community, but we’re not willing to put up with a few hours of loud music? That’s what community and parks and doing these kinds of events are all about,” said Mayor Julia Pirnack in supporting the Oktoberfest request. “Why don’t we just see how it goes with this one?”
One of the city’s oldest public spaces, Roosevelt Park was substantially rebuilt in 2002 in an attempt to create a community gathering area. It cost $6.3 million but has remained overwhelmingly underused.
A series of renovation-related missteps irritated neighbors, and the city until now shied away from using the park for its intended purpose.
The cavernous pavilion at the park was built 9 feet too high, and its hangar-like roof funnels noise toward homes on nearby Eighth Street. In addition, a winter ice skating rink under the 51-foot-tall pavilion was violating city noise ordinances because the compressor used to cool the rink was initially installed too close to homes.
The pavilion was designed by Pirnack’s husband, whose architectural firm won the contract before she became mayor.
Tuesday night, council members decided it was time to start using the park and pavilion more regularly. The unanimous vote permits Oktoberfest organizers to sell beer to the 2,000-5,000 people who attend the two-day festival. This year, Hazel Miller is being pursued as the headlining act.
LSO board Chairwoman Dana Schmidt said moving the festival to the park will permit it to be more family friendly, giving organizers more room to attract food vendors, craft stalls and other activities.
The event has until now been held at Sixth Avenue and Coffman Street. It started about 15 years ago as a craft festival at which LSO boosters grilled bratwurst, Schmidt said. It has evolved into one of the city’s most visible and successful festivals, and is seen by council members as just the kind of event the city needs to become a true player in the regional tourism market.
The snafus with the pavilion have until now hamstrung city efforts to get full value from the renovated park, which was one of the original parks laid out in 1892 by the Chicago-Union Colony. It also served as the original Boulder County Fairgrounds until 1977, hosting horse races and internationally known performers.
The most recent renovations began in 2000, and were intended to make the pavilion a city centerpiece for farmer’s markets, concerts, plays, roller hockey and basketball.
Earlier this year, the council rejected a suggestion that the city spend $177,000 to build awnings and a tree- and grass-covered mound of dirt — a berm in government-speak — to deflect noise from the pavilion.
The city stopped permitting alcohol sales in parks during special events because there were some fights and it was getting too hard to police them, officials said. Because Oktoberfest organizers have a close and longstanding relationship with the city, council members said it was worth taking the chance.
“It’d be nice to use that pavilion once in a while, actually,” said Councilman Roger Lange.
Trevor Hughes can be reached
at 303-684-5220, or by e-mail