Concert company buys former Boys & Girls Club building; Lawrence touted as a future tech hub
photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World
The former Boys & Girls Club building in eastern Lawrence has been bought by a concert company. But, no, it won’t soon play host to your favorite band. Instead, it will become the new headquarters for a local company that books bands and other events across the country.
Mammoth Live has purchased the building at 1520 Haskell Ave., which previously served as the home for the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence before the club moved into a new space near the Haskell and South Lawrence Trafficway interchange.
Mammoth books concerts for venues as small as 100 people to several mid-to-large arenas, including the Granada in Lawrence, the Uptown Theater and the Providence Medical Center Amphitheater in the greater Kansas City area, said co-owner Josh Hunt.
The company has had its offices in a converted house on Tennessee Street for a number of years. But the company, which has about 20 people who use the office, outgrew the Tennessee space long ago, Hunt said.
“We almost had to move our office to Kansas City because we couldn’t find a place here,” Hunt said. “If we didn’t get this property, and get it rezoned, we were leaving for Kansas City.
“Instead, we are investing heavily in Lawrence this year.”
Investing in the Lawrence music scene is something that has been on Hunt’s mind for a while now. Mammoth dates back to 2006 but has partners and employees who have been promoting in Lawrence for more than 25 years.
The concert promoting industry is getting smaller as several large national promoters have been driving a wave of consolidation, Hunt said. Mammoth has been able to survive by keeping several key relationships with artists and venues intact, he said. For many years, those relationships in Lawrence were a key part of the business. But they are less so now, Hunt said.
“We don’t make much money in Lawrence anymore,” Hunt said. “We have better financial arrangements in other places. But Lawrence is where we live, and we still have a lot going on here, but it can be kind of tough.”
He said it has become much easier to attract acts to Kansas City than to Lawrence. Years ago, Lawrence had the better reputation as a cutting-edge, live music town, he said. Kansas City, though, has reinvested in several live music venues, and that has attracted some of the smaller to midsize acts that once landed in Lawrence.
Hunt said Lawrence’s live music industry was at a point where it needed to think about how it wanted to adapt to the changes in the industry.
“I just think downtown needs to be more experiential,” Hunt said, noting that it is still difficult to find a consistent place to do outdoor shows in downtown. “And I think there are some things we probably just need to double down on.”
Mammoth’s news comes as local concert promoter and club owner Mike Logan confirmed that he has bought the longtime downtown music venue The Bottleneck. Logan and Hunt work together on many ventures. It does seem like the two have bigger ideas for the local music industry. I’ve got a joint interview set up with both promoters in the coming days as I delve a bit more deeply into the music industry and what impact it has on the broader Lawrence economy. I’ll report back on what I hear.
In the meantime, look for renovation work to begin soon at the former Boys & Girls Club building. Hunt said the building would undergo a complete interior renovation. The exterior work will include a new roof, siding improvements and some new windows. They are also looking for ways to improve the approximately 2-acre lot that comes with the building.
Hunt hopes to have the company moved into the building by late spring or early summer.
In other news and notes from around town:
• While Lawrence’s music beat may not be getting as much attention as it used to, the city got some national recognition recently for its brains. Bloomberg, the national business publication, published a story that featured Lawrence as an example of a small city that has greatly increased its share of brain power.
The publication produces something called the Bloomberg Brain Concentration Index. It measures the percentage of residents who have advanced or undergraduate degrees in science, engineering or are employed in a STEM field.
Lawrence drew recognition for cracking the top 20 for the first time. The city checked in at No. 19 on the list, which represents a jump of 33 spots over the past three years, according to the Bloomberg article.
The article noted that Lawrence was part of a trend of smaller, regional college towns that are attracting workers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. During the past three years, Lawrence hasn’t had a major new high-tech employment announcement, but the time frame does coincide with growth in KU’s School of Engineering and its new facilities.
Unfortunately, Bloomberg didn’t make its full rankings easily available, so I can’t do much comparison with how Lawrence stacks up to other communities. The No. 1 town on the list, though, is one many are familiar with in Lawrence. Boulder, Colo., home to the University of Colorado, took the top spot. Ann Arbor, Mich., home to the University of Michigan, took the No. 3 spot. At No. 2 is Silicon Valley, San Jose, Calif. Other university towns on the Top 10 list included Ithaca, N.Y., Charlottesville, Va., and Madison, Wis.
Look for the ranking to be the type of thing economic development leaders use to promote Lawrence as a place for new high-tech firms to locate. The headline of the article touted the cities as “America’s new top tech hubs.”