The laid-back isolation that draws so many to the Four Corners also is the bane of the music business in this part of the world. Being hundreds of miles removed from the big city also means no Pepsi Center, no “Pit” and few big-name concerts. There just isn’t the kind of venue in the region that can hold the types of crowds to make it possible to bring superstar acts without charging exorbitant ticket prices.
At least there hasn’t been until now.
Jason Sandel, a New Mexico businessman and Farmington city councilman, also owns Micon Land LLC, which operates Aztec Speedway. His family business, Aztec Well Servicing, is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, and the company is funding the necessary renovations to turn the racetrack into a concert venue.
The 3/8-mile clay racetrack hosts a variety of dirt-track racing events on Saturday nights throughout the year, but this weekend, Sandel will put on what he hopes is the first of many big-name concerts at the speedway. Blues Traveler will headline the show, with Arizona’s Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers and New Mexico’s Those Devils on the undercard.
“I’m just a huge live-music fan, followed the (Grateful) Dead around for years, and I really respected Blues Traveler with the HORDE (festival) back in the ’90s,” Sandel said. “So bringing some live, cool music to our area and doing it in a big way has been a dream.
“We’re hopeful the community will come out and support something cool,” Sandel said. “If not, I don’t know that we’ll get another chance. It’s taken a lot of work and lot of money, but I’m betting folks from the entire Four Corners area will come out and have some fun.”
Gary Penington, former executive director of the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College, now is an independent concert promoter and also puts on big shows for Select Artists Associates. The company produces concerts at large sporting events, and Penington has been putting on shows at Major League Baseball games for the last several years.
“A friend of mine had been talking to Jason and told him I’ve put on concerts,” Penington said. “He’d been wanting to expand the speedway past car races since last summer, but it didn’t quite come together. I’ve been wanting to do something closer to home, so we got together and here we go.”
The Speedway will hold between 8,000 and 10,000 spectators, making it the largest such venue in the region. Sandel said he’s targeting a turnout of about 3,500. Fans will have the option of general admission seating in the bleachers or on the large infield, and there will be reserved seating in front of the stage area for a premium price.
Penington and Sandel hope that many more first-tier concerts are in the future, but Penington said they’re not overextending themselves and this weekend’s show will be a beta test of sorts.
“Let’s get one under our belts, see how the venue works and then take a step back and do the analysis,” Penington said. “But I think we’ve got a good thing here.”