Noise limits tightened at Red Rocks

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Denver responds to concerns of Morrison’s residents

By Deborah Swearingen

In an effort to address Morrison residents’ concerns about noise, Red Rocks Amphitheatre will enforce new sound-level rules during the upcoming concert season.

There also will be new rules governing the required end time for concerts and pyrotechnics. 

“We’ve been working with them (Red Rocks), and we’ll continue to work with them,” said Morrison Mayor Sean Forey. “We request a lot and get a little, but at least we get a little bit.” 

Town Trustee Debora Jerome agreed, noting that the venue works cooperatively with the town, though balancing the needs of the community and the iconic amphitheater, which is owned by the city of Denver, can be a delicate situation.

“They’ve got kind of a line to walk because, obviously, they want to keep people coming to Red Rocks,” Jerome said. 

According to information provided by Red Rocks to the Morrison town board, Denver has added a sound pressure level monitoring system for artists to use during concerts. Located at the front of the house, the system provides sound engineers with real-time data to help them manage decibel levels. 

The system measures sounds in “leq” units, which describe sound levels that vary over time and give a single decibel value that takes into account the total sound energy over the time period.

“Leq sound pressure is an average level measured over time as opposed to instant peak levels,” said Charles Haarhues, who coordinates the music audio technology program at Arapahoe Community College.

For anyone who is not a sound engineer, the new sound pressure regulations may sound confusing. But the Oregon Health and Science University has comparisons to help the average person understand the measurement of sound waves. In a joint virtual exhibit with the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry called “Dangerous Decibels,” it is noted that normal speaking voices are around 65 A-filter-weighted decibels, whereas a rock concert can reach upwards of 120 dBA. 

“The section (of the regulations) that discusses the (various) … sound levels deals with the lowest bass registers,” Haarhues said. “These are the same frequency ranges you would hear from a subwoofer — the kind of speaker people often install in their cars, the kind that makes everyone else’s cars shake when you are sitting at a stoplight.” 

Artists face a $10,000 penalty for every three times per show that a limit is exceeded, and performers that incur a violation may not be permitted to perform at the venue during future concert seasons. 

In addition, Sunday concerts must end 15 minutes earlier than in previous years, Forey added. Weeknight shows must conclude by 11:30 p.m., while weekend shows may go to midnight and Sunday shows until 11 p.m. 

“Every little bit helps,” said Town Trustee Allen Williams. 

Violators of the time constraints face $10,000 penalties for each 15 minutes past the deadline. 

Also, neither airborne pyrotechnics nor cannon simulators are permitted after 11 p.m. 

For Morrison, whether the changes at Red Rocks will affect sound levels in town is unknown. It’s simply a waiting game, as the upcoming season is fast approaching. 

Contact reporter Deborah Swearingen at dswearingen@evergreenco.com or 303-350-1042. Follow her on Twitter @djswearingen. Check ColumbineCourier.com for updates.