COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Over the last decade, the Pikes Peak Region has welcomed a record number of visitors and several high-profile improvement projects are underway to create an enhanced experience for all. Visit COS is helping to guide this sustainable growth within the tourism industry through a regional Destination Master PlanA plan for the development of a portion of the city that contains proposed land uses, a generalized transportation system, and the relationship of the area included in the plan to surrounding property..
“The Destination Master Plan is not simply about travel and tourism, it’s about responsible economic development through all sectors of our economy working to create a better place for us to live, work and play,” said VCOS president and CEO, Doug Price. “Tourism continues to be one of the Pikes Peak region’s strongest economic drivers and a catalyst for destination investment. This is evident through the City for Champions projects, new hotel properties, restaurants and attractions. As we move forward, we strive to position Colorado Springs as the leading U.S. destination for experiential travel, inspired by the majesty of Pikes Peak; iconic, accessible natural wonders; and the Olympic spirit.”
Tourism’s economic impact
The Lodgers and Automobile Rentals Tax, a 2% tax to guests staying at overnight properties within the city and a 1% tax to those renting vehicles, has grown steadily. As of October, LART funding is $319,896 ahead of last year’s total of $6,335,687. With two months still to be accounted for, LART is expected to have a strong finish. These tax collections are added to the city’s general fund to help fund tourism efforts and enhance the quality of life in Colorado Springs.
Substantial progress made on new Pikes Peak Summit Complex
Construction crews have been working to replace the existing visitor center on the summit of Pikes Peak since June 2018. The highest ongoing construction site in North America, the new building remains on schedule to open in late fall 2020. The Pikes Peak Summit Complex achieved several construction milestones in 2019, among them:
- The highest steel beam in the structure was installed on Nov. 9.
- Concrete foundations are complete, and the precast wall placement and Permatrak systems for the boardwalks were completed in October.
- Material and window testing was completed in September, passing the stringent requirements for this project.
- Through this winter, crews will work on the build-out of the mechanical and electrical rooms, as well as interior finishes in the lower-level public areas.
As of Dec. 16, 581,784 people visited Pikes Peak – America’s Mountain, the second highest annual attendance recorded by the mountain. The all-time annual record of 597,233 visitors was set in 2018. It’s worth noting that due to inclement weather, the summit was open 67 more days in 2018 versus 2019. The starkest difference was seen in March, when the summit was open just one day in 2019 as opposed to 21 days in 2018.
Garden of the Gods Park upgraded with new trails and overlook facility
Garden of the Gods Park improved a handful of amenities in 2019, including new sections and alignments on the Foothills and Gateway trails as well as a new gathering area, overlook and facility near the central garden, which expanded from four restrooms to 13. The trails provide a more accessible pathway for visitors and also connect the park to the naturally-surfaced parking lot located near the main entrance. The new Gateway Trail counted 532,492 hikers as of Nov. 14.
As of Dec. 17, the Garden of the Gods Visitor and Nature Center welcomed 1,254,289 guests. This tops the center’s annual visitation record set in 2018 (1,217,543). These numbers have grown year-over-year since 2015. Based on electronic counters, 1.2 million vehicles entered the park from the main entrance as of Nov. 14, which is on track to meet 2018 visitation.
Crowds support sport and recreation events; more excitement to come in 2020
This year, Colorado Springs saw a substantial turnout for sport and recreational events. The 43rd annual Labor Day Lift Off had a record number of spectators with more than 175,000 attendees in Memorial Park over the three-day weekend. Additionally, local event organizer, The Sports Corp, counted more than 263,000 spectators and sports fans at events including the Rocky Mountain State Games, Pikes Peak International Hill Climb and Pikes Peak Airstrip Attack, all providing a boost to tourism and the region’s economy.
Looking ahead, 2020 is expected to be another strong year for tourism in Olympic City USA with several special events and new developments. Here’s a snapshot of what’s on the horizon.
- The Tokyo2020 Downtown Celebration on July 24 will feature Olympic and Paralympic athletes, live entertainment and interactive activities for kids and families. This event will complement the opening of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Museum this spring and the Hybl Sports Medicine and Performance Center this summer.
- The Pikes Peak Airstrip Attack returns June 20-21 at the Colorado Springs Airport with drivers reaching top speeds in excess of 255 mph. This event has grown to be one of the largest of its kind in the world.
- The National Hockey League is bringing outdoor hockey to Colorado Springs as part of the 2020 NHL Stadium Series. On Feb. 15, the Colorado Avalanche will face the Los Angeles Kings at the U.S. Air Force Academy’s Falcon Stadium.
- USAFA will also welcome championship golf back to Colorado Springs when it hosts the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship on its Eisenhower Golf Course July 13-18. Administered by the United States Golf Association, the Girls’ Junior is considered the world’s most prestigious championship for female golfers age 18 and under.
- The Pikes Peak APEX presented by RockShox, a new multi-day mountain bike challenge is slated to be held on the slopes of Pikes Peak in September. The four-day race will include in-town parks and backcountry stages.
- The 115,000-square-foot addition of Broadmoor Hall is on target to open this spring in time for the annual Space Symposium March 30-April 2. Conducted by the Colorado Springs-based Space Foundation, the event attracts thousands of attendees and hundreds of exhibits each year.
- Finally, several new developments are expected to bolster hotel occupancies and LART funding, among them a 261-room dual-branded Marriott on South Tejon Street, 120-room Hyatt Place on the corner of Nevada Avenue and Kiowa Street and an 80-room Kinship Landing boutique hotel on South Nevada Avenue.
For a full list of upcoming events, visit: www.peakradar.com.
Colorado Springs Airport sees sustained growth
The Colorado Springs Airport again saw nearly 1.7 million total passengers in 2019. To better accommodate the number of travelers and to give the airport a fresh look, the airport continues to rehabilitate and modernize its terminal with completion anticipated in spring 2020. The project includes updated escalators, restroom upgrades that provide improved accessibility, new paint, LED lighting, and raised ceilings.
In addition to the terminal updates, efforts to develop the Peak Innovation Park have taken off, with a vision of hotels, office buildings, restaurants and more, which will spur economic development and job growth in southeast Colorado Springs. General Aviation is continuing to expand with additional developments at the National Museum of World War II Aviation and various construction projects, including new hangars.