Pikes Peak Summit Complex Press Kit

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Thank you for your interest in featuring the Pikes Peak Summit Complex. The new visitor center is on track to celebrate its grand opening in early summer 2021. The grand opening date will be announced soon.

Storylines

To help inform your coverage, here are 14 storylines about the new building, located on the most accessible 14’er in America. For interview requests or more information on any of these topics, email vanessa.zink@coloradosprings.gov.

Enhanced summit visitor experience

No matter how visitors get to the top – by rail, car, foot, bike or bus – the reinvigorated summit experience offers the chance to learn more about the past, present and future of America’s Mountain. New interpretive exhibits will share fun facts on the mountain’s history, climate, geography, recreational opportunities, conservation initiatives, and more. The indoor exhibit gallery will include interactive, digital features that will allow visitors to weave their own personal experiences into the mountain’s story. Outside, interpretive rails around the summit will describe the environment and the views, identify key landscape features and share interesting stories.

Striking architecture, natural design

The visitor center’s design balances a dynamic building that presents a clear destination to visitors, and a minimalist structure deferential to Pikes Peak and its majestic views. Designed by GWWO Architects (Baltimore, Md.), in collaboration with RTA Architects (Colorado Springs) as architect of record, the building seems to be “of the mountain” rather than on the mountain with its form and materials complementing the crags and rock formations of the peak. The design also accommodated a challenging construction process in an extreme climate where winter temperatures can reach as low as negative 40 degrees. Durable materials, such as high-performance glass, were rigorously tested and chosen to withstand harsh environmental conditions, including winds that can reach up to 230 miles per hour.

Building North America’s highest project

Logistics and safety take on a new meaning on America's Mountain. Material delivery and getting crews to work each day were only a few of the extraordinary challenges overcome by Colorado Springs-based contractor GE Johnson on this once-in-a-generation project. And, then, came the pandemic. Safety considerations for high altitude, inclement weather, and COVID-19 were elevated to make the Summit Complex a reality.

Sustainability in action

A top priority of the new building is caring for the summit’s environment. Various design features work to preserve the natural state of the mountain while also accommodating an ever-increasing number of visitors. For example, the elevated exterior walkways allow for the recovery of the summit’s fragile tundra ecosystem. The project is also striving to become the first Living Building Challenge certified project in Colorado with sustainable design aspects focused on energy, building materials, resilience, site ecology, site water and wastewater. It also aims to achieve net zero energy, net zero waste and net zero water consumption and is designed to save more than 350,000 gallons of water per year over the current system.

More than half a million visitors a year

One of the reasons for building the new visitor center is a decades-long trend of increased visitation. Annually, Pikes Peak – America’s Mountain welcomes more than half a million visitors a year and those numbers are expected to rise. Despite the pandemic, the Pikes Peak highway welcomed 527,418 visitors in 2020.

Foodies delight! 14’115 feet never tasted so good

A visit to the summit of Pikes Peak would not be complete without a world-famous Pikes Peak donut, always made fresh daily. The same high-altitude recipe that has been passed down since 1916 will be used, but for the first time, guests can add various seasonings, including sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, cardamom, coriander or nutmeg to the summit’s signature baked good. In addition, a revamped food court will offer a variety of new, fresh food options and beverages, including a Pikes Peak Melt sandwich that uses locally-sourced artisan breads and gluten-free options, plus a new Trail Mix bar that allows guests to customize their snack mix.

Hit the open road for 19 miles of new adventure

Along the 19-mile Pikes Peak Highway, visitors are in for a treat with new product and food offerings at both Crystal Reservoir Gift Shop and the Historic Glen Cove Inn. Each recently-remodeled location offers unique treasures to commemorate every adventure. Two mobile apps further enhance the experience. The TravelStorys Audio Tour provides a guided experience, offering fun facts at geo-tagged locations along the scenic drive to the summit, and the soon-to-be-released Pikes Peak Summit Experience app will offer visitors the chance to uniquely document their journey.

Accessibility – a high-altitude experience for everyone

The new facility and all exterior walkways are fully accessible to people of all ages and abilities. Plus, hiking isn’t the only way to the top of America’s Mountain. Visitors can reach the summit from the comfort of their own vehicle, join one of the many tour groups that journey to the top, or ride the soon-to-reopen Cog Railway. Once visitors reach the summit, a network of walkways, designed with gradual elevation changes and resting areas, seamlessly accommodate people with disabilities and help mitigate the fatigue that can occur at high altitude. 

Brand new tracks, brand new ride

The Broadmoor plans to reopen The Broadmoor Manitou & Pikes Peak Railway, one of Colorado’s top attractions, this May. Originally built in 1891, the Pikes Peak Cog Railway is the highest-altitude railway in America, and the world's highest cog train. Since March 2019, it has been undergoing a $100 million renovation of its tracks, railcars, and depot to totally reimagine the scenic 9-mile journey to the summit of Pikes Peak. Its new platform connects directly to the new outdoor walkway, leading to the Summit Visitor Center.

Tourism recovery

The reopening of the Summit Visitor Center and Cog Railway will have a large impact on tourism recovery for the Pikes Peak Region in 2021. People still feel safest outdoors, so exploring around Pikes Peak is expected to be a major draw for visitors this year. Visit Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs are launching the Ultimate Pikes Peak Challenge in May to encourage people to get outside and spend time exploring.

Balancing conservation and tourism

ikes Peak – America’s Mountain, which has been incorporated as part of the Pike National Forest since 1909, was listed as a National Historic Landmark (NHL) on July 4, 1961. It is one of only 25 NHL’s in Colorado. The USDA Forest Service ensures that conservation of this national treasure and the watershed it provides to surrounding communities is the highest priority.

Out with the old

Demolition of the 1960s-era Summit House is expected to begin the week of March 8, 2021. The building, constructed in 1964, will be completely removed. The decorative plaque that was previously located in the former overlook area honoring Katharine Lee Bates’ poem “America the Beautiful,” which was inspired by her journey to the summit in 1893, has been kept and will be placed on the new eastern overlook.

150 years ago

On July 31, 2021, the City of Colorado Springs will celebrate its 150th anniversary, or sesquicentennial, but Pikes Peak has been celebrated long before the city was founded in 1871. A symbol to gold seekers heading west, “Pikes Peak or Bust,” became the mountain’s first unofficial marketing campaign in the 1850s. As for the history of construction on the summit, that dates back to 1873 when the U.S. Army first built a Signal Corps’ weather station on the peak. Then, in 1915, local visionary, Spencer Penrose built the Pikes Peak Highway. The very next year, Penrose launched the first Pikes Peak Hill Climb, an annual automobile race to the summit that still takes place today.

Sponsorship opportunities allow you to leave your legacy on the summit

Generous donors have already contributed more than $12.5 million to the project, bringing Pikes Peak – America’s Mountain, an enterprise of the City of Colorado Springs, to 80% of its $15 million fundraising goal. Only a few opportunities remain to leave a lasting legacy through sponsorship at the new Pikes Peak Summit Complex. Every donor, no matter the amount given, will be recognized in perpetuity on the digital donor board. Learn more at GiveToPikesPeak.org.