Rendering of the planned Manitou Springs event center.

Plans for a new event center in Manitou Springs are moving forward.

Julian Heron, president of the Craft Lager Festival, said the big project he’s been working on during the last year is gaining momentum. He aims to build an event center on the western edge of Manitou Springs that will have indoor and outdoor amphitheater seating above a brew pub.

He and a group of partners have already successfully commissioned and completed a feasibility study that found the Pikes Peak region doesn’t have enough entertainment venues.

“There’s been lots of homework,” Heron said. “And now we’re in the fundraising stage essentially.”

As part of the fundraising, Heron is negotiating with a few of the nation’s largest concert and event promoters. The promoters sign contracts with venues promising them a certain number of concerts and events each year that will yield a predictable income.

The center would be big enough to seat 4,500, which promoters have told Heron is probably the largest event they would bring to Colorado Springs. In the first years there would probably only be about six events that size, growing to 12.

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“Everything in our design was made to be versatile,” Heron said.

The lawn seating is in front of the amphitheater seating, with the tiers behind so that some smaller events, like the Philharmonic, can seat people just on the lawn so it doesn’t feel  empty.

“Having the lawn seating up front, people will never notice it’s not that full,” Heron said. “The whole center is designed to shrink to a space small enough for just 500 people.”

Including the larger events, there could be 200 or more events a year, many of which a promoter would guarantee.

That “guaranteed revenue stream” is the key to finishing the investment leg of the project, Heron said.

“Once we have that guaranteed revenue stream, the risk for the investor becomes really minimal.” Heron said.

He said the biggest risk would be a full review from the Colorado Department of Transportation that would require widening Manitou Avenue.

“That would eliminate that particular location,” Heron said.

But it wouldn’t kill the idea.

Some of the top promoting companies in the world are working with the Craft Lager Festival organizers because they recognize that the Colorado Springs market is underserved, Heron said. That wouldn’t change if the selected location was no longer a viable option.

Heron said he expects to hear from promoters within a couple weeks before serious negotiations start and contracts are drawn up. If all goes well, the planned venue could have a guaranteed revenue by March.

But that’s just the beginning. Fundraising would probably wrap up quickly, Heron said. And then there would need to be reviews from CDOT and the city, permitting from regional building and then construction.

“If everything goes perfectly, we’re still looking at two to three years,” Heron said.

But he said the brew pub could open sooner and remain open through construction.


  1. What part of Manitou Avenue would have to be expanded? I assume just the west end, west of the Ruxton Ave. roundabout.

  2. There’s no way to know yet what the Colorado Department of Transportation might recommend right now as a study hasn’t even been commissioned yet. Heron was just considering the possible hiccups in the project. But he was concerned about improvements to the road west of Ruxton and at the Highway 24 interchange where it could cut into available space for the building.

  3. Michell as Amanda say’s there is no area that “has to be” expanded currently, but it’s not impossible to say that CDot would want for instance a longer turn lane at Serpintine Drive (off of the highway) or a clover leaf… Anything that would require that scale of change would kill that site due to cost. Again, it’s not likely to be the case, but not impossible and as Amanda pointed out, I was just addressing all possible issues.

    One Correction however… the current plan has up to aprox.130 events per year, not 200 with most planned for inside so as not to disrupt the residential life of Manitou. I only point that out because a big goal would be to be a strong community partner and certainly part of that is having considered our impact on quality of life for the west end.

  4. I would encourage Julian to find a venue that is not directly adjacent to residential backyards. The noise, light polution and traffic during the multiple outside activities will negatively impact the residents of Manitou’s westside. When Julian asked me about the project, I told him it would destroy the quality of life I enjoy in Manitou Springs. The noise produced during the outside concerts will be pumped into Manitou Springs effecting most of our city, due to Manitou Springs being situated in a valley. I would suggest that Julian fill the proposed site with the lights and sound necessary for a multi-hour concert and determine the effects of such a concert on Manitou Springs and then survey our residents for reactions. I can only imagine the parking nightmares associated with bringing in 4500 people into our city on a regular basis. We currently experience this congestion during our yearly events. I believe that Julian planned on 80 outside events, but I could be wrong on that amount. I cannot support and will actively oppose Julian’s current site of choice as I believe it will ruin my quality of life and reduce the value of my home. I will point out that Julian does not live in Manitou Springs and would not suffer the ill effects of such a project, he will only reap a financial profit.

  5. @Rick

    Rick I’m glad you raise this issue. As you know quite well, our current plan includes 9-12 outdoor events, some of which are existing in Maniou today. Unlike events today, this plan would include new parking to accomidate events thereby actually reducing the existing conjestion. This sounds more like a “not in my backyard” issue, as your ok with Non “westside” residents dealing with the noise and congestion of existing events, but spin it to quality of life when a facility that would lower impact for 80% of the residents, while increasing your personal impact is proposed.

    I think the best guage of how sensitive I would be to the residents would be based upon the existing event I hold in Manitou. I allow Manitou non-profits booths for free (to enable their own fundraising), I hold the event during the day to mitigate the impact on the “bedroom community”, most years, I’ve left the playground open to not impact family’s. When this project started, I first offered it to the city to get involved as a potential method to solve several of their problems with revenue & parking. Rick may want you to believe I’m a “heartless developer”, but I believe you’ll find quite the opposite to be true if you take the time to ask.

  6. The twelve outdoor events is a relatively new occurance. Where did the lowering the impact for 80% of the residents data come from. I still believe the impact is too great for Manitou Springs to absorb. The new parking would include approximately 800 spaces, Julian’s previous estimate. Will the rest park on the Flats or our streets creating an additional burden to an already stressed parking situation.

    .I encourage Julian to be forthcoming with what events he is considerring moving out of the downtown area. Would it be the Marti Gras parade? Would it be the Emma Crawford races. Julian knows that I am a recent member of the Manitou Springs City Council, a past president of the Manit
    ou Springs Economic Development Council and currently sit on the Manitou Springs Forward executive committee. I have a long history of supporting all on the residents of Manitou Springs.

    I do not believe that Julian is a “heartless developer”, I do believe that he does want to profit from his ventures and I do not fault him for that. I think Julian is a nice person, but I do not support an outdoor ampitheater in Manitou Springs due to the negative impact I believe it will have on all of our residents.

    I encourage Julian to seek a different venue for his dream.

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