Megan Leatham began working for the Colorado Springs Sports Corporation three years ago as director of operations for the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. Since then, she has watched attendance climb and records fall as the nation’s second-oldest motorsports race creeps ever closer to the century mark. Now 30, Leatham, during her busiest week of the year, discussed with the Business Journal what it’s like getting the world’s fastest-moving traffic to the top of America’s Mountain.
What is your background and how did you get involved with the Hill Climb?
I grew up in Colorado Springs and graduated from Air Academy High School. I left for college and went to Whitman College in Walla Walla, Wash. I came back here and was a grants program associate with the United States Golf Association. Through my time there, I made friends with some of those who worked with [Sports Corporation President/CEO Tom Osborne]. Three years ago I met with Tom and he was confident enough to hire me on the spot, and we’ve been rocking and rolling ever since.
In what position did you start in support of the Hill Climb?
I was the director of operations and then executive director of operations and now I’m simply executive director. They have been similar roles all three years, but as I’ve gotten more involved, my title has changed. But it’s always been a pretty small staff. This event is really driven by a board of directors and volunteers.
What are some of the aspects of your job?
Overall management of every aspect of the race, whether that’s directing volunteer coordinators, coordinating officials, law enforcement; all the small details like trash placement and competitor registration. It’s general oversight over everything.
Were you a race fan coming into this position?
I’m a huge sports fan, but not so much a gearhead coming into this position. I love event management and I love sports, so it’s a passion to be able to combine the two. Basketball is my true love (she also is the former head coach of Rampart High School’s girls team), but I love this event. I love the buzz. I think it’s a strength in my position that I don’t have an auto sport background. I don’t care who wins the race. I care about making sure it’s a safe race and that all the competitors have an even playing field. Being unbiased toward competitors is a strength.
“I love event management and I love sports, so it’s a passion to be able to combine the two.”
How do you make going 100 mph up a narrow winding road safe?
Honestly, we have a wonderful safety team we’re very proud of. That being said, the faster speeds of the cars and motorcycles because of the paved road are really causing some changes. This year we’re changing the way spectators are able to view the race. In the past it’s been a free-for-all where spectators park and go wherever. We’re lucky something tragic hasn’t happened in the past. This year we’ll keep spectators in one of six viewing areas along the course. We can’t have 8,000 people wandering around near or on the road.
How does the city benefit from an event of this caliber?
I think the best thing about this event is the international following. You walk down the streets of Colorado Springs and some people don’t know about it. But the following overseas is just outrageous. The number of people coming into town and the amount of press the city gets from this event on a worldwide level isn’t something you see every day. It’s a great event for the city and the only reason it happens is because of the city’s support.
The USA Pro Challenge cycling race is also coming back to the city this summer. Do you see Colorado Springs attracting more race events?
The Colorado Springs Sports Corporation gets events like the Hill Climb and the Pro Challenge here in the Springs. The draw is that Colorado Springs is an attractive place for amateur and professional sports and being the Olympic City. The opportunity to bring these events to town will continue to grow.
What’s your fastest time to the top of Pikes Peak?
I drive really slowly. I have to be up there quite a bit and when people ride with me they tell me how slowly I’m going. It’s scary. nCSBJ