Throughout the expansive room inside Library 21c, interested people gathered in clusters, listening to others, asking questions and receiving answers.
The crowd estimated at 250 to 300 might not have been fully united, but on this Tuesday evening, even the known cynics kept their confrontational instincts in check.
The event was billed as a “different” kind of informational meeting, as City for Champions organizers continued trying to cultivate support with a more wide-open format.
If you wanted to talk about the U.S. Olympic Museum, you could go face-to-face with Dick Celeste, the museum’s driving force and former Ohio governor as well as Colorado College president. If you wanted to discuss C4C finances, you could speak with Bob Cope, who has coordinated those complex specifics from inside city government.
If you were wondering about the Air Force Academy Gateway Visitors Center, you could walk up to AFA director of installations Carlos Cruz-Gonzalez — or the most recent former superintendent, retired Lt. Gen. Mike Gould.
And if you had questions about other aspects of City for Champions, people with specific knowledge were available to address topics — such as former Olympic Training Center resident-athlete Luke Travins, president of Concept Restaurants, one of the leaders of the push for the Sports and Event Center.
The mood was upbeat, not paranoid. Supporters of C4C realize they still have more work to do in selling the full concept, but for this fast-paced 90 minutes, they had a positive story to tell, and they had sharpened their message.
As someone who has followed the entire process, hoping for the best but willing to share (and write about) certain concerns, I wondered whether the latest effort would be worth the trouble. Perhaps it would be too elementary, another review of what we’ve heard before. Or one more pep rally, with everything but actual cheerleaders, merely trying to create positive vibes.
Don’t be surprised if space is left available in southwest downtown for a possible ballpark that could come later when Sky Sox ownership might be more amenable.
[/pullquote]But it wasn’t like that at all. You could find out as much as you wanted. Nobody shied away from direct questions. You simply had to ask, or be smart enough to listen while others asked.
At the start, C4C spokesperson Laura Neumann helped the audience by calling C4C “just the start … the gateway” and adding that “what comes after” could be equally significant. For emphasis, she offered three topics: 1. Other museums (such as for science and children) that might locate near the Olympic Museum; 2. Multi-modal transportation, including walkways, trolleys and even bike-shares around the proposed venues; and 3. Downtown residential projects (and new commerce) that inevitably would sprout up.
Those details, though encouraging, weren’t so new to regulars. I wanted more, and I was not disappointed. Some examples:
• Celeste explained in more detail why Olympic Museum leaders hope to raise $70 million in private donations. He sees the value in having enough to make sure the infrastructure (to be shared with the adjacent stadium-events complex) can be done early without delay, and also because construction might start sooner.
• If the city’s final contract is done as expected by Sept. 11, Celeste says we can expect to hear the first major announcements on donor commitments not long thereafter. Obviously, that would enhance momentum. Celeste also talked about replicating a public campaign that he helped push for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, selling personalized bricks or tiles for outside the museum, perhaps in the range of $200 to $300 each.
• The downtown stadium’s specifics remain uncertain, pending more input from many sports’ national governing bodies (such as what events will be targets, and crowds they might draw) and U.S. Olympic Committee experts who are well-versed in what makes for successful venues. In other words, whatever you’ve heard about the Sports and Event Center still is likely to be revised in weeks to come.
• Even if the Sports and Event Center isn’t built to handle baseball and the Colorado Springs Sky Sox (still my preference), don’t be surprised if space is left available in that general area for a ballpark that could come later when the Sky Sox ownership might be more amenable — after that area has become a magnet for people and events.
• People close to C4C understand one of the main public misconceptions: The package might have four components, but they can’t be choreographed to reach the finish line together. In fact, there will be four finish lines — with more after that.
See the point? That’s real substance. And legitimate reason for hope.