One thing I’ve learned since I’ve been here,” said a senior executive at The Broadmoor, “is that some people really don’t like our hotel.”
He’s right. Hostility toward the city’s iconic resort hotel has taken many forms since Spec Penrose welcomed The Broadmoor’s first guests in 1918. Most of it comes with the territory — The Broadmoor has been the city’s most significant local business for 98 years, and the biggest neighborhood dog isn’t always the best-liked. Clashes are inevitable, but this city without The Broadmoor is unimaginable.
Tough, ambitious, restless and imaginative, Penrose was a fearless entrepreneur. He couldn’t have been more unlike Colorado Springs founder General William Palmer, a sober-sided Quaker who banned breweries, distilleries and liquor sales within his city.
Spec was also a cheerful atheist who enjoyed the good life. He was immensely rich through his early investment in Utah Copper, the vast open-pit mining operation that pioneered the extraction of copper from low-grade ore. When he set about to build The Broadmoor, he had a single goal: to make it the finest hotel in the world, one that catered exclusively to the upper class.
It wasn’t easy. Prohibition, the 1920 constitutional amendment banning the production, importation, transportation and sale of alcoholic beverages, wasn’t repealed until 1933. Combined with the Depression, it was too much — the hotel company went into receivership in 1931.
Penrose had several local partners/investors in the hotel, including Charley MacNeill, Bert Carleton and Francis Drexel Smith. They apparently didn’t examine the structure of the deal closely enough. Through his El Pomar Investment Company, Spec sued the hotel company and took sole possession of the hotel in 1932, since his erstwhile partners were unable or unwilling to put up further capital.
Penrose died in 1939. He laid the foundation of today’s grand resort, which has changed radically in the past five years.
The 2016 Broadmoor has little in common with historic urban hotels like Denver’s Brown Palace or traditional resorts like The Greenbrier in West Virginia. It’s not just a resort or a luxury hotel — it’s a safe, sophisticated island of calm in a chaotic world.
Since acquiring The Broadmoor in 2011, Philip Anschutz has pursued a grand-scale renovation and recreation of the hotel. Everything dowdy or second-rate has been cast aside or transformed (e.g., Broadmoor West) and much has been added. Cloud Camp, Emerald Valley Ranch, Seven Falls, Tarryall River Ranch and now Strawberry Fields; it’s an impressive list.
Why the expansion? It may be that Anschutz is carefully building something entirely new. It’s not just a hotel, a golf club or a resort, but a designer city with its own backcountry.
Conceptually, it’s more akin to Dubai than Aspen.
Consider another Anschutz venture, L.A. Live. It’s the multiblock sports and entertainment district that surrounds the Anschutz-owned Staples Center. It includes sports and music venues, nightclubs, restaurants, a luxo bowling alley, a museum and movie theaters.
A couple of decades ago, the area was rundown, derelict and apparently undevelopable — until Anschutz teamed up with the Los Angeles city government to create a new downtown.
It’s fun — you can watch a movie at Anschutz’s theater, watch the Kings or the Lakers (both partially owned by Anschutz) play at Staples or go to a concert promoted by AEG (formerly known as Anschutz Entertainment Group). It’s a typical Anschutz deal: He builds, he owns, he operates and he keeps.
For a certain class of clients, The Broadmoor can be both destination and base camp, a series of seamlessly curated experiences free of aggravation, hassle and stress.
Let the billionaires have their staffed vacation homes in Beaver Creek, the Riviera, London and New York — who wants the bother? Mere millionaires can book a cabin at Emerald Valley for $1,000 a night.
Under Anschutz, the company has been notably more assertive as it strives to expand and change. Among Colorado Springs’ economic generators, it’s the only one that will never relocate. But it must adapt.
“These legacy resorts have to constantly change,” said the executive, “but they have to do so without losing their history and character. It’s been difficult for many of them.”
Nothing lasts forever. In some distant future, owls may roost in The Broadmoor’s empty towers while wild boars root through the overgrown ruins of the clubhouse. But today?
No worries — Anschutz has us covered.