Colorado College partners with city on new arena

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When the new Edward J. Robson Arena is completed on the Colorado College campus in 2020, CC Tigers hockey games might be the hottest ticket in town.

The arena will be built as part of the City for Champions suite of projects that are intended to encourage tourism and contribute to a vibrant core.

Mayor John Suthers, other city officials and private partners including CC, the Colorado Springs Switchbacks soccer team and Weidner Apartment Homes, unveiled details of the project last week.

The 3,000-seat, indoor arena will be built in tandem with a 10,000-seat outdoor stadium in southwest downtown that will be the Switchbacks’ home field and an adjacent, seven-story residential and commercial building to be constructed by Weidner Apartment Homes.

The projects will be paid for through a combination of funds awarded to the city through the state Regional Tourism Act and private partners including the Ragain family, owners of the Switchbacks; Weidner Apartment Homes; and Colorado College.

The CC arena “will join the Fine Arts Center in serving as a gateway to a vibrant downtown corridor, contributing to its economic strength,” said Susie Burghart, ’77, chair of the Colorado College Board of Trustees.

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Colorado College Director of Athletics Ken Ralph said new arena would bring new life to both downtown and the Tigers.

“It will allow us to bid for events that will bring economic development to the region, and it will help sports professionals to develop new events,” Ralph said. “The possibilities are endless.”

The arena will be built on a block bordered by Nevada Avenue, Cache La Poudre, Tejon and Dale streets.

Colorado College will foot the bill for most of the cost of constructing the facility. The college will be shouldering $30 million of the estimated $39 million price tag. The rest will come from state RTA funds.

The arena will be named for Edward J. Robson, a 1954 CC graduate and member of the hockey team. Robson donated $10 million to the hockey program, most of which will go toward the stadium, CC Vice President for Advancement Sean Pieri said.

“We haven’t been proactively fundraising, but we are positioned to move forward with this immediately,” Pieri said. Funds for the arena are part of a larger fundraising campaign, he said; to date, $336.5 million has been raised toward a $435 million goal.

Besides the arena, those funds will go toward scholarships and paying down the bond debt that financed the new Tutt Library and east campus residential community.

Pieri said the college issued a request for proposals in February to architects around the country that specialize in designing stadiums. Requirements included a commitment to sustainable design and harmony with the surrounding area.

“We have selected the architect and are finalizing the contract with that company,” said Pieri, who said more information about the architect would be forthcoming when the contract is signed, probably within the next couple of weeks. The college hopes to break ground later this year and to complete construction in time for all or most of the Tigers’ 2020-21 season.

The arena was originally envisioned as a practice facility for the hockey team. Now, as part of the C4C project, it will be designed to accommodate multiple types of events.

The arena will be the Tigers’ first permanent, on-campus home since the hockey program started in 1938, but some Tigers games might still be played at the World Arena, the Tigers’ home ice for more than 20 years.

“We would be open to putting some of the more popular games, such as those with Denver, North Dakota, Wisconsin and Notre Dame, at the World Arena,” Pieri said. “It depends on availability. We’ve also talked about the possibility of putting an ice rink on the soccer field.”

Pieri said a contingent of college officials visited the University of North Dakota and toured their stadium, considered the best hockey arena in the country.

“Our stadium will be one-third the size of theirs, but we’re going to try and create some of the same kinds of opportunities,” he said.

The CC arena will have “a lot of options that don’t exist right now,” including accommodations for businesses, he said. “It will have sky boxes and party decks or platforms like patios where you can host a company gathering.”

There will also be suites where businesses can buy seats and use them to entertain clients and guests.

Current season ticket holders will be offered the opportunity to buy season tickets at the new arena.

“For the general public, it’s going to be a popular ticket, but tickets will be available,” Pieri said.

The arena, which will feature advanced technology including optimization for high-definition video and high-capacity Wi-Fi, also will accommodate regional, national and international events.

“Part of our agreement with the city through C4C is that we have to work with them and the Switchbacks in bringing new visitors to the region,” Pieri said. “I could see us hosting events like tournaments to generate additional tax revenue for the region. I could see us hosting graduation if it rains.”

Pieri said the college was approached a couple of years ago about holding a presidential candidates’ debate on campus.

“We didn’t have the space for it, but I would see this being used for something like that,” he said.

Pieri said he was aware of concerns about parking, traffic and construction impacts from residents in adjacent neighborhoods.

“We’re evaluating those things and examining lots of possible avenues,” he said. “I envision us coming up with a partnership with downtown businesses for parking. We’ve already talked with the city about the possibility of a shuttle to move people from downtown to the arena. We’re also looking at ride-share options such as Lyft and Uber.”

Bob Loevy, retired Colorado College political science professor and a member of the Old North End Neighborhood historic preservation committee, said parking is likely going to be the issue that most affects surrounding neighborhoods.

“For the Old North End, the downtown people and the college have to come up with a really meaningful, workable plan,” Loevy said. “They ran a picture of how parking downtown six blocks away would be adequate, but most people are saying they really will have to come up with a workable plan to get them to the arena.”

Loevy said the arena is likely to have even more impact on the Near North End, the Old North End’s neighboring association.

There is less concern about traffic the arena might generate.

“Nevada Avenue seems to be able to absorb these traffic increases,” Loevy said. “I don’t think there is a problem.”

“I think anything you can do to improve downtown is great, and I support all of these things,” he said. “As there’s more activity downtown, we need to keep an eye on those adjacent neighborhoods and impacts.”

Read more about the arena and stadium projects in the Aug. 3 issue of the Business Journal.