When Northgate developer Gary Erickson was a boy growing up in Colorado Springs, he said, there was nothing for a kid to do.
Now Erickson is on a mission to make sure no kid growing up in Colorado Springs will ever be able to say the same thing again.
Erickson recently worked out a deal with Topgolf Entertainment Group to open a new, multilevel venue at Polaris Pointe, the 200-acre project he’s been developing at Interstate 25 and North Gate Boulevard for the past seven years.
Topgolf, which will offer more than 70 hitting bays open year-round, plus a variety of high-tech games, food and drink, will lease the 54,000-square-foot facility that Crush Golf had been building at Polaris Pointe, Erickson said. Topgolf will take over the Crush Golf driving range that was about 75 percent complete.
“Topgolf came in a couple months ago and really wanted the location,” Erickson said. “So we ended up leasing it to them.”
But that’s just one of the components of an entertainment and sports complex that Erickson expects to be a “magnet for fun” and “the entertainment capital of Colorado.”
The complex already includes its anchor store — fishing, hunting and boating gear vendor Bass Pro Shop.
“We’ve got the only two-story go-kart racing facility in the nation [Overdrive Raceway],” he said. “We’ve got Magnum Shooting Center.”
AirCity360, a 30,000-square-foot fun center for kids, will open in May with trampolines, ninja courses and a roller glider on the ceiling that circumnavigates the venue.
“We’re working on getting iFLY, a parachute jumping facility” that simulates skydiving, Erickson said.
Originally scheduled to be located in the Air Force Academy Visitor Center complex, “it was put together and ready to go,” said Bob Cope, Colorado Springs economic development manager. When the visitor center project was delayed because of bond funding difficulties, iFLY “just went on the other side of I-25 so they could get open earlier.”
Erickson expects iFLY to break ground in April and to open about 10 months later.
He said he is working on two additional entertainment components he can’t discuss yet.
Polaris Pointe comprises about 60 stores, restaurants, service businesses and entertainment venues.
“And then we still have 100 acres on the south side of Powers [Boulevard] and I-25 that will be restaurants and shops and a movie theater, a workout gym” and more, he said.
“We’ve got a lot to grow up here still,” Erickson said. “I’m probably negotiating at least 10 different deals right now.”
The upcoming development at Polaris Pointe is just one of many projects that represent hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of investment in north Colorado Springs.
“These investments are all just a bet on the future of our economy and that we’re going to come out of [the pandemic] very strong,” Cope said.
INTERQUEST HOT SPOT
The area around I-25 and Interquest Parkway is another hotbed of development, Cope said.
Scheels All Sports, a 220,000-square-foot shopping experience, is projected to open March 27.
Scheels will feature two levels of retail merchandise with 80 shops selling a huge variety of clothing and sporting gear, along with unique attractions that include a 16,000-gallon aquarium and a 65-foot Ferris wheel. Restaurants, cafés and interactive games throughout the store will help make Scheels a shopping destination.
Scheels started hiring in August and is expected to employ more than 350 people.
Ent Credit Union’s new 300,000-square-foot headquarters building is nearing completion just north of Great Wolf Lodge at the north end of Federal Drive, Cope said.
Ent expects to begin moving about 800 staff members from its current headquarters at I-25 and Woodmen Road to the new facility in June and will complete the move at the end of August, said Fred Jacobs, senior manager, media relations and sponsorships.
The building can accommodate about 300 more people, and there’s room on the new campus for future expansion.
Another project in the I-25-Interquest area is a new Penrose-St. Francis Health Services medical facility on a 57.8-acre site southeast of the interchange.
The facility “will start out as a specialized spine and orthopedic center and eventually expand to a full hospital,” said Andrea Sinclair, communications field advisor.
Cope said he expects to see a development plan and construction documents for the first phase soon.
Plans call for groundbreaking later this year, and the facility will open for patients in spring 2023, Sinclair said.
“Ultimately, that’s expected to be about a $500 million campus,” Cope said.
Farther east at Victory Ridge, the opening of the popular In-N-Out Burger on Nov. 20, 2020, was just the beginning of development.
“There is quite a bit of residential development that is very close in the pipeline,” Cope said. That’s likely to spur more retail and commercial development.
Cope also expects to receive a development submittal soon for a new Cambria hotel, a brand that is part of Choice Hotels, in the Victory Ridge Center.
Even with all those projects on the drawing board — as well as a number of smaller ones — there is room for more commercial development in north Colorado Springs, Cope said.
Erickson’s 100 acres in Polaris Pointe south of I-25 has not had good access, “but it will have outstanding access after the interchange is complete,” Cope said. “It is going to be a prime retail location.”
InterQuest Marketplace also has vacant ground, and commercial land is still available on the south side of Interquest Parkway.
The goal of developer Westside Investment Partners is to build out Victory Ridge “in the near future, and they still have capacity for commercial development,” Cope said.
Colorado Springs is experiencing a growth surge unlike anything he’s ever seen in his 48 years as a builder-developer, Erickson said.
“Residential pushes the commercial, which tries to keep up with it,” he said. “I think that’s where we’re at.”
High residential growth in the Interquest and Northgate corridors is characterized by residents with high median incomes, Cope said.
“It’s just a desirable market to get into,” he said.
Cope said he thinks that Interquest Parkway and North Gate Boulevard will be able to handle the immediate traffic impacts of the area’s burgeoning development.
When completed, the new I-25 and Powers interchange will further improve access and support additional commercial growth, he said.
The interchange, plus a ¾-mile section of Powers, will connect the interstate to Voyager Parkway.
This project, which is the first phase of an eventual connection of I-25 to Powers at Interquest Parkway, is on schedule for completion this summer, said Kate Binning of Merge Resource Group Ltd.
The $65 million project is being financed privately by the Copper Ridge Metropolitan District, an entity formed to fund construction through the sale of bonds that will be repaid using property tax increments and a portion of sales tax revenues generated by Polaris Pointe. Polaris Pointe originated as an urban renewal project known as Copper Ridge.
“Looking forward, in the not too distant future after the Powers and I-25 interchange is completed, the community is going to have to get together and decide how much of a priority the rest of the Powers extension is, from [Colorado] Highway 83 to Voyager,” Cope said.
“I believe it’s a pretty high-priority piece of regional infrastructure,” Cope said, “not only to support that development, but to complete Powers Boulevard.”
Cope said the Colorado Department of Transportation “recognizes that it’s a state highway [Colorado Highway 21], but based on CDOT’s limited funding right now, it’s not showing up as being eligible for existing identified revenue.”
Once the interchange project is completed, future urban renewal revenue could go toward the second phase, he said.
Another possibility would be to get the second phase included in a third extension of the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority program, Cope said.
Voters in Colorado Springs, Manitou Springs, Green Mountain Falls and El Paso County approved a 1 percent sales tax to address infrastructure and transit needs in November 2004.
In November 2012, voters within the PPRTA approved an extension of the 55 percent capital portion of the sales tax from 2015 to 2024. The ballot measure specified and prioritized projects on which tax revenue could be spent.
A new ballot measure would also have to include the completion of Powers from its current terminus to Voyager in a list of top-priority projects, Cope said.
“A lot of collaboration would have to go to get that list together to put on the ballot,” he said. “Those very early discussions are happening now.”
If the community decided to participate in funding Phase II, “combining and leveraging of funding could get to the point where CDOT then would get so much bang for the buck, with local funding going into it, that they could be compelled because of the return on their investment to prioritize that extension for some state funds,” Cope said.
The state highway department is collaborating on the interchange currently being built, he said.
“It’s an ongoing challenge, but we will work until we are able to get funding for that project,” Cope said.