Megan Leatham is the new president and CEO at Colorado Springs Sports Corporation — a sprawling role that oversees the Rocky Mountain State Games, The Broadmoor Pikes Peak Cycling Hill Climb, Pikes Peak Airstrip Attack, Colorado Springs Labor Day Lift Off, and the Colorado Springs Sports Hall of Fame. But when she began her tenure with the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in 2011, Leatham started as a novice.
She got a lead on the job from her friend, Stori Peterson, who ran the Rocky Mountain State Games. Shortly after Peterson’s nudge, Leatham applied for the PPIHC operations director position.
“When Tom [Osborne, the late Colorado Springs Sports Corporation CEO] hired me 10 years ago I told him I didn’t know anything about cars or the event, but I think I can do this job,” Leatham said, now . “But he still trusted me enough to hire me. The event 10 years ago looked different than it does now. The Hill Climb was a smaller organization and I was the only staff member. I had to learn about the race and the complexities of the race. I started in March  and the first race was in June. I had four months to figure out any and everything I could.”
Leatham’s first event went without a hitch. In the space of about three years, she advanced from operations director to executive director.
Over 10 years running the Hill Climb, Leatham grew the staff by five people, added dozens more contractors to the event and maintained a $1.5 million budget with fundraising goals of $625,000 annually — which came in handy during the pandemic.
“I wanted to make sure we were fiscally responsible and the goal was to have one year of operating expenses in the bank — I used to joke about this — in case a pandemic struck,” Leatham said. “Then we could still operate the race even if we made zero dollars. Getting this organization on the best financial footing as possible so it could maintain the history and legacy was one of the most important things I did.”
The 2020 race went ahead in the midst of the pandemic, albeit without fanfare. The support system created by Leatham and her team during her tenure helped the event succeed, despite unavoidable challenges.
“We didn’t lose a single sponsor from that year, which was phenomenal that our partners stuck with us,” Leatham said. “We pushed it off two months and held it in August. Of my 10 races, it was probably the proudest I’d ever been, knowing we pulled that off during the pandemic and following all the guidelines.”
However, it would be one of Leatham’s final races as executive director. As she approached her 10-year anniversary with the Hill Climb in March, Osborne, Leatham’s mentor and friend, died at 65.
This left a hole at the level of president and CEO at Colorado Springs Sports Corp. The 501(c)3 nonprofit began its search for a successor, and Leatham put her hat in the ring. Her extensive resume made her the frontrunner and, on Sept. 20, the Sports Corp. named Leatham the new president and CEO of the company.
“Getting this job is bittersweet,” Leatham said. “Tom was a mentor, friend, boss and father figure to a degree. We worked together for 10 years. My old office is three doors down [from his old one]. But I’m excited about the opportunity and would like to see what I can do in this new position. I’m 37 and what’s great is I think I found my forever job and dream job, so I don’t plan on leaving any time soon.”
Leatham spoke with the Business Journal about Osborne’s legacy, her entrepreneurial spirit, and where she hopes to lead the organization.
You juggled a lot during your 10 years with the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.
Yeah, I have an entrepreneurial spirit. As I continued with the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, I’d do some moonlighting/side hustling. There were a few things I started before the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb that I wanted to continue. The Hill Climb was always my priority during my tenure there, but my mind is always thinking about other potential things.
You were the Southern Colorado League general manager, coached basketball at Rampart and Colorado College, started a family and got your master’s. How did you balance all of that?
It all hit me at once, and I didn’t know what direction my world would go before I fell into the Hill Climb job. I signed up to get my master’s degree, then I started coaching basketball at Rampart. Through my basketball connections, I met with the owners of SoCo basketball for some leadership there. I was doing my master’s, coaching and SoCo, and then the Hill Climb job was offered to me ... . When Tom hired me I told him I was doing all those things and he asked me, ‘Why don’t you just keep doing those things?’ I said, ‘I think I can.’ I don’t sit still very well so I work in the mornings, work during the day and work in the evenings and that’s how I like it. I don’t mind sitting with a friend late night even if I have my computer and they have their computer and we have a pint and we’re working. It’s my M.O. but I’m excited to have just one job and let go of the others to take over as CEO here.
Which of Tom’s lessons do you carry with you?
One of the biggest strengths Tom had was the ability to think creatively and use all his partnerships he had created over time to get things done. Tom was a tremendous leader and the humblest man I’ve ever known. He had this charisma where he didn’t ask anyone to follow him, but everyone wanted to. Learning from him and watching him for 10 years, I can’t fill his shoes, but I’m excited to step in and see where I can try.
How do you feel your work with the Hill Climb has improved Colorado Springs from 2011?
One of the things that will transfer nicely from the Hill Climb is improving the local economy. Getting heads in beds and as many people here for the Hill Climb or other associated Sports Corp. events will be a huge goal from the start. I’m a native to Colorado Springs; I grew up here, played park and rec soccer; I love this city and I’m going to do everything I can to make this the best city in the world. That started with Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. It is such a major international event. The fact it’s in our back yard and we have such a beautiful venue we can see every day has been a huge part of my job [with Hill Climb]. Working to transition it from a grassroots event to a renowned auto sports race that anyone in the world wants to watch has been my goal during those 10 years. We’re on the right track.
What do you hope to accomplish now?
I think some of my goals in the first 100 days are really establishing who we are, where we want to go and start getting one foot in front of the other to get there. One of the biggest things I’ll do in the first 100 days is go on a listening tour and meet with as many people as I can in the city — board members, governing bodies, people from the United States Olympic and Paralympic Museum, the ODC, Visit COS — and all the facilities. My long-term vision is the Sports Corp. will be the driving force behind making Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak region the best place in the world for amateur and elite sports. However long it takes me to get there, that’s my goal — but that starts with the first 100 days.
You benefitted from making the right connections early. How do you hope to be that connection for other women in the sports world?
I think regardless if you’re a man or woman it comes down to hard work. I’ve been working extremely hard all my professional career and you don’t fall into jobs like this, you work to get them. I think that is one of the most important messages I could tell anyone ... . In the sports world it’s typically male-dominated, but it goes back to your roots. Regardless of the industry you’re in you have to work your way up, work extremely hard, meet different people, network. You have to have a passion and people have to know that you want to be where you are. One thing Tom said to me the day he hired me was that he’s never worked a day in his life because that’s how much he loved his job. I felt that for all 10 years with the Hill Climb. I drove in [on Sept. 27] thinking about him and how excited I was to come to work. I think I’ll continue my career here at the Sports Corp. having never worked a day in my life.