Frequently Asked Questions

As we move through this public process, please check back to this page for any questions and answers about Community Cultural Collective and the proposed future for the Colorado Springs City Auditorium. If there is a question you can’t find here please feel free to email [email protected]

 

What is the history of the City Auditorium?

The City Auditorium is the culmination of community-driven efforts to create a large, multi-purpose meeting and entertainment facility for the City of Colorado Springs. In 1922, the City approved the construction of such a building, and, in 1923, the building was completed and opened to the public. As a joint effort among three prominent local architects, Thomas MacLaren, Charles E. Thomas, and Thomas Hetherington, the Auditorium was intended to be an example of local architecture and a testament to the community of Colorado Springs. The building’s total construction cost reached just over $424,000.

 The structure itself is large, with overall dimensions of 226 feet by 160 feet with a main floor footprint area of 28,500 square feet, not including the sub-grade boiler room and original coal storage area.  The building encompasses over 40,000 square feet on its many levels and houses not only the main arena space that can seat up to 2,400, but also the Lon Chaney Theatre which seats about 235.  Originally, the Auditorium had several additional meeting rooms, which have now been converted to office, restroom and snack bar uses. The stage area has a full overhead fly area that rises to over 50 feet above the stage. It also has dock storage and basement-level dressing rooms.

 Two events served to enhance the building’s original design. In the 1930s, during the Great Depression, the New Deal Works Progress Administration (WPA) administered several mural painting campaigns across the country. Within the lobby of the Auditorium, at either end above the box office windows, two WPA murals were painted by two Broadmoor Academy artists.  Archie Musick’s mural depicts the grueling work of mining, while Tabor Utley’s celebrates the arts, which was possible in part due to the community wealth brought about by mining. These murals exist to this day and were restored in 2003.

 In 1976, a Mighty Wurlitzer Theatre Pipe Organ, constructed in 1928, was removed from its original location in the Burns Opera House, which was being demolished, and installed in the Auditorium. The Auditorium, which originally was designed to accommodate such an instrument, has utilized the organ since its installation for a wide variety of events, including weekly lunchtime recitals to accompanying the screenings of silent films. This original Wurlitzer Opus is the last remaining original Colorado Springs Theatre Pipe Organ and is maintained in nearly perfect condition. The organ is known across the United States and has been played by many of the top theatre organists in the country.

 Through the years, there have been multiple studies conducted on how to best operate and renovate the City Auditorium. In 2006, the international food and support service provider Compass Facility Management Inc. was engaged by the City to study the historic nature of the building; develop potential marketing and operating options; and prepare an extensive cost estimate for major facility repairs, renovations, and upgrades to be funded by the City and Downtown Partnership. The study suggested the cost of $15 million (dollars at that time) minimum is needed to address capital needs and upgrade the facility with life safety and code requirements.

When was the City Auditorium placed on the National Register of Historic Places?

In 1995, the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The City Auditorium is considered historically significant as a manifestation of community planning and development efforts that produced a valued public resource, beginning in 1922. It is architecturally significant as the final collaborative effort of two locally significant master architects, and as the last local representation of publicly owned Classical Revival architecture.

Being on the register ensures eligibility for grants from Colorado’s State Historical Fund (SHF). Soon after the Auditorium’s historic designation, the City was awarded two important SHF grants that allowed for the preservation of the building, namely replacing its deteriorated roof and restoring its exterior in 1997 and 1997, respectively. Later grants awarded in 2004 ensured the preservation of the lobby murals.

The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of the nation’s historic places worthy of preservation. Authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect America’s historic and archeological resources.  Under

Federal Law, the listing of a property in the National Register places no restrictions on what a non-federal owner may do with their property up to and including destruction, unless the property is involved in a project that receives Federal assistance, usually funding or licensing/permitting.

Why is the City Auditorium currently closed for business?

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, in 2020, the City Auditorium cancelled booked events and closed its doors to the public. As the pandemic continued, the community identified the need for a large, dedicated space to house those experiencing homelessness and potentially COVID-19. The Auditorium became that dedicated space in early April 2020 and continued in that capacity through May 2021. During this use, several areas were secured to protect the Auditorium’s historical features.  Removing these barriers required staff scheduling and time. Multiple cleanings have been required as well.

 

Since there was no way to determine a known end date for use of the facility, a decision was made to not book any rentals or events into 2021. Additionally, the City was engaged in an RFP process prior to the pandemic, looking for a new opportunity for the Auditorium. Since this process was underway, it did not make operational sense to try and startup operations until a final decision was made regarding the RFP. At this time, the City Auditorium is closed for rentals through 2021. There are no plans to reopen the building for rental events during the Due Diligence period that resulted from the RFP, which extends to at least March 1, 2023.

What type of events have occurred at the City Auditorium?

Once the Auditorium opened to the public, its flexibility in the programs it could accommodate allowed for a wide variety of events. In the 1940s, a local promoter, Abe Marylander, brought wrestling exhibitions and boxing matches to the facility. As the years passed, the Auditorium has hosted various musical concerts, basketball games, graduations, political rallies, many conventions and trade shows, professional wrestling, boxing, mixed martial arts, roller derby and more.

What are the building’s current capital needs and recommended maintenance and safety improvements?

The following is a list of major capital needs that have an estimated cost of a minimum of $20.7 million.

  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance throughout the building
  • Major infrastructure renovation including mechanical, plumbing, electrical and structural systems
  • Replacement of balcony seating
  • Interior finish upgrades to include walls, ceilings and floors
  • Vertical transportation to include three elevators and one stairway system
  • Exterior upgrades including windows, masonry veneer and the marquee
  • Acoustical upgrades at the Main Arena envelope
  • Acoustical upgrades and interior finish upgrades in the Lon Chaney Theater
  • STC rated acoustical doors at arena entries
  • Acoustical ceiling treatment at the arena and balconies
  • Installation of an orchestra shell and forestage reflector
  • Operable sound partitions at balconies for acoustical and visual separation
  • Sound Transmission Class (STC) rated acoustical doors at arena entries
  • Acoustical ceiling treatment at the arena and balconies
  • Installation of an orchestra shell and forestage reflector
  • Operable sound partitions at balconies for acoustical and visual separation
How is the City Auditorium currently funded by the City?

The City Auditorium is a general fund-supported operation. As such, it requests operating and capital dollars that compete with all other general fund-supported departments, including police, fire and public works. Over the years, the Parks Department has been successful in garnering additional funds, such as those for the remodel of the main restrooms. However, the needs of the Auditorium are significant in scope and cost. 

What is the Colorado Springs Community Cultural Collective at City Auditorium (CSCCC)?

The CSCCC is a newly formed 501(c)(3) dedicated to the reimagining, operation, and development of the 100-year-old City Auditorium as a quality, mid-size affordable performance and presentation venue for the Colorado Springs community. CSCCC has proposed that the City Auditorium, located at 221 East Kiowa Street, would be renovated and revitalized for arts and culture, education and related community activities and events.

What was the goal of the 2018 Request for Proposal (RFP)?

A 2006 study contracted by the City with Robert Sharpe for the operations and professional management of the City Auditorium recommended not only physical improvements to the building, but a complete rethinking of the oversight, operations and management of the facility. With the strong interest in the downtown corridor and significant investments occurring within the area, the City felt it was the right time to issue an RFP seeking qualified organizations interested in entering into an agreement or partnership for the full use and programming of the City Auditorium. The City envisioned a revitalized and renovated facility viewed as an essential asset to downtown. Responders were encouraged to submit proposals offering a balance of creativity and financial feasibility.

 

Specific RFP goals:

  • To secure a financially stable entity that will effectively manage, operate, and maintain full use of the Auditorium;
  • To develop and implement a means to address the capital needs of the Auditorium immediately and long-term; and
  • To have the Auditorium support and foster the presentation of artistic, cultural, and /or recreational activities in Colorado Springs.

 

 

 

After a significant review process and a pause during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the City selected the proposal submitted by the Colorado Springs Community Cultural Collective at City Auditorium (CSCCC) as the highest ranked offer.

What is the CSCCC’s proposed renovation plan for the City Auditorium?

The proposed renovation plan includes a multiuse rehabilitation of the building exterior and a redesign of the interior of the facility, expanding its useable floor area from 40,000 square feet to 90,000 square feet.  An addition will be built on the south side, and two new floor levels on the inside will replace the current arena seating.  The partial basement will include an orchestra pit, a versatile and multi-faceted event/theater venue, and commercial food and beverage partners. The ground floor will host retail and community partners.  The main performance venue will face the preserved proscenium arch and seat about 600 with a flat floor option for up to 730 people.

What is the CSCCC’s mission and vision?

The mission of the CSCCC is to create a city center affording access to all residents for the purposes of relevant, inspired, and thoughtful works of the human spirit that will preserve the history and public use of the City Auditorium. The Vision is “A collective of education, arts, culture and business community, ‘for the use of the people and the glory of the city.’”

What is the estimated cost to renovate the City Auditorium?

A proposed pro forma capital and operating budget shows construction would cost $52.9 million, with $3.6 million of that set aside as a contingency. Revenue projections under CSCCC operations is stated as $56.5 million, which includes donation of the building and its land by the City, an assessed value of $2.265 million. Tax credits, grants, private donations, and other sources of funding would only be available if the facility is owned by the nonprofit agency, rather than the City. The City and El Paso County are slated to receive more than $200 million from the American Rescue Plan Act passed to help the economy rebound from the pandemic, and a portion of those funds could be used to help support a project such as this. The CSCCC vision includes community revitalization, workforce development, access to creative education, and community partners, all of which are criteria for projects under the ARPA. The City has earmarked $2.5 million of its recovery funds to support the project.

What is the timeline and what are the key milestones in the MOU?

The MOU outlines two milestone periods with different timeframes and requirements to determine success. 

First Milestone – by February 2022

  • Identify sources of $5 million toward the project’s estimated construction cost of $53 million
  • Prepare a business plan that explains the vision as well as the necessary components that illustrate the feasibility and sustainability of the proposed use of the City Auditorium
  • Prepare and submit the New Markets Tax Credit and Historic Tax Credit applications
  • Begin preparing a schematic design package and updated construction cost estimates

Second Milestone – one-year timeframe beginning March 1, 2022

  • Provide proof of the total fundraising requirement of $53 million
  • Develop a pro forma financial statement that illustrates the feasibility and sustainability of the operation
  • Describe the programs and services to be offered with a breakdown by percent of use for private or oriented toward a unique user group versus use oriented toward the general public
  • Engage stakeholders and the general public in an outreach process to ensure community awareness of the project. A minimum of two public meetings and an online survey must be accomplished during the due diligence period.
  • Provide to the City a progress report every two months during the due diligence period
Is the City applying American Rescue Plan Act funds to the City Auditorium?

An allocation of $2.5 million in ARPA funds has been earmarked in support of the repair and renovation of the City Auditorium.

What would operations look like under the proposed RFP?

The CSCCC has developed a diversified business model for the facility that will include revenue from community nonprofit residents and tenant organizations, education partners, bookings for concerts and conferences, and commercial tenants, among other sources. The proposal anticipates that the building would be busy 20-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week with activities, multipurpose community events and performances.

Will there be public engagement during the MOU?

During the Due Diligence period, the CSCCC will engage stakeholders and the general public in an outreach process. A series of public meetings will be scheduled in the fall and winter of this year in which the public will have an opportunity to provide input and feedback on the proposed uses and renovations of the facility.

What other City–owned indoor facilities can the public rent for events?
  • Deerfield Hills Community Center
  • Hillside Community Center
  • Meadows Park Community Center
  • Westside Community Center
  • Beach House at Prospect Lake
Why is the City considering a proposed transfer of the City Auditorium to a non-profit entity?

The proposed funding plan includes the use of historic preservation tax credits and New Market Tax Credits – both of which require the building to be owned by a nonprofit entity rather than the City. The City currently has an MOU in place with the CSCCC to determine the viability of its proposal to renovate and operate the City Auditorium as submitted through the RFP process. If successful during this due diligence period, the property would be transferred to the CSCCC, in part, to accomplish the proposed funding plan. No specific terms have been identified or agreements have been developed until the initial MOU has been completed and the due diligence requirements are considered successfully met.

Want to be involved, 
or just stay in the know?

Sign up to our email list to be a part of our journey, as well as be notified of public meeting times, dates and places to discuss the future of this local landmark. 

Together as one brilliant community, we can transform one of the first ‘all purpose’ utilitarian facilities in Colorado into the first-of-its-kind future creative catalyst of Colorado Springs. All the while, respecting the rich history of this beloved landmark.

Images Courtesy of
Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum
& Semple Brown Design

© 2021 Colorado Springs Community Cultural Collective