Norris-Penrose Event Center gets new look

Filed under: commercial real estate |

The 18,000-square-foot expansion at the Norris-Penrose Event Center will provide new space for catered banquets, corporate meetings and receptions.

Correction: In 2004, the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo Foundation, with funding from the El Pomar Foundation, paid $536,010 to El Paso County for the Penrose Equestrian Center.

Robert Norris, a long-time supporter of the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo, agreed to purchase the naming rights to remodeled event center for $2 million.

Information in a Jan. 20 article, “Norris-Penrose GM seeks to corral events” was incorrect. The Colorado Springs Business Journal regrets the error.

One of Colorado Springs’ favorite venues is undergoing a $2 million makeover and expansion – and that’s just the beginning, officials say.
Managed by the city and El Paso County for the past 30 years, the former Penrose Equestrian Center has catered primarily to rodeo events, concerts, Oktoberfest, home shows, automotive shows and to horse owners, providing facilities for equestrian sports, stabling, riding lessons and boarding since its construction in 1974.
Because of budgetary pressures, how­ever, the El Paso County Board of Commissioners decided in December 2004 to turn the operation over to the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo Foundation at the cost of one dollar.
The Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo Found­ation, in turn, entrusted the facility’s daily operation to the Norris-Penrose Event Center LLC and management of the annual rodeo to the Colorado Springs Rodeo Association.
The center was officially transferred to the PPBRF with instructions that it had 48 months to invest at least $2 million into improvements.
Norris-Penrose Event Center General Manager Bill Miller was hired in 2004 by the CSRA to take over the former government-operated operation. In its first year under private ownership, the entertainment venue has shown a net profit.
“We have to make this place cash flow,” he said.
Since then, Miller said, the organization’s board has moved to raise money for a facility upgrade and to increase regional marketing efforts.
“We want to offer a premier event center, and expect to meet our financial goals ahead of schedule,” he said.
An important part of those efforts included finding a signature sponsor for the expanded outdoor arena. Robert Norris, a long-time supporter of the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo and the Pikes Peak Range Riders, agreed to purchase naming rights to the newly-remodeled event center for $1 million.
“The Norris family has been extremely generous,” he said.
Plans to expand and update the outdoor arena and new entry began in early 2005, Miller said.
Gene Yergensen, a principal architect with Yergensen, Obering and Whittaker, provided design services for the three-story 18,000-square-foot addition to the 51,000-square-foot outdoor arena.
The main level will continue to include a ticketing booth and is slated for an additional restrooms as well as installation of a full service commercial kitchen and concession area.
“The building has been underserved by both restrooms and concessions since it was first built,” he said.
A banquet room large enough to accommodate 260 people for a sit-down event or 400 for a stand-up cocktail party, a balcony with glassed-in viewing room, as well as VIP and meetings areas will be found on the second level. The third level is dedicated to a panoramic observation deck, overlooking the foothills and the arena below.
In addition to tying the center’s new look to founder Spencer Penrose’s original Broadmoor stucco, tile roof and California Renaissance design, the architects have given the remodeled facade a decidedly upscale look.
Scott Bryan, owner of Bryan Construct­ion, the general contractor for the project, sees the move as in keeping with national trends to dress up similar facilities to cater to broader entertainment undertakings.
“Most event centers are moving away from metal buildings and are offering more amenities,” he said.
Construction on the project will be complete in May and a grand re-opening is planned for June.
To date, bookings at the Norris-Penrose arena are 60 percent equestrian-related, and a 40 percent mix of other commercial activities. That ratio could change, Miller said, as increased event center marketing brings in corporate meetings, banquets, wedding receptions, and cocktail parties.
Indoor arena events such as this month’s Cheyenne Village “Village at the Vineyard” grape-stomping and bocce ball fundraiser, the Housing and Building Association of Colorado Springs’ annual Home and Garden Show, and other community events have been drawn by the center’s attractive rental rates and flexible facilities.
Daily rental ranges from $750 to $1,500, depending on set-up requirements Miller said.
“We reserved the indoor arena floor, not only because it was affordable, but because we were allowed to bring in our own catering. The site requires special decorating, but we’d outgrown our former location,” said Ann Baldrica, marketing and development manager for Cheyenne Village.
Miller said the new banquet room and observation deck will rent for $750 through 2006.
He credits the organization’s volunteer board for progress so far. “They took over something no one wanted and are making something of it,” Miller said. “Our business motive, once the current improvements are made, is to budget for additional upgrades such as monument signage, improved traffic flow, landscaping and clean-up.”
In addition to the newly-expanded stadium that sits on 150 acres, the facility also includes a 36,000-square-foot indoor arena that seats up to 500, four warm-up rings and one competition size dressage arena with adjacent spectator viewing areas. In addition to boarding facilities, the area includes a cross country course designed for all rider levels.
The center has 340 open-air show stalls and 80 boarding stall. Future plans call for additional weather-protected stabling.
In addition, another 40 camper hook-ups complete with water and electric service will be added as part of the arena’s increased amenities.
“With our new building and the ongoing improvements, we are ready to go after a whole different segment of the market,” Miller said.