It’s hard to imagine what would become of the grandiose schemes of our city’s leaders without the beneficence of the El Pomar Foundation.
When it became clear to foundation CEO Bill Hybl and the El Pomar board that Mayor Lionel Rivera could not raise the $1.5 million required to satisfy the requirements of phase one of the U.S. Olympic Committee headquarters deal, El Pomar obligingly stepped up to the plate and wrote a check for the entire $3 million.
Having strongly supported the USOC since the organization moved here during 1977, the foundation probably concluded that it had no choice but to do so.
Hybl, who twice served the USOC as president, correctly believes that the USOC is a significant contributor to the city’s economy and its national image. The potential loss of such an organization to a city in the midst of fiscal and political turmoil is, in the eyes of the foundation, absolutely unacceptable.
That’s why El Pomar acted quickly and decisively, and in the process removed Rivera and city officials from any further fundraising responsibility. The mayor, along with his Denver counterpart John Hickenlooper, have become Colorado’s latest odd couple, serving as “special advisers” to the fundraising committee, which will be headed by Hybl, Phil Lane and Nechie Hall.
In other words, the grownups have taken over.
We’re grateful that El Pomar backstopped the city. But let’s not deceive ourselves — had city officials structured a realistic, attainable agreement in the first place, El Pomar would not have had to contribute an extra $1.5 million to the effort.
That contribution means that other equally deserving nonprofits will receive less.
We were glad to note that the foundation has substantially increased its grants to health and human service organizations during the past two years, but what about other potential grant recipients that might have pressing needs of their own?
They’ll have to wait, because the city and the USOC barged to the front of the line.
During a news conference announcing the grant, one speaker said that the USOC was a Colorado Springs “icon” equal in significance to the U.S. Air Force Academy.
We beg to differ.
Colorado Springs is defined, both in the eyes of its residents and to the nation, by Pikes Peak, the Garden of the Gods and the Air Force Academy.
The first two long predated the arrival of humans in the region, and the third will remain part of this city’s built environment for as long as this nation endures and sees the need to provide for its own defense.
The U.S. Military Academy was established during 1802 at West Point, on the site of the oldest continuously occupied military post in America. The Naval Academy, founded during 1845, is a relative latecomer. And during 1954, Colorado Springs was selected from among 582 other potential locations as the site of the Air Force Academy.
It might be impossible to imagine the United States of America without its service academies. It’s equally impossible to imagine Colorado Springs without the Air Force Academy.
Like Colorado College or the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, the academy is not simply in the community, but of the community. Its athletic fields are available to the organizers of major regional youth sports events, its bike paths and trails open to all, public schools are located on its grounds, and many of its graduates have chosen to live here and contribute their considerable talents to the betterment of the region.
The USOC might well be a part of our city for many decades. We’re glad that it’s here, just as we were glad to welcome Intel, Apple, MCI, Brown Disc and many other now-departed companies to town.
But corporations, whether for-profit or not, are by their nature transient. The world changes, and Schumpeter’s wave of creative destruction overtakes even the most iconic of companies and organizations.
Who, 10 years ago, would have imagined that Intel, MCI and the Colorado Springs Symphony would all disappear from the landscape? Who would have predicted the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers or the world financial meltdown? And who during the early 1950s would have predicted that Brooklyn would lose its borough-defining Dodgers to Los Angeles?
The Dodgers played their first game in L.A. on April 18, 1958. A little more than four months later, on Aug. 29, the cadet wing moved into the academy’s sparkling new campus on 18,000 acres north of Colorado Springs.
We don’t know whether the Dodgers will be in Los Angeles 100 years hence, but we can confidently assert that the academy will still be here, and that its graduates will still serve and protect our nation, and bring honor to their alma mater.
And that, barring an event as unlikely as the relocation of the nation’s capital to Colorado Springs, our city will still be known as the home of the Air Force Academy.