Norris-Penrose center sets sights on expansion

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The Norris-Penrose Events Center could someday soon host much more than rodeos, monster-truck shows and brewfests.

Think a summer concert series, cultural events, the Air Force Academy Band or jazz and blues festivals.

The Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo Foundation and the rodeo board recently met with dozens of community leaders, nonprofits and businesses to gather input for the design of a proposed covered stage at the center, which would be built above the chutes on the west end of the stadium.

It would be known as “Hank’s Club,” after the rodeo’s mascot, and include a clubhouse or small VIP room, totaling about 4,000 square feet of combined indoor and outdoor space, said Peter Husak, vice president of the rodeo board and president of Southern Colorado OfficeScapes.

Construction of the proposed facility would cost between $1 million to $1.5 million.

Possibilities for funding include an individual or corporation that wants naming rights on the building, or perhaps a half-a-dozen entities that might want to rent the venue several times per year. The project would be built once the question of financing is settled.

An architectural rendering of what would be an outdoor stage and clubhouse or VIP area.

An architectural rendering of what would be an outdoor stage and clubhouse or VIP area.

For concerts, the dirt in the center’s arena would be compacted and Astroturf laid down, with bushes and shrubs used to form a barrier, depending on the size of the audience.

The stadium could hold up to 10,000 people, or be reconfigured for only 2,000 for a more intimate setting.

The idea is to keep it flexible, so a wide variety of shows and audience sizes could be accommodated.

As envisioned, the 40-foot by 70-foot stage could be portable or permanent, and an additional portable stage could be added during non-rodeo events.

In researching the concept, the board looked at Comfort Dental Amphitheatre, known for years as Fiddler’s Green, and the band deck at the Pueblo State Fair rodeo grounds.

Husak said the region is lacking a mid-size venue for concerts. For large venues, there’s the World Arena and the Pikes Peak Center, both of which are indoors. At the other end of the size spectrum are the Stargazers Theater and Event Center and the city auditorium.

“This is just another choice,” Husak said.

The venue already has its own catering service, Summit Catering, hundreds of parking spaces, plenty of restrooms and a liquor license.

“People go to these events, and they want to have a beer or a glass of wine,” said Rob Alexander, president of The Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo Foundation.

He said the center would be willing to negotiate terms with groups and event planners.

“If the group is quality, the first year or two we’d work with them if they don’t have a lot of money,” Alexander said. “A lot of these events, it takes several years to get established. But after three or four years, they have 2,500 people (coming to their event) instead of 200.”

The stage also could be an ideal viewing deck during rodeos.

“It would be really cool to stand above the chutes and watch the bucking stock,” Husak said.

As with all events at the center, proceeds generated by activity in the new facility will go to the rodeo foundation, which is a nonprofit, to distribute to local military charities.

“At the end of the day, it’s all about helping the guys and gals who are watching over my (children) 24/7,” Husak said.

“This could be a sustainable funding source that would assure the rodeo foundation will continue for another 70 years.”

Each year, the foundation donates between $50,000 and $100,000 to military charities in the Pikes Peak region.

A conceptual rendering of the outdoor stage was created by the architectural firm Yergensen, Obering and Whittaker.

Rebecca Tonn can be reached at rebecca.tonn@csbj.com or 719-329-5229. Friend her on Facebook.