Plans for a new event center in Manitou Springs are moving forward.
Julian Heron, president of the Craft Lager Festival, said the big project he’s been working on during the last year is gaining momentum. He aims to build an event center on the western edge of Manitou Springs that will have indoor and outdoor amphitheater seating above a brew pub.
He and a group of partners have already successfully commissioned and completed a feasibility study that found the Pikes Peak region doesn’t have enough entertainment venues.
“There’s been lots of homework,” Heron said. “And now we’re in the fundraising stage essentially.”
As part of the fundraising, Heron is negotiating with a few of the nation’s largest concert and event promoters. The promoters sign contracts with venues promising them a certain number of concerts and events each year that will yield a predictable income.
The center would be big enough to seat 4,500, which promoters have told Heron is probably the largest event they would bring to Colorado Springs. In the first years there would probably only be about six events that size, growing to 12.
“Everything in our design was made to be versatile,” Heron said.
The lawn seating is in front of the amphitheater seating, with the tiers behind so that some smaller events, like the Philharmonic, can seat people just on the lawn so it doesn’t feel empty.
“Having the lawn seating up front, people will never notice it’s not that full,” Heron said. “The whole center is designed to shrink to a space small enough for just 500 people.”
Including the larger events, there could be 200 or more events a year, many of which a promoter would guarantee.
That “guaranteed revenue stream” is the key to finishing the investment leg of the project, Heron said.
“Once we have that guaranteed revenue stream, the risk for the investor becomes really minimal.” Heron said.
He said the biggest risk would be a full review from the Colorado Department of Transportation that would require widening Manitou Avenue.
“That would eliminate that particular location,” Heron said.
But it wouldn’t kill the idea.
Some of the top promoting companies in the world are working with the Craft Lager Festival organizers because they recognize that the Colorado Springs market is underserved, Heron said. That wouldn’t change if the selected location was no longer a viable option.
Heron said he expects to hear from promoters within a couple weeks before serious negotiations start and contracts are drawn up. If all goes well, the planned venue could have a guaranteed revenue by March.
But that’s just the beginning. Fundraising would probably wrap up quickly, Heron said. And then there would need to be reviews from CDOT and the city, permitting from regional building and then construction.
“If everything goes perfectly, we’re still looking at two to three years,” Heron said.
But he said the brew pub could open sooner and remain open through construction.