The universe might be limitless, but space at The Broadmoor isn’t.
As the Space Symposium continues to grow, the hotel had to find innovative ways to meet demand for the biggest convention in Colorado Springs.
Last year, they tried moving part of the Exhibit Hall to a lower level of the garage. That didn’t work — so this year, they are building a temporary structure in the employee’s parking lot. It has a permanent concrete pad, but will include a canvas-and-steel structure for the week of April 16-19.
“The garage wasn’t inviting, it was dim and people didn’t really go down there,” said Janet Stevens, communications director for the Colorado Springs-based Space Foundation. “This is much better — it will be a temporary structure we can put up every year, it’s bright, has high ceilings.”
The new pavilion allows the Space Foundation to accommodate more vendors than ever at the annual symposium. Normally, the group has about 140 vendors. This year, the number could reach higher than 160.
“That’s for a number of reasons,” Stevens said. “We always have a waiting list — so we’ve been able to accommodate more businesses. And the space industry is broadening.”
The Obama administration’s policy of privatizing much of space research and development has led to an increased number of companies participating in the field.
“It’s gotten more international as well,” she said. “We’ll have the Japanese aerospace agency and five Japanese companies sharing a booth in the pavilion. As the industry broadens, we just get more interest.”
And that interest is good news for Colorado Springs. The symposium brings about 9,000 attendees, exhibitors and speakers to the city. They all can’t stay at the Broadmoor, which is completely booked. They fan out to other hotels, which are also having trouble finding space. The Cheyenne Mountain Resort is full, as are many of the other chosen hotels. For people not staying at the Broadmoor, the Space Foundation supplies shuttle buses to and from the convention site.
“We are really full,” said Lindsey Hafemeister, spokeswoman for the Broadmoor. “This is definitely the largest event we have in terms of space used. The symposium takes up all of our 185,000 square feet of meeting space — and then some.”
Not only does it require all of the hotel’s meeting space, it requires every hotel employee — more than 1,500 people. This year, the Broadmoor is partnering with a culinary school in Boulder for student chefs and has worked with temp agencies to hire more people as well.
But it’s not just the convention site that’s getting bigger.
For the first time in three years — since the 2008 recession hit — the Space Symposium is holding a job fair of sorts for people looking for work. It’s not the typical job fair with booths and resumes. Instead, companies hiring people will give presentations on what sort of skills they’re looking for.
“We haven’t done this in a while,” Stevens said. “But there was more interest this year. The economy’s improving, and some companies expressed interest. It’s a positive sign.”
Acknowledging that the space industry is growing larger — and more diverse — the symposium is featuring concurrent breakout sessions for the first time.
“That way, people can pick and choose to attend the things they are interested in,” she said.
Also expanded this year: book signings. The symposium will host seven authors and their space-related books at the event. The authors include Dr. G. Scott Hubbard, a professor of aeronautics at Stanford, who wrote about exploring Mars. P.J. O’Rourke, popular political satirist, will sign “Don’t Vote, It Just Encourages the Bastards.” Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium and host of Cosmos, will sign “Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier.”
William Scott, former Rocky Mountain Bureau Chief for Aviation Week and Space Technology will sign his books about space wars and counter space.
“We’re focusing a little more on science this year,” Stevens said. “We deal so much with policy — and policy drives the industry. But this year, we have a panel discussion we’re calling ‘Mega Minds’ that will be moderated by Bill Nye. Dr. Lisa Randall, a professor of science at Harvard will also be featured at the panel.”
The program expanded three years ago to include a cyber session on Monday. In past years, the session focused primarily on the cyber threat from the military’s point of view, but not this year.
“This year, we have a wide industry presence,” Stevens said. “It’s an expansion, because cyber security and the threat is, of course, affecting industry as well as the military.”
One new item could be of particular interest to the business community: a luncheon hosted by the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC, the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce and the Colorado Space Coalition. Gov. John Hickenlooper will be speaking — and people who pay for the luncheon have access to the exhibit hall for the day. It is one of the few events that is open to the general public, and is slated for Thursday from 11:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.
But with all the changes, additions and expansions — there are some things that remain consistent year after year.
The event always features the top policy analysts, administration insiders and scientists. Among the names speaking at the event: Lt. Gen. Michael Basla, vice commander of the Air Force Space Command; Lance Bolton, head of NASA, Letitia Long, director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.
What also remains the same: a packed agenda that is complete with networking events, luncheons and parties — enough to keep Broadmoor and Space Foundation employees working through the wee hours during the week.
“We’ve been doing this for a lot of years,” said Hafemeister. “And we’re used to working with the Space Foundation — still there are things that come up every day that have to be addressed to make sure it all runs smoothly. But we start planning for next year as soon as the event’s over. It’s become a routine for us.”