If Broadmoor Chairman and CEO Steve Bartolin wanted to move a shrub on the 3,000-acre hotel and resort complex 20 years ago, he would have encountered a lot of grumbling and questions.
People were protective of the property, he recalls.
Since then, Bartolin has overseen hundreds of millions of dollars of renovation and new construction projects at the iconic Broadmoor. Along the way he built trust with the protectors of the city’s only five-star/five diamond hotel, first opened by Spencer and Julie Penrose in 1918.
“We have proven that when we do something, it will be done in the highest quality, and in very good taste and in keeping with the tradition of the property,” Bartolin said.
With artists’ renderings in hand and a vision for the hotel’s future, Bartolin announced in May that The Broadmoor would undergo a $60 million, two-year renovation project mostly focusing on the West building, one of the hotel’s newer areas.
It is one of the biggest renovation projects the hotel has undertaken at one time, Bartolin said. And, it promises to make visitors believe the 1970s West building was built in 1918.
“I started my career at Greenbrier (Resort), which dates back to the 1700s and was steeped in history,” Bartolin said. “I learned there how fragile that balance is, where you are reinventing yourself and doing new and exciting things, but you do it with a careful eye on the past.”
Much of The Broadmoor’s earnings have been reinvested into the property, Bartolin said. Since the hotel’s inception, its owners have spent $400 million in capital improvements.
In recent years, The Broadmoor has had some major renovation, or what Bartolin calls restoration. In 2002, the Gaylord family spent $33 million on the main building, which true to 1918 style offered its guests teeny bathrooms, big closets, old plumbing and AC units hanging out windows.
“We literally shut down for six months, gutted it, and knocked down all the walls on the guest floors,” Bartolin said. “What you have now is a 2002 building in a 1918 shell.”
Then, in 2006, the owner did the same thing to the South building, adding character to that 1960s building.
“The one remaining, that has not been touched, is West,” Bartolin said.
Renovating the West building is something The Broadmoor had wanted to do for some time, Bartolin said. Then the economy tanked.
“A lot of people were pulling back, including us, on capital expenses,” he said, “so we never got around to it.”
Last September, The Broadmoor was sold to Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz. He bought the Oklahoma Publishing Company, owned by the Gaylord family. The company purchased controlling interest in The Broadmoor from El Pomar Foundation in 1988 and later acquired 100 percent ownership, making the Gaylord family the hotel’s second owner.
The sale price for The Broadmoor to Anschutz was never announced. However, the hotel has a market value of $52 million, according to the El Paso County assessor’s records. That does not include the value of the 40 properties also owned by the hotel.
“The Broadmoor is so fortunate; I think Spencer Penrose is somewhere up there pulling all the strings,” Bartolin said. “Three remarkable individuals that have the financial wherewithal, first of all, but secondly, have the passion for The Broadmoor and want to own it for the right reasons and therefore they care about the community and they care about the employees.”
The Broadmoor is one of only a few five-star/five-diamond resorts in the nation. But it cannot rest on its past, Bartolin says. Its evolution, therefore, is neverending.
“You either go forward, or you go backward,” he says.
That means selling yourself. Increased competition and a still-sluggish economy prompted The Broadmoor to launch a national advertising campaign this spring, the first such effort in nearly a decade. The idea is to remind past visitors how much they enjoyed themselves.
In April, The Broadmoor rolled out a campaign, designed by local firm Vladimir Jones, with the slogan, “If you’ve been here, you know.”
“The target was our core group meetings market, which historically accounts for 70 percent of our business,” said Dennis Lesko, Broadmoor vice president of marketing. “It was time to go back to our root business.”
The new marketing campaign is seizing on the strengthening travel market, Lesko says.
“Group meetings are coming back stronger, and we want to make sure people don’t forget us,” he said.
The timing of the national advertising campaign and the $60 million renovation project are coincidental, Bartolin said. But it does give people something to talk about.
“So, this ties in nicely,” Bartolin said. “We have a good story to tell.”
Some renovations were quietly in the works this past year and completed in May, including the re-opening of the Southlake building guestrooms and suites. The Southlake building, between the main hotel and its South Tower, now has new entry vestibules, 16 new patios and 21 renovated rooms.
In the next phase, expected to be completed by April 2013, the Tavern Garden Room and the popular Golden Bee will be rebuilt and redesigned, reminiscent of a European conservatory and a 19th century London pub.
By April 2014, the West building will be redesigned to match the character of the main and South buildings. Bartolin wants visitors to walk onto the property and wonder which building was there first.
“The (West) building itself was built in 1975; in the ‘70s there wasn’t’ a lot of good architecture taking place across the country,” Bartolin said. “That building always had a more contemporary look both on the interior and the exterior.”
He often marvels at how many locals spend time at The Broadmoor, including overnight stays. It is why he’s particularly excited about a new activity center at the West building, featuring a bowling alley that rivals Vail’s modern bowling alley, called Bol.
“It will be appealing and fun for families,’ Bartolin said. “That will be something new to the complex.”
Bartolin promises that every year there will be changes at The Broadmoor — some big, some subtle. Sometimes he might just move a shrub. But this latest $60 million project will position the hotel for the next decade, he said.
“There is a story to tell historically, yet, we follow the trends of what our customer demands are and what our competitors are doing,” Bartolin said. “So, how do you evolve in a careful way? That is a very delicate balance and, boy, you can’t mess up.”
Steve Bartolin took the helm 21 years ago as president of The Broadmoor hotel and resort. The Broadmoor employs 1,800. He shared his thoughts on downtown, a new downtown hotel and rumors of a theme park at The Broadmoor.
On rumors Anschutz wants to build a Wild West Broadmoor theme park: “That’s a new one on me. I haven’t heard that one. What I have found of Mr. Anschutz is he is very protective of The Broadmoor’s image. … He’s very careful, not only that, but the man has impeccable taste. I don’t think you are going to see a wild-west theme park here.”
On the Mining Exchange, a Wyndham Grand hotel and its self-description as “little sister to The Broadmoor”: “It’s great. I love that old building. I think they did a very charming job with the hotel. It’s really creative what they did — the rooms are unique, tastefully done. I think it’s a nice complement to Colorado Springs downtown.”
On closing the Drake power plant: “I’m no expert in utilities, but if there is enough utility capacity that we can get rid of that, it would be a huge plus for Colorado Springs. Just the aesthetics of it … I think that is the reason that area has never redeveloped. You’ve got this huge thing in the middle of Colorado Springs that looks like Chernobyl.”
On ideas for downtown development: “I’m a big baseball fan. I would love to see a ballpark. They did that in Oklahoma City quite successfully. They moved the ballpark downtown. It’s done a lot for them.”
On bids for future events, like last year’s U.S. Women’s Open: “There is nothing we can talk about. Russ Miller (Broadmoor director of golf) and myself are going to The Olympic Club outside of San Francisco this month (for the men’s U.S. Open). We do that to stay in touch with our friends at the USGA.”