Editorial: We must make room for good ideas

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Summer is arriving in the Pikes Peak region, and with it comes the usual hordes vacationing masses — literally numbering in the hundreds of thousands — driving their way to or through Colorado on vacation.

We know many plan to stop in the Colorado Springs area, even if this isn’t their primary destination. Most likely have been here before, so they come with an idea of the many options and what they want to see. Or, as we’ve noticed on many past occasions, they revisit one or two attractions — Pikes Peak, Air Force Academy, perhaps the Olympic Training Center — but they aren’t sure beyond that.

Then there’s the unknown. Though specific data might not be available, it’s obvious just by driving on Interstate 25 that thousands of travelers breeze through Colorado Springs every day of the year, clearly many more during the warm-weather months. But they don’t stop, for whatever reason. Perhaps they aren’t paying attention, they aren’t tempted enough, or they simply don’t realize what’s here.

Though the Convention and Visitors Bureau tries its best, we’ve always wondered if Colorado Springs should be more aggressive in luring those families on driving trips. Not by spending more money on advertising and marketing, which the city isn’t keen on doing, but by being more directly proactive.

Here’s what we mean: Every spring, Colorado Springs should set up temporary “Welcome Centers” on either end of the city, literally alongside Interstate 25. This could be as simple as setting up modular buildings, one at the pull-off on southbound I-25 near mile marker 152 (between the Interquest and Briargate exits), another on northbound I-25 at a convenient spot as travelers come into the city.

The idea would be that vehicles wouldn’t even have to get off at an exit. They could simply pull off for a one-stop preview of every attraction, with staffers who provide assistance about hotels and motels, places to eat or shop, best routes to anywhere, phone apps as available, etc.

It wouldn’t be a huge investment, and volunteers could provide staffing. Some businesses could even help with sponsorships. If it didn’t succeed, the loss wouldn’t be severe. But the success would be easy to measure, based on referrals, responses and reservations. And if the result were several hundred more families a week stopping here instead of just passing through, then the cost would be more than worth it.

We need a lot more small ideas such as this, or creating a permanent downtown space for food trucks. With more of those ingredients, and the ambitious big-picture plans that will take years to achieve, Colorado Springs can reach new heights in years ahead. Convenient welcome centers could lure many more tourists off I-25. Not next year, either. Why not next month?