Ignite event turns newsworthy

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Most of the 300 or so people attending the first Ignite Colorado Springs event Tuesday night came out of curiosity, not knowing for sure what to expect in the local rendition of what has become a global phenomenon.

Five minutes per speaker, with slide show, 15 seconds per slide. Make your pitch, tell your story and sit down. For this gathering at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs, the theme was economic development with one overarching instruction: “Enlighten us, but make it quick.”

Yes, it was enlightening, even entertaining, with insights into various efforts designed to promote entrepreneurship across the area. But the event also “ignited” some positive news, adding to the upbeat vibe spreading across the business community.

The big headline came from Brian Burnett, UCCS senior executive vice chancellor. He had prepared to talk about the rapid progress of capital improvements on the local campus, most of which has been presented publicly in recent months.

Burnett had just come from Denver, though, and he had a fresh development to share from a meeting of CU’s Board of Regents. The regents, he reported, had approved $75 million for UCCS to expand its housing for students living on campus. Not just an incremental expansion, Burnett said, “but 500 more beds.”

That’s huge for UCCS, which expects to surpass 10,000 students this fall with faster growth in years to come, helped by the added dorm capacity. Having a CU School of Medicine branch will become part of that, plus more research and online programs. As Burnett put it, UCCS has enough land to handle anywhere from 20,000 to 35,000 students, which could mean surpassing Boulder in total enrollment someday.

Earlier on the Ignite stage, Steve Rothstein gave an impassioned update of his ongoing crusade to build a Colorado Springs Science Center as part of the planned village concept of museums near America the Beautiful Park. Rothstein now is talking confidently, with impressive-looking renditions, about a real Science Center being open “in three to five years,” depending on how fast the needed $35 million to $50 million comes to fruition.

But the most detail-packed of the 16 presentations came from Susan Edmondson, just two months into her new job as president and CEO of the Downtown Partnership. Many had wondered about her priorities, and she crammed them into her five minutes.

Edmondson talked about “embracing the brand” of health, wellness and fitness. She talked about enhancing the waterways near downtown, about the push (that sounds close to reality) for more downtown residential development, “moving toward a 24/7 lifestyle,” and about making that arts and cultural “village” happen.

She mentioned the Olympic museum that appears more and more likely, the continuing quest for a possible baseball stadium, enhancing downtown alleyways, and planning for six weeks of outdoor winter ice skating at Acacia Park after more summer concerts there.

“It won’t happen overnight, but we have plans that are ready for action now,” Edmondson said. Not maybe or someday.

And by the time all the speakers were done, Ignite Colorado Springs had achieved its purpose, with the next gathering planned in a few months to focus on arts and entertainment.

We have ignition. We have new energy.

And it’s refreshing to see.