It’s been a long, strange trip for the city of Colorado Springs and The Broadmoor, two feuding organizations locked in a long, unhappy marriage.
When Gen. William Palmer founded the city in 1871, much of the rolling mesa at the foot of Cheyenne Mountain was owned by Burton C. Myers, who planted a few acres in wheat and broom corn, using the latter to make brooms for sale in his Colorado City general store.
Palmer didn’t much care about land outside the corporate boundaries of his new city. His was to be a refined and genteel city, a cultured refuge from the vulgar hurly-burly of the American West. His city would have churches, opera houses, libraries and colleges — not the hustlers, merchants, hookers and broom-sellers of Colorado City.
In the 1880s, wealthy Philadelphian William Wilcox joined with Count James Pourtales in acquiring Myers’ property. They started a dairy farm, but Pourtales had another venture in mind.
Residential lots in the city’s north end were selling for more than $100 a front foot, leading the Count to believe that he could create a fancy new suburb in the country. By 1889, the partners had assembled 2,400 acres, and two years later built a suitably pretentious casino at the terminus of what would become Lake Avenue.
The die was cast. Colorado Springs was the no-fun city, with frame houses crowded together on narrow lots, churches on many corners, and nowhere to get a drink. The Broadmoor was about gracious living, sleeping in on Sunday and lounging at the casino.
Spencer Penrose built his hotel, movie stars and rich folk came to frolic, and everything was fine — but as the years went by, Colorado Springs politicians publicly seethed.
Look at all those rich people! They’re having fun and living high, but we’re paying the rent. They don’t pay city taxes, and that’s unfair to the honest, hardworking folks who do.
Led by Colorado Springs native and soon-to-be-mayor Robert Isaac, City Council unilaterally annexed the entire Broadmoor area in 1978.
Residents got city services, but the city got the better of the deal. Sales and property taxes flowed into municipal coffers, as did revenue from the Lodging and Automobile Renters Tax. LART proceeds were used to fund the city’s quasi-private Convention and Visitors Bureau, which spent the next two decades pushing a downtown convention center.
It didn’t escape The Broadmoor’s notice that its guests paid the lion’s share of LART, but a downtown facility would compete against its own convention center.
Exasperated by such antics, Broadmoor CEO Steve Bartolin joined forces with anti-tax activists to kill off a publicly funded convention center once and for all, sponsoring a successful initiative that forbade the city from even planning such a facility, much less funding it.
And so matters stood, until Bartolin sent a letter to then-Mayor Lionel Rivera in November 2009. In it, Bartolin brutally dissected city leadership, warning that the city soon would become insolvent without major policy changes. The letter went viral, sparking the formation of the City Committee, the strong mayor initiative, Steve Bach’s election and a new era in city government.
Then Phil Anschutz bought The Broadmoor, retained Bartolin as CEO, and embarked on an ambitious plan to remake The Broadmoor as not just another five-star resort, but the five-star resort.
That means resculpting its historic Broadmoor East golf course into one that will challenge the world’s best players. Think Oakmont, Pebble Beach, Shinnecock Hills or Winged Foot. Think the PGA Championship, the U.S. Open or the Ryder Cup.
Think of permanently closing more than a half-mile of Cheyenne Mountain Boulevard to accomplish Anschutz’s dream.
Despite concerns from residents about wildfires and access to their homes, The Broadmoor is likely to get its way. The local economic impact of hosting a U.S. Open is estimated at $160 million, and city tax collections would benefit accordingly.
Giving up 3,000 feet of two-lane blacktop is a small investment for a big payday, so why not? And if Council vacates the right-of-way, it will mean that the long war between the city and The Broadmoor has finally created a victory for both sides.
U. S. Open sites already have been determined through 2020, and the PGA is set until 2019. The Ryder Cup? Try 2022.
It’s a bold bet by Anschutz, now 73. Most of his contemporaries have long since retired, and fewer still are making business plans that won’t mature for seven, eight or 10 years.
So here’s to you, old settler — may you be around to host The Broadmoor’s first U.S. Open.