In a recent email, Broadmoor CEO Steve Bartolin commented on a blog which suggested that a revived downtown would benefit mightily from a convention center. Bartolin sponsored a successful initiative some years ago that forbids the city from funding plans for such a facility. He still thinks it’s a bad idea, and makes a compelling case for opposing any such project.
Here’s an excerpt from the email.
“When the convention center was being proposed in Colorado Springs, I certainly took exception. It was simultaneous with us building Broadmoor Hall with no subsidies. The notion of raising our taxes to pay for a competitive facility didn’t seem exactly fair…
“What bothered me the most however, were the trumped-up numbers that the supporters bought into. It happens in city after city. You have elected officials with good intentions that don’t have the least bit of understanding of the industry, being sold a bill of goods, by a consultant who is hired by a developer that throws out a bunch of inflated numbers. What has transpired since is even more profound. I predicted back then that that facility would lose approximately $5 -7 million a year. Over the last 15 years the amount of convention center space that has been built has almost doubled the supply across the country. At the same time, the market has shrunk and it is not just because of the recession. It has been shrinking all along because with technology people find new ways to market products versus the expense of trade shows. What happens with a grossly over built market and a shrinking demand? Not good news. If you look at the results of convention centers in second and third tier cities around the country it tells the story better than I can.”
Good points all. Bartolin has been brilliantly successful in his job, but it can be argued that a downtown center would be at the top of the second tier. We’re not Fargo, or Akron, or Des Moines or any other featureless Midwestern city. A downtown center might augment and support The Broadmoor and other existing event venues, not take business away. More conventions would mean more airport traffic, which might translate into more flights, more convenience, more relocating businesses, etc., etc.
That said, Steve’s absolutely on target when he condemns the puffery and economic pseudo-science that often permeates economic impact analyses. The Broadmoor’s convention facilities are pretty wonderful, and I imagine that there’s room to expand them, given the vast expanse of flat parking to the northwest. Of course, the neighbors might complain, but appropriate design might minimize off-site impacts and neighborhood disruption.
And here, absolutely free of charge, is another innovative solution. The Broadmoor already owns and operates one railroad – the Pikes Peak Cog Railway. Why not build another? Call it the Penrose Line – nonstop light rail from the Broadmoor to southwest downtown, with stops at the baseball stadium, the Olympic Museum and Broadmoor Downtown, the sparkling new privately financed convention center/hotel complex!!
Steve, hope to meet you there for a margarita or two in the summer of 2023…