Royal Gorge Park: Rebirth from the ashes

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royal-gorge-renderingThe nation watched in sorrow June 11, 2013, as a fire sparked near Cañon City and Royal Gorge Park. In the end, the blaze consumed 3,218 acres and 48 out of the park’s 52 structures, including the 9,600-square-foot visitor center.

This year, prepare yourself to watch as contractors rebuild a stunning new visitor center.

Owned by Cañon City, the park has embarked on a reconstruction effort with a budget of around $23 million.

Initially, new buildings will include a 14,000-square-foot visitor center on the north side of the Royal Gorge, said Vice President and General Manager Mike Bandera. The south side of the gorge will also have a new 5,000-square-foot visitor center to replace the similarly sized building that burned.

General contractor is Beck Construction out of Denver.

Both buildings will offer restaurants and merchandise.

The north building will house, “a new ticketing operation as well as a merchandise shop and about a 250-seat restaurant and bar overlooking the Royal Gorge,” Bandera said. “That whole area will be glassed in.”

Visitors there will also have a commanding view of the 2,300-foot-long aerial tram as well as the tallest zip-line in the world, Bandera said. The zip-line will be 1,200 feet above the Arkansas River.

The target date for the north-side visitor center opening is Aug. 1, and the south side should open within weeks of that, Bandera said.

But you don’t have to wait until then to visit the park.

Public Relations Manager Peggy Gair said the park will open March 15 on weekends for guided tours only.

“We’ll take people across the bridge and back again for $10,” Gair said. “The park will be under construction at that point. Right now it’s a pretty big dirt pile.”

The park was insured, Bandera said, and the insurance settlement will pay for the rebuilding.

Groundbreaking for both new buildings will be later this month, he added.