When Zebulon Pike first gazed upon the 14,115-foot peak that bears his name, he swore the mountain would never be climbed by humans.
But the Coloradans are competitive, and not only have people climbed the mountain, but they’ve built a few iconic sporting events there.
The Pikes Peak Climb and Marathon and the Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb have become historic events that promote the area’s reputation as a sporting destination.
Colorado Springs’ Olympic City USA and City for Champions projects are now driving the development of a sports economy estimated at more than half a billion dollars a year, according to Colorado Springs Sports Corp.
“There are two really amazing events happening in Colorado Springs next summer,” said Megan Leatham, President and CEO of Colorado Springs Sports Corp., “and a big part of that is due to City for Champions.”
The United States Weightlifting Championships will be held in June 2023 and the World Jump Rope Championships will be held in July. Both events take place at the Ed Robson Arena at Colorado College.
Weidner Field has hosted events like a weekend Premier Lacrosse League tournament and the NCAA Division II Men’s and Women’s National Soccer Championships.
Division II championship games, played Dec. 9-11, 2021, brought hundreds of athletes, coaches, sports administrators, families and fans to the city during the off-season for tourism, said Switchbacks President Nick Ragain.
Along with Switchbacks football matches, the ground features a full slate of sporting events scheduled for the rest of this year and into 2023.
Events like these cement the Pikes Peak area’s reputation as an international sporting destination, filling hotel rooms and attracting new customers to local businesses, Leatham said.
The Sports Corp. himself, who is on a mission to inspire and advance Colorado Springs and its Olympic City USA brand, has been instrumental in bringing new events to the area.
Founded in 1979 to help relocate the United States Olympic Committee from New York to Colorado Springs, the Sports Corp. brings together community sponsors and sports organizations to promote sports tourism and the sports economy.
The Rocky Mountain State Games, one of Sports Corp.’s signature events, is Colorado’s largest sports festival for athletes of all skill levels, attracting more than 10,000 athletes each year. Competitions in over 30 sports take place over two weekends in July at venues across the region.
“Outside of the events we own and operate,” Leatham said, “we helped support 26 additional events for the City of Colorado Springs that had 26,097 attendees, 156,242 spectators and over 55,000 hotel room nights. “over the past year.
The Robson Arena, which has only been open for a year, really comes into its own as a sports hall.
The home of CC Tigers Hockey, Robson Arena opened its rink to two new events this summer, said Colin Bailey, the arena’s executive director.
The 2022 Western Regional High Performance Camp, June 13-18, attracted 200 young athletes ages 14-16 from across the United States.
And from August 8-13, the arena hosted the Athletix Five Nations Under-17 Tournament, with teams from the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Switzerland, Germany and the United States.
“It was important to us,” Bailey said: more than 100 athletes and 30 coaches participated, and nearly 4,000 tickets were issued.
“This event has only happened here in the United States three times before,” he said. “The USA Hockey headquarters here in town was really important. »
Robson Arena has good momentum heading into next summer, Bailey said.
The United States Weightlifting Championships are scheduled for June 22-July 2, and Bailey expects about 1,600 athletes, 300 coaches and 150 staff and officials to travel here to compete.
He predicts the championships will have a direct economic impact of over $1.8 million and a total economic impact of over $2.88 million.
Another first for Colorado Springs, the International Jump Rope Union World Championships will be held July 15-25 at Robson Arena.
The event is expected to draw 2,500-3,000 attendees from over 30 countries, fill 900-1,000 hotel rooms and attract 15,000 ticket buyers.
“There are other things we have in the works, but we haven’t had a pen and paper yet,” Bailey said.
The first-ever Cerus Arena Obstacle Course will take place on October 8 at Weidner Field. Co-hosted by Cerus Fitness, the course features 20 obstacles and participants will complete 10 laps around the course, which is equivalent to a 5k run.
Another unique event, the City for Champions Cup, will pit the US Air Force Academy Falcons against the Colorado College Tiger women’s soccer teams.
The inaugural game is scheduled for October 27. Ragain said he expects the event to become an instant classic and annual favorite.
Weidner Field will also host the 2022 Colorado High School Activities Association Boys’ Football Finals on November 12.
Ragain expects other events to be added next year, including world freestyle football, a sport that involves participants creatively juggling a ball using all parts of the body, and an event from the ‘American Ultimate Disc League, a semi-professional league whose players are magicians with flying discs.
“We are always exploring other opportunities,” Ragain said.
The Pikes Peak Marathon is the second oldest marathon in the United States and the oldest continuously held marathon, said Ron Ilgen, president/race director of Pikes Peak Marathon Inc. It was also the first marathon to have a female graduate.
The race was founded in 1956 after a Florida doctor, Dr. Arne Suominen, wrote a letter to the then Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce urging cigarette smokers to run up and down the mountain against him. . (The 56-year-old doctor finished third; 28-year-old non-smoker from Colorado Springs, Monte Wolford, was the winner, according to the marathon website.)
From a handful of competitors, the race has grown to more than 2,600 runners taking part in the climb and marathon, held this year on September 17 and 18, Ilgen said.
“I estimate that we get at least as many people, if not more, coming with the runners,” he said.
About 55% of runners come from out of town.
“We received people from 26 countries in 2019; that’s about average,” he said. He estimates that runners, spectators and others who come to support the event occupy well over 6,000 hotel nights.
Many runners and their families return each year, combining race weekends with their vacations.
Ilgen said a study seven years ago estimated the economic impact of the race at $2.6 million.
“The race has really grown since then so I would estimate double that,” he said.
The Pikes Peak Marathon is part of the Golden Trail World Series of six iconic races, Ilgen said. Most of the others are found in Europe, where the breed is well known.
“The region and the peak itself enjoy high international visibility,” he said. “I would say to some people, especially in mountainous parts of Europe, the Pikes Peak Marathon is better known than it is here in Colorado, simply because of its mystique. They don’t have races there that go up to 14,000 feet – if it’s 14,000 feet there, it’s going to be a glacier, so they all want to come here.
The marathon also attracts people closer to home; it sees the most out-of-state entrants from Texas, Kansas and California.
Some of those runners come early to train at a higher elevation than they’re used to, Ilgen said.
“We have a good number from Florida,” he said. “I always ask them how they train.” (Most say they climb a lot of stairs.)
Ilgen organized and managed the race for 20 years, during which time the race grew from a small, relatively unknown event to its current international status.
“I don’t take the praise for that,” he said. “The mountain did it, not me.”
The Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, known as The Race to the Clouds, had its 100th edition on June 26.
Spencer Penrose, developer of The Broadmoor, built the highway to the top of Pikes Peak along a narrow motorable road.
In 1915, after completing the Pikes Peak Highway, he devised a plan to stage a car race to the summit to showcase the new route and attract visitors to the hotel.
The first hill climb took place in August 1916.
What started as a publicity event has grown into one of the most exciting motor races in the world that attracts top international drivers and teams.
To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the race, “we were able to bring our pre-race street festival back to downtown, Fan Fest,” which drew 30,000 people, said Lisa Haight, events/media/ PPIHC historian.
This year’s race attracted 72 race teams, 229 registered media and 9,626 spectators. A recently completed economic impact study estimated total local tax revenue at over $370,000.
“The combined PPIHC race expenditures, direct race tourism, Pikes Peak area expenditures by race teams, media and spectators total $6.4 million,” Haight said.
“Beyond the impact of Race Week, the PPIHC monitors media mentions of our event around the world,” she said.
Articles about Hill Climb and the Pikes Peak area totaled 2,202 and were potentially viewed 14 billion times between January 1 and July 20. It would have cost more than $129 million to buy equivalent advertising space in these publications.
The story with the upper reach was a msn.com travel article that named Colorado Springs one of the top 10 places to travel abroad in June. It reached over 211 million people and provided the kind of exposure that money couldn’t buy.