Six million visitors a year seek the Colorado Springs area as a vacation destination. So is it any wonder that meeting-goers love it, too? That would explain why so many come in early and stay late to enjoy the area’s attractions.
There’s hiking, biking, rock climbing, horseback riding, spelunking, skateboarding, wildlife and bird watching, hot air ballooning and railroad riding to name a few.
There’s a world-class zoo, a unique Olympic Training Center, one-of-a-kind museum and more parks than you can shake a Frisbee at.
All this awaits visitors to the foot of “America’s mountain,” Pikes Peak. But first, down to business.
Hotels in the Colorado Springs area vary in location and price, but all afford access to the Pikes Peak region’s many attractions. There are all the usual suspects when it comes to hotels—a Marriott, a Hilton or two, a Hyatt and such. But there are several local hotels that offer new venues or services.
The newest kid on the block is the Mining Exchange Hotel, a Wyndham Grand prop-erty that opened in downtown Colorado Springs in May. Several years in the making, it preserves the mining history of the area in the guise of an upscale boutique hotel. Old gold vaults have been repurposed throughout the hotel, and the building’s century-old architecture has been preserved.
The Platinum Ballroom can seat 200 and can be converted into two meeting rooms, while the Grand Ballroom holds 250 seated. The ideal size of group for the hotel would take 75 of its 117 guest rooms “but we are not opposed to selling all the rooms to one group if possible,” says Director of Sales and Marketing Erin Smith. “This is a place where business has been conducted for 100 years. We hope to continue that tradition.”
Also downtown is the Antlers Hilton, site of a hotel since the city was established and now in its third incarnation, offers a spacious 27,500 square feet of meeting and event space that can handle 1,200 for cocktails and 800 for dinner. With unobstructed views of Pikes Peak, 292 guestrooms and access to downtown restaurants, it’s a popular meeting venue for groups such as the U.S. Olympic Committee.
The Broadmoor hotel complex, on the southwest edge of the city near Cheyenne Mountain, is known for its outstanding service and food and for well-managed meetings. This Five-Star, Five-Diamond property is on the high end of the scale for meetings.
The hotel/resort complex has 185,000 square feet total space for meetings and events. Broadmoor Hall alone boasts 60,000 square feet of pillar-less, carpeted ballroom—the largest ballroom west of the Mississippi (except for Las Vegas). Guests can convene in one of 62 meeting areas, from a 12-person board room to 5,000 folks in the above-mentioned hall (which can handle as many as 300 trade show booths). The Broadmoor Hall Complex can accommodate up to 9,000, which is the attendance number for the annual Space Symposium, says Allison Scott, director of communications.
A spa, fabulous golf courses and restaurants, pools and a tennis center offer onsite diversion. As usual, the hotel is doing some annual sprucing up and minor refurbishments.
Some groups offer two price points and spread their meetings between The Broadmoor and nearby Cheyenne Mountain Resort, which underwent a multi-year $20 million renovation completed in 2011. Besides 300-plus guestrooms, there are eight private lodges on the property. An 18-hole golf course, tennis club, and aquatic and fitness centers offer recreational respite to meeting-goers.
“We have special meeting packages that are flexible to each planners’ unique needs and that help keep their costs down,” says John Branciforte, director of sales and marketing.
Cheyenne Mountain Resort offers 40,000 square feet of meeting space in various configurations to accommodate groups of 10 to 500 people for everything from lectures to sit-down dinners.
The Lodge at Garden of the Gods Club has been around for 60 years but only in the past decade or so has opened its doors to non-members. It offers spectacular views of the city park’s red sandstone formations and Pikes Peak from its 66 plush guestrooms.
The property can host up to 250 people in its 10,000 square feet of meeting space for everything from board meetings to formal dinners and is popular for executive retreats where a little golf might help relax meeting-goers between sessions.
For a small, intimate venue, some groups choose the historic Cliff House at Pikes Peak in adjacent Manitou Springs. No two of its 54 rooms are alike and new additions to the hotel (which look like they belong to the original) are a great bar, garden patio and wall-to-wall windowed pavilion.
The boutique hotel has more than 6,000 square feet of meeting space; the largest space accommodates a banquet for about 150 people. This is a perfect venue for corporate retreats, says General Manager Paul York.
Venues for Special Events
To get out of your hotel and have a special event elsewhere, there are lots of options.
The newly expanded Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center offers large, open spaces for a 250-person mixer or cocktail party or a sit-down dinner for 150 as well as a private meeting room for a small group.
They also offer teambuilding activities at the adjacent Bemis School of Art and can include a tour of the museum with any event. This is an ideal venue for creative groups.
The Colorado Pioneers Museum, housed in the architecturally stunning 1903 El Paso county courthouse, can host receptions for 200 in its attractive lobby or a sit-down presentation in the beautifully restored courtroom.
Somewhat new to the meetings scene is the U.S. Olympic Training Center. This unique property near downtown is home to a number of Olympic and Paralympics champions and hopefuls.
The training center offers several options for corporate events, including meeting rooms, gyms, outdoor areas, the Olympic Path and a visitor center. More intimate settings are available in the Hall of Fame Rotunda for smaller groups, and the gyms are able to seat up to 600 for a large dinner reception. Public tours are offered through the visitor center and there is a private tour option for corporate clients.
The facility also offers both sport demonstrations (groups view athlete practices) or sport experiences (groups are able to partake in specific sports). These are pending both gym and athlete availability but are great for teambuilding exercises.
A new addition to group activities is at the Colorado Mountain Brewery, offering brewery tours for as many as 10 at a time. Tours include beer education and beer pairing seminars.
“We don’t have a huge operation, but our brewmaster and tour guides are a lot of fun and people seem to enjoy it,” says General Manager Paul Dehner.
It’s All in the Planning
Meeting planners agree that Colorado Springs has some unique and special offerings. “Colorado Springs has a great reputation with attendees,” says Lisa Langford, a local meeting planner with Finance & Resource Management Consultants Inc. that facilitates study groups for the petroleum and retail industries. “Either they [attendees] have been here before personally or they have heard wonderful things about Colorado Springs and have a very positive anticipation coming in.”
Langford says, “There are the must-see-and-do… experiences, such as Garden of the Gods, U.S. Air Force Academy, Olympic Training Center and Pikes Peak that we want newcomers to experience first.” Then, she adds, there is another whole layer of attractions that might not be as well known but that are worth visiting.
Because the weather in the Springs is usually beautiful on summer mornings, but can produce showers later in the afternoon, some groups have gotten wise.
“Our groups this summer are flipping their traditional agenda so that they are outside in the mornings and have their meetings in the afternoon, taking advantage of this pattern,” Langford says. “This year they are requesting to golf at The Broadmoor and to bike down Pikes Peak. For spouses, shopping in Manitou and Old Colorado City are perennial favorites, and hiking is something that can be worked into even the tightest of agendas since it is in a lot of cases right outside their door and can be done before breakfast.”
Though Finance & Resource Management Consultants Inc. normally organizes study groups of 12-15 people in Colorado Springs, they always encourage attendees to bring spouses and children.
She’s not alone in her praise. “I love Colorado Springs as a meeting destination,” says Carolyn Van Way, a global account executive with ConferenceDirect. Last year, for example, she organized a meeting for a state association.
“It was a good meeting because the attendees could do a lot of things on their own in their free time,” she says. “There’s the Royal Gorge, the Cog Railway up Pikes Peak, the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo…I could go on and on. There’s just so much nearby.”
Chelsy Murphy, public relations manager with the Colorado Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau, says they get frequent requests from groups wanting direction about where to meet and what to do.
“Whether you want to climb Pikes Peak or go to a spa,” she says, “there’s really something for everyone here.”