It was a wall breaking, not a groundbreaking.
Nevertheless, it was an important first step for the U.S. Olympic Museum, which is planned for downtown Colorado Springs’ southwest side.
A demolition crew on Wednesday began razing an old industrial building on a 1.7-acre site at Vermijo Avenue and Sierra Madre Street where the $65 million museum will be built. An excavator – a large piece of construction equipment – repeatedly punched holes in the building’s concrete block wall and tore off portions of its metal roof. The building was expected to be down by week’s end.
The site preparation work, which will include razing two more buildings and the removal of railroad spur tracks, asphalt and concrete, will happen over two to three months – scraping the site clean in advance of a museum groundbreaking targeted for March, said Stan Rovira, the project’s manager.
“It was important to us to demonstrate that we really are doing this,” said Rovira, who oversaw projects at Colorado College and the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs for a combined 16 years. “This is a step to let the public know that this is a serious project. There’s been thousands of hours of work to this point in the design of the building. That is still progressing. But this is something tangible that people can see.”
The museum is part of the City for Champions tourism initiative – four projects designed to attract visitors to the Pikes Peak region that are being funded, in part, by sales tax money provided under Colorado’s Regional Tourism Act. The museum was planned before City for Champions was launched in 2013, but then was added to the mix of tourism projects.
The 60,000-square-foot museum, also being funded by private donations, is intended to showcase the nation’s Olympic and Paralympic movements through exhibits and artifacts; the U.S. Olympic Committee is based in Colorado Springs, which also is home to one of three Olympic Training Centers.
The museum site was donated by Nor’wood Development Group, a large Springs real estate company that owns several southwest downtown parcels.
For years, the area was home to the Crissey Fowler Lumber Co., which had a retail store and several nearby industrial buildings. The structure being torn down Wednesday had housed a shop where Crissey Fowler fabricated roofing trusses, Rovira said.
About 90 percent of the building’s materials – mostly concrete and metal – will be recycled, said Erin Meade, co-owner with her husband, Patrick, of Springs-based Iron Mountain Demolition.
“None of this is going to go to the landfill,” she said.
Patrick Meade was at the controls of the excavator as it tore through the building’s wall and roof. Iron Mountain also planned to use a shear – a scissors-like device – to snip through the building’s heavy metal beams to allow them to be torn down.
An empty auto salvage storage building and another building that currently houses a metal works business also will be razed in the next few months, Rovira said. The Springs office of Terracon, a nationwide engineering consulting firm, has been hired to conduct an environmental study of the site, he said. Meanwhile, the nonprofit museum has secured more than $48 million in financial commitments for the project, board chairman Dick Celeste said Wednesday. While the museum’s price tag is $65 million, he wants to raise $80 million to help cover contingencies and to create an operating endowment.
Museum officials hope to open the venue by the start of the February 2018 Winter Games in South Korea.
“To me, this is more than a baby step,” Celeste said of the site preparation work. “Not a giant step. But the fact is, we’re now on the ground, on the site, and beginning to prepare for a groundbreaking next spring. For people who’ve wondered, ‘OK, I’ve seen pretty pictures, when is this really going to happen?’ Well, here it goes.”
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by Rich Laden