Updated: April 11, 2014 at 8:46 am
The Broadmoor hotel has agreed to buy Seven Falls, a majestic series of waterfalls in South Cheyenne Canyon that's one of the premier tourist attractions in the Pikes Peak region.
Seven Falls, a mile from the hotel in southwest Colorado Springs, has been owned by the Hill family since its purchase by Texas oilman Al Hill nearly 70 years ago.
The deal includes a surrounding canyon and 1,300 acres of adjacent land, said Broadmoor President and CEO Steve Bartolin. He declined to disclose the sale price.
A date hasn't been set to finalize the purchase agreement, but the attraction - closed since it was devastated by September's floods - won't reopen until spring 2015, Bartolin said. The Broadmoor will spend more than $1 million on rebuilding portions of the attraction, he said.
Seven Falls, whose history dates to the 1880s, features seven waterfalls - illuminated at night - cascading down 181 feet of sheer granite cliffs into a natural box canyon. At the top of the falls, reached via a 224-step stairway or an express elevator tunneled into a mountainside, visitors can walk along a pair of scenic trails to areas where they can take in views of Colorado Springs and the eastern plains.
The hotel saw Seven Falls as one of the Pikes Peak region's legacy attractions that's popular with visitors and area residents, Bartolin said.
"You have this very unique, one-of-a-kind attraction that has stood the test of time," Bartolin said. "You get to the top of the stairs and there's a fabulous network of trails. It's just beautiful property. It will be a nice enhancement to our campus."
Denver businessman Philip Anschutz, whose Anschutz Corp. owns The Broadmoor, became enamored with the beauty of Seven Falls after his company's 2011 purchase of the hotel, Bartolin said. Anschutz's interest in Seven Falls coincided with that of Hill family members who wanted to find a long-term owner for the property, he said. Anschutz's Clarity Media Group also owns The Gazette.
Bartolin said he envisions Broadmoor guests taking shuttles to Seven Falls or walking on a trail that might be developed to link the attraction to the hotel.
The Broadmoor also will look at enhancing the attraction with additional features, although those plans haven't been fully developed, he said. Seven Falls has a gift shop and concession area, a second smaller gift shop and observation platforms.
The Seven Falls name also will remain unchanged, Bartolin said.
There are no plans to develop the additional 1,300 acres at this time, Bartolin said.
"A good part of the land is pretty steep property," he said. "Just by its nature, it doesn't lend itself to development."
But The Broadmoor is taking on more than just a tourist attraction; it also will be responsible for Seven Falls' recovery from the floods. Among the work to be done is replacement of lighting systems; repair of the heavily damaged elevator; debris cleanup; fortification of streamside walls; and rebuilding of portions of the access road and parking lot.
Seven Falls was purchased in 1946 by Hill, who also developed the Garden of the Gods Club and Kissing Camels Estates in the Springs.
Philanthropist Lyda Hill, a part-time Springs resident and Al Hill's daughter, said Seven Falls has been owned by Hill family grandchildren through their trusts. Next-generation family members decided to sell Seven Falls because they want to devote their time and energy elsewhere, not because of the damage to the attraction, she said.
"I'm thrilled it's going to be in good hands and for the tourist attraction industry and for Colorado Springs in general," Hill said of the sale to The Broadmoor.
With its purchase, The Broadmoor continues to expand its offerings. The 744-room, 3,000-acre resort operates the Pikes Peak Cog Railway, golf courses, a spa and restaurants. On July 15, the hotel plans to reopen the Ranch at Emerald Valley, a wilderness retreat 8 miles to the west in the Pike National Forest that also was damaged in last year's floods. In August, it expects to open Cloud Camp, another wilderness getaway on top of Cheyenne Mountain.