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Broadmoor meets with Colorado Springs-area officials as it studies Cog Railway

April 16, 2018 Updated: April 17, 2018 at 6:21 am
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A car drives up the road to Pikes Peak while the Pikes Peak Cog Railway climbs up behind it on Friday, Sept. 29, 2017. (The Gazette, Nadav Soroker)

The Broadmoor hotel hopes to complete a study of the Pikes Peak Cog Railway within three months as it determines whether the now-shuttered attraction can or should be rebuilt.

Broadmoor President and CEO Jack Damioli said he met Wednesday with "several" governmental agencies as part of the hotel's research on what to do with the railway. Participants in the meeting weren't identified, but the Manitou Springs mayor, and representatives of the city of Colorado Springs, El Paso County and The Convention and Visitors Bureau said they have met with the Broadmoor recently. More such meetings are likely, Damioli said.

"I'm not going to get into the details, but we're talking with all the stakeholders on how we could potentially work together to make this work," Damioli said. "It's a very complex and expensive project. And so with that, we're trying to walk through all those things and make sure that we are communicating and that we're talking with our stakeholders."

At issue for The Broadmoor is what to do about the 126-year-old Cog Railway, which the Colorado Springs hotel owns and operates.

The Cog, one of the area's more popular attractions, takes riders on a nearly 9-mile scenic trip from a depot in Manitou Springs to the top of Pikes Peak.

The hotel closed the railway in November for maintenance. In March, the hotel announced that the Cog wouldn't reopen. At that time, Damioli said the railway had "run its useful life," and the hotel would review the Cog.

That review might result in "either a complete closure or a complete rebuild and replacement of the engines, cars, track and even potentially the depot," Damioli said last month. "I hope something in between is where we arrive."

The cost to rebuild could be "tens of millions of dollars," he said. He didn't waver from that figure last week.

The hotel hopes to complete its evaluation within 60 to 90 days, Damioli said. A report by The Gazette in March that the review would take two to three years was inaccurate, he said. Two to three years would be the time needed to rebuild the railway.

Once the hotel completes its review, how long it might take to decide the railway's fate was unclear.

"In order to make a good decision, you have to have facts," Damioli said. "And those facts are what we need in order to figure out if this is a doable project or not."

Hotel officials say only two Cog railways are in the United States, and only 40 are in the world. They've talked with experts in other nations as part of their review, Damioli said.

Manitou Springs Mayor Ken Jaray said he participated in a recent meeting on the Cog in which participants identified common interests "and how Manitou Springs can help the Cog move the project of rebuilding forward."

Hotel officials wanted to learn more about the nuts-and-bolts of an amusement or excise tax that the Cog pays to the city - seeking to understand how the tax rate was set, Jaray said. There was no request to change or lower the rate, he said; the tax is 5 percent on gross ticket sales.

The hotel also asked about possible staging areas for construction vehicles and materials if it undertook repairs or a rebuilding, Jaray said.

"It wasn't that exciting," he said. "It was just mostly a preliminary meeting to say, 'OK, here is what we're looking at. It's a big project. We need to consider a whole lot of issues. We'd love to work with you guys to see if this is feasible. We'll get back to you once we know a little bit more about our timing and our process.'"

Jeff Greene, chief of staff for Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers, declined to say Monday whether city officials participated in last week's meetings. The city did meet with the hotel about six weeks ago, though, he said.

Hotel officials briefed the city about the direction they were headed with the railway, and the city expressed its support, Greene said.

"We will work very closely with The Broadmoor; we'll work very closely with the railway," he said. "The city recognizes the great economic benefit that the Cog Railway brings to our entire region."

The Colorado Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau met once with The Broadmoor regarding the Cog Railway around March 30, said Doug Price, the bureau's president and CEO.

Price, who wasn't at that meeting, said it was mainly informational and included Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs representatives. "I just know when they've got something to share, they'll share it," he said. "They know what they're doing."

Damioli wouldn't say whether the meetings included talk of governmental agencies contributing financially toward rebuilding the railway.

The Broadmoor is owned by the Denver-based Anschutz Corp., whose Clarity Media Group owns The Gazette.

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