In what it says would be a boon to Colorado Springs' economy and image, The Broadmoor hotel is proposing millions of dollars in upgrades to its east and west golf courses that would help the world-famous resort attract the sport's most prestigious tournaments.
But the improvements, laid out Tuesday evening during a meeting attended by more than 500 area residents at the hotel's Broadmoor Hall, would require the permanent closure of a stretch of Cheyenne Mountain Boulevard, roughly between Mirada Road and Penrose Boulevard.
That proposal drew criticism from many neighbors, who worried about additional traffic that would be funneled onto already crowded area roads after the closure. Several also expressed concerns over the loss of an evacuation route if a Waldo Canyon-like fire raced down nearby Cheyenne Mountain.
Hotel officials responded they'd consider all of the issues raised by residents before formally submitting a proposal to Colorado Springs city planners, probably later this year.
When it comes to fire concerns, hotel officials said they'd already instituted safety plans that will remain in place regardless of whether the golf course upgrades are made. And, in an emergency, a portion of the existing Cheyenne Mountain Boulevard and another newly built segment could be used by residents as an escape route.
The golf course plan was one of several projects Broadmoor officials discussed during a two-hour meeting they billed as an update on recently completed and proposed enhancements at the hotel, a nearly 750-room, upscale resort that covers 3,000 acres on the Springs' southwest side.
Recently finished projects included updates to the hotel's Golden Bee and Tavern restaurants; the addition of the Play at The Broadmoor entertainment area; and the Pauline Chapel remodeling.
Overviews also were presented on The Ranch at Emerald Valley and Cloud Camp - rustic retreats the resort is adding on property west of the hotel and on top of Cheyenne Mountain, respectively.
But the proposed golf course changes drew most of the attention during Tuesday's meeting.
At issue for The Broadmoor is its goal to enhance its standing as a venue for the world's biggest golf events.
Since 1995, the hotel has played host to a pair of U.S. Women's Opens and a men's U.S. Senior Open. Now, the hotel wants to attract golf's biggest prizes - the U.S. Open, the PGA Championship and Ryder Cup.
Such events would bring the sport's biggest names - from Tiger Woods to Phil Mickelson to Rory McIlroy - to Colorado Springs and shine an international spotlight on the hotel and the Pikes Peak region, said Broadmoor President and CEO Steve Bartolin.
'From a destination standpoint, it puts The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs on that international circuit of places where people from all over the world have to play because they had a Ryder Cup there or the U.S. Open's on the books, ' Bartolin said. 'That's what propelled Pebble Beach to where they are. '
The local economic impact of any of those events would be an estimated $160.5 million - dwarfing the $20.8 million generated by the U.S. Women's Open in 2011, said Russ Miller, The Broadmoor's golf director.
But the Springs' light air allows golf balls to fly about 10 percent farther than most other courses, Miller said.
As a result, The Broadmoor could only attract elite tournaments if it offers the U.S. Golf Association, PGA of America and other sanctioning bodies a golf course of 8,100 yards in length, Miller said. That would be 665 yards longer than Augusta National Golf Club, home of The Masters.
To create an 8,100-yard course, The Broadmoor is proposing to combine the best holes on each of its 18-hole east and west courses, as well as lengthening six holes, Bartolin said.
That would require closing the two-lane Cheyenne Mountain Boulevard, which cuts through the southern one-third of the existing east and west courses.
Requests to close off, or vacate, a stretch of road are common, although vacating a 3,000-foot-long portion - the length of the section of Cheyenne Mountain Boulevard proposed for closure - would be unusual, said Mike Schultz, a planner with the city's Land Use Review Division. Such decisions are made by the City Council after input from police, fire, traffic, Colorado Springs Utilities and other agencies, Schultz said.
The east-west road is used by residents who come and go from homes around the golf courses, although it's uncertain how much traffic the road sees each day. Hotel representatives said a traffic study would be done at a later date. During a question-and-answer session, several residents applauded The Broadmoor's plan, and acknowledged the value of their homes has risen in direct relation to the more than $300 million in upgrades the hotel has made over the last 20 years.
But others said area traffic already is a big problem, and streets are especially clogged by visitors heading to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, south of the hotel. Dale Hiatt was one of several residents who suggested The Broadmoor consider creating a European-like tunnel - burying Cheyenne Mountain Boulevard under the golf course. Bartolin said after the meeting the hotel will consider all of the issues and suggestions made by residents.
Other residents said in addition to traffic they worry whether a key evacuation route would be cut off in the event of a major fire.
'This is not about another golf tournament, ' said Chip Cord, a Chase Lane resident. 'This is about whether or not I can come and go from my home. The fire mitigation is in The Broadmoor's self-interest. This is about whether or not you shut down the back door of all these neighborhoods. '
Hotel representatives, in turn, said fire mitigation efforts - cutting back trees and brush, among other steps - have taken place on 256 acres in the area. Another 360 acres are targeted for mitigation, with $1.2 million of that work being funded by the Springs-based El Pomar Foundation and the Anschutz Foundation of Denver. The Broadmoor is owned by the Anschutz Corp., whose Clarity Media Group owns The Gazette.
After the Waldo Canyon fire, The Broadmoor created a 29-member wildland fire team, staffed by certified firefighters from the hotel, zoo and Pikes Peak Cog Railway. That team also has access to vehicles and equipment.
The hotel also plans to mitigate the area around its proposed Cloud Camp on top of Cheyenne Mountain, while creating a tower on the site with cameras that will be monitored at all times, and a heat recognition device to detect fires.
The hotel plans more meetings next Tuesday and May 8 at Colorado Hall, along with meetings June 4 and 6 at Broadmoor Hall. All meetings will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. The hotel also is posting information online at www.broadmoorgolfclub.org.
Contact Rich Laden: 636-0228