Colorado Springs is a great place to live.
But Colorado Springs has an image of being a stuffy conservative Republican city, which translates to a perception of only welcoming old white males. This perception is expanded to include a lack of culture and diversity. While this perception of conservatives is mostly propaganda, it gives the impression that Colorado Springs is very "uncool."
The truth is quite another matter. Colorado Springs, while politically right of center, is anything but stuffy. Our sports and recreation offerings are second to none. We have local hiking, mountain biking, camping, river sports, snow sports, hot springs, and more.
The Springs is proud of its Western pioneer heritage, and we have plenty of activities that highlight it, including rodeos, Territory Days, and the Pioneer Museum. We attract visitors from all over the world to the Olympic Training Center and for the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.
We have a vibrant night life with live music, theater, and art gallery events happening almost daily. Political and nonprofit groups are very active in engaging the citizens. A number of young professional groups have regular events all over the city - everything from business networking happy hours to time at Trampoline World.
However, even with all of the activities listed above, we still do not carry the "cool" brand outside of those in the know.
College graduates around the country who are out to find their first job do not immediately think of Colorado Springs as "the place to be." If we want to become a regional economic hot spot, that needs to change.
Our city government can only do so much.
While efforts like the one that led to the now infamous "Live It Up" logo are well-intentioned, they do little to affect the way others view Colorado Springs. What needs to happen is that those who already live here need to be aware of how amazing the place they live is, and they need to start telling their friends.
I have heard it over and over for the past few years: "Colorado Springs needs more culture and a better night life." When I ask those making such statements what theaters and local venues they've visited recently, most rattle off a number of Denver locales. This is precisely the problem. Many don't even know what we have to offer.
There are a few local publications that make a valiant effort to bring our city's culture to the masses, but until a buzz is created, our image will persist. The best way to create that buzz is for those of us who know better to start shouting from the mountaintop, "Colorado Springs is a great place to live."
The single most important way we can emphasize that line is through the incredible way this community comes together in times of trouble, best exemplified during the Waldo Canyon and Black Forest fires. We are a city of great neighbors and close friends, and who wouldn't want to be a part of that?
Tony Gioia is a Colorado Springs advocate and a civic organizer. He can be reached at email@example.com.