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Woody Paige: C'mon Colorado Springs, let's do this U.S. Olympic Museum right

June 11, 2017 Updated: June 12, 2017 at 12:06 pm
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The groundbreaking for the $75 million U.S. Olympic Museum was attended by Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers and U.S. Olympic Committee Scott Blackmun, U.S. Olympic Museum board chairman Dick Celeste, among others on Friday June 9, 2017. Photo by Dougal Brownlie, The Gazette.

The ground-breaking for the U.S. Olympic Museum and Hall of Fame on Friday past could be earth-moving.

The possibilities for the branded-new Southwest Downtown, SoDo, are mind-boggling.

As Unofficial Cheerleader for Colorado Springs, my position on the economic effects and developmental dreams is midway between the governor, the mayor, the CFC types and The Gazette editorial board, and those persnickety, persistent pessimists.

Annual attendance at sports museums throughout the country generally has declined, and revenue projections on major sports-related events always are blimp-inflated. I've been to a lot of them - a dozen Summer and Winter Olympics, 50 Super Bowls and Final Fours, and Halls of Fame in football, baseball, basketball, hockey and (the Springs' own) Pro Rodeo.

Estimates for the U.S. Olympic Museum of 350,000 visitors and millions in pecuniary benefits every year are extremely high. Predictions of complete failure are mistaken.

With an intelligent approach and creative thinking and planning, the "Olympic City USA" theme for the Springs can be a success and breathe fresh life into SoDo.

However, you can't just can't wave shovels, construct a new building, proclaim "Open Today" and await a gold-or-silver rush.

For instance, the area should hold a "Nicola Tesla Celebration" in honor of the inventor of alternating electrical current, who spent 1899-90 at a laboratory in Colorado Springs.

Invite 2017-inducted Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band Electric Light Orchestra to perform a concert downtown and hold a convention for Tesla automobile owners.

There should be an annual week-long Colorado Springs Winter Carnival in SoDo with ice carvings, rinks and an outdoor hockey match between Colorado College and DU. And the occasion would have special emphasis during the Winter Olympics for a fortnight every four years, with gigantic outdoor TV screens showing the Games from Tokyo in 2020 (a year after the U.S. Olympic Museum and Hall of Fame is complete) and Beijing in 2022.

The same sort of Summer Festival would commemorate the Summer Games, with competitions, including a marathon around downtown.

Of course, all members of the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame (which has had no home since its founding in 1979) would be issued invitations to return for the banquet. And those who won medals, or were members of the American teams, in the Olympics and the Paralympics would be guests at the Carnivals and the Festivals.

How about creating a permanent SoDo Olympic village with restaurants, pubs, beer gardens, shops, stores, condos representing countries (and their architecture and food) that vie in the Olympics, and the streets would feature the flag of the Olympic rings? Former Olympic athletes from other nations would come and greet visitors.

As in New York City, there could be street fairs every Sunday, and Food Truck Friday.

The U.S. Olympic Museum could initiate "Run & Jump" contests for kids 10-and-under in all the states and have the finalists gathering in the Springs for national championships each summer.

Anyway, you get the concept, even if my suggestions are stupid.

A stand-alone U.S. Olympic Museum and Hall of Fame will be swell, and tourists going to the Garden of the Gods, The Broadmoor, Seven Falls, Pikes Peak and Old Colorado City, as I did again recently, will have another vacation destination stop. Locals can take their children, or their relatives in town for the holidays, once every couple of the years.

But that's not enough. The OM&HOF needs to be the centerpiece of SoDo - a place to live, work, eat, drink, convene, sit in the park and have fun. There's no Coors Field with 81 games, but LoDo in Denver thrives the other 274 days because of the activity, vitality, energy and synergy for everybody.

Colorado Springs doesn't have to strive to be Denver, but downtown can generate its own unique dynamism driven by the U.S. Olympic Museum and the neighboring environs.

And perhaps a miniature sports version of Mount Rushmore - Pikes Peak Pix? - can be added. Name the four greatest Southern Colorado-born athletes who should be remembered, respected and revered in stone? My choices are "Dutch" Clark, "Goose" Gossage, Bobby Unser and Jack Dempsey. Who are yours - and what are your ideas for SoDo? Email them to me.

Break ground.

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