The Colorado Springs Event Center is back in business after a six-month closure because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
How long it stays in business is another story.
The 90,000-square-foot venue, which occupies a former Longs Drugs in the Rustic Hills North shopping center, northeast of Academy and Palmer Park boulevards, has hosted boat and RV exhibits, home expos, gun and knife shows and many other trade, consumer and specialty events since it opened in 2011.
The pandemic, however, forced the Colorado Springs Event Center to close in March, and it only resumed hosting events a month ago, said Kevin Hummer, CEO of RJ Promotions in St. Joseph, Mo. He heads one company that leases and operates the event center space and another company that puts on shows at the venue and similar facilities in several states.
Originally about 40,000 square feet, the event center was more than doubled in size a few years ago by Hummer, who said he spent “several million dollars” on the facility. It’s one of a handful of such facilities in the Springs, which lacks a large-scale, municipal convention center like those found in many other cities.
This weekend, the event center will host two shows: the 2020 Oddity and Bizarre Expo and the Colorado Springs Sugar Plum Food & Gift Mart. The shows will take place from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.
But these days, the event center is limited to 175 attendees at one time under local and state health guidelines designed to control the spread of the coronavirus, Hummer said.
That headcount is less than 5% of the 3,800 people that Hummer said were allowed in the event center in the past, leaving it next to impossible to operate the venue and attract shows. Several promoters can’t put on events and be successful with only 175 attendees, he said.
“Just ask a restaurant if they could make it with 5% coming in their doors,” a frustrated Hummer said.
Safeguards are in effect for events at the venue, Hummer said. In addition to attendance limits, attendees and vendors must wear masks and observe social distance requirements. Hand sanitizing stations also have been placed around the center.
“We observe all the rules,” Hummer said.
Though he’s reopened the venue, Hummer said he can’t continue operating at less than 5% attendance.
“It’s at the point of, do we stay open or do we close down?” he said. Asked if he does plan to close, Hummer said he’s taking it “day by day.”
“It’s one of the businesses in the city that is the last to open,” he said of temporary closures because of the pandemic.
“It’s probably the most challenged right now.”