A grand opening in late May for the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Museum in Colorado Springs has been delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic, while a postponement also is likely of the venue’s public opening planned for a week earlier for tourists and local residents.
The delays would add to a lengthy list of postponements and cancellations in the Pikes Peak region as government officials, businesses and community leaders seek to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
Schools, restaurant dining rooms, movie theaters, casinos and other public gathering places have closed, while Gov. Jared Polis this week issued a stay-at-home order as another means of containing the highly contagious virus. The order, in effect until April 11, limits public movements to visiting essential businesses such as grocery stores, pharmacies and auto repair shops.
Museum officials announced Friday they have postponed grand opening and VIP events scheduled May 28-31 for the venue, which is under construction at Sierra Madre Street and Vermijo Avenue in southwest downtown, said Peter Maiurro, the museum's chief communications and business affairs officer.
No new date has been set for those events, he said.
The museum's 15-member board will weigh whether to also delay the venue’s May 21-22 opening to the public, Maiurro said. The board plans to meet Thursday to discuss the status of the public opening.
A delay is likely, he said. Museum officials could try to stick to their late May opening dates, but don’t have enough information because of the rapidly changing landscape involving the pandemic, Maiurro said.
“We’re at the mercy of so many variables and factors we just can’t control,” he said. “How the virus spreads, and how much longer we have stay-at-home orders from the governor and things like that.”
The health and safety of visitors, museum staff and the public is paramount, and board members will listen to community leaders and medical experts in making their decisions, Maiurro said.
Construction crews — considered an essential industry under Polis’ stay-at-home order — are continuing to work on the museum, while local members of the venue’s fabrication team are installing displays and exhibits, Maiurro said. Some fabrication team members from Seattle and elsewhere have been unable to travel to the Springs because of the virus outbreak, he said.
The $88 million, 60,000-square-foot museum and hall of fame, envisioned as a tribute to the nation’s Olympic and Paralympic movements through interactive displays and exhibits, is expected to draw about 350,000 visitors annually.
In addition to boosting tourism, community leaders are counting on the museum to help anchor the redevelopment of downtown's light industrial southwest side.
Even before its opening, the museum has generated buzz for Colorado Springs.
In January, the Springs ranked No. 13 on a New York Times list of 52 worldwide destinations that should be explored in 2020. The Times cited the Olympic and Paralympic Museum and a new Summit House atop Pikes Peak as reasons to check out the city.
Architectural Digest, meanwhile, named the Olympic and Paralympic Museum as one of the most anticipated buildings that will open in 2020.
A delay in the museum's opening, however, won't be a surprise. Other museums and attractions are shut down, while several prominent hotels — including The Broadmoor, Cheyenne Mountain Resort and Mining Exchange — also have temporarily closed their doors.
“Under the circumstances, any business that is going to be opening something brand new to the public right now would be very smart to take as much time as they can to be able to do the type of opening that the community would want and expect,” said Doug Price, president and CEO of Visit Colorado Springs, the area’s convention and visitors bureau.
“With the amount of uncertainty right now with not being able to gather more than 10 people,” Price said, “I think the museum will be very calculated in thinking through how to best open the museum. Perhaps in stages.”