The Olympic Games might have been postponed in 2020, but the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum still won the equivalent of a gold medal.
The venue, which opened July 30 in downtown Colorado Springs, was named Thursday as the nation's best new attraction for 2020 by national news outlet USA Today.
The 60,000-square-foot museum honors the Olympic and Paralympic movements and their athletes through artifacts, displays and exhibits. Its cutting-edge technology such as mobile apps, video captions, audio description tracks and universal keypads guide visitors through the Olympic and Paralympic experience.
A USA Today panel of experts and an independent editors group selected the museum in early December as one of 20 nominees in the category of best new attraction — part of USA Today travel industry awards that included best hotels, restaurants and amusement parks.
The public and USA Today readers then voted on the best attraction nominees and selected the Olympic & Paralympic museum as No. 1 among a list of 10 winners.
"This new museum honors the athletes and ideals of the Olympic and Paralympic Games," USA Today said. "The 60,000-square-foot facility comprises 12 interactive galleries with some of the most accessible museum experiences in the world. Team USA athletes consulted on the project to ensure an authentic experience."
The USA Today recognition "is a testament to the hard work done by so many to create this amazing, family-friendly destination," said museum CEO Christopher Liedel.
"To have Colorado Springs be able to celebrate part of its landscape, this wonderful recognition as the best new attraction in 2020, sort of validates the vision we had for the community to open," he said.
Being named best new attraction for 2020 isn't just an achievement for the museum; it's also an honor for athletes, Liedel said.
"How great is this for the Olympic and Paralympic athletes, to validate their accomplishments with this kind of recognition," he said.
The $88 million, non-profit museum was built at Sierra Madre Street and Vermijo Avenue in southwest downtown; its late May opening was delayed for two months because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The museum is expected to draw 350,000 visitors each year to Colorado Springs and Colorado, while city officials, community leaders and local developers say the venue will help anchor redevelopment efforts in southwest downtown.
The USA Today best attraction recognition was the latest for the Olympic & Paralympic Museum; the New York Times, Architectural Digest and Conde Nast Traveler have cited the museum for its achievements in interior and exterior design, as well as its accessibility to people of all abilities.
With last year's summer Olympic games in Tokyo rescheduled to July 2021 because of the pandemic, the USA Today award puts a spotlight on the museum and gives it momentum as it heads into the new year, Liedel said.
"It will have an impact, not just on (attracting) visitors, but companies wanting to do events here," he said, adding the USA Today recognition will help the museum connect with corporate sponsors and organizations from around the country whose employees, clients and customers might want to see the venue and visit the Springs.
"We're very excited that people will now say, gosh, let's go to Colorado Springs," Liedel said. "Let's use the hotels in town. Let's spend a couple of days. It's good for the whole economy, it's not just good for the museum. It is really good for the whole city and the community. I've often said we're a community museum. This is not just a win for the museum; it's a win for Colorado Springs."