For a venue that some entertainment industry experts said was too risky to build, The Broadmoor World Arena has done all right for itself since it opened 20 years ago.
"It's been a very successful building," said Colorado Springs attorney Pete Susemihl, chairman of the nonprofit board that operates the World Arena and an early organizer of efforts to build the facility.
Twenty years ago, on Jan. 17, 1998, the curtain went up on The Broadmoor World Arena when comedian Bill Cosby became the first act to play what was originally known as the Colorado Springs World Arena.
Since then, the venue has played host to some of the biggest names in entertainment, including Elton John, the Eagles, Paul Simon, Carrie Underwood and magician David Copperfield.
It's also home to Colorado College hockey, Disney on Ice, Cirque du Soleil and the Harlem Globetrotters. High school and college graduations, trade shows and political gatherings are among the hundreds of other events and activities that have taken place at the World Arena.
Not too shabby for the place that the late Denver concert promoter Barry Fey once remarked, "I don't know why they're building it," while others said the Springs market was too unpredictable to support the facility.
But civic and community leaders had their reasons for pursuing the World Arena.
The city lacked a sizable venue to attract the kinds of performers and acts that local residents could only see by driving to Denver. Voters, meanwhile, had rejected four attempts to build a downtown, taxpayer-supported municipal arena or civic center in the 1970s and '80s.
By the early 1990s, another effort was launched to build a venue. Eventually, the project was proposed to be financed without a tax hike that, like others, probably would have failed at the ballot box, arena supporters conceded at the time.
Their efforts evolved into what became the $57.2 million Colorado Springs World Arena. The venue has 7,343 fixed seats, but its 19,500 square feet of floor space can accommodate an additional 2,000 seats and allows attendance at concerts and other events to reach beyond 9,000.
In addition, the World Arena Ice Hall built next door - with two Olympic- and National Hockey League-sized sheets of ice for skating and practice - was part of the project.
The arena was financed largely with private donations. Chief among them: The Springs-based El Pomar Foundation gave nearly $30 million, and the Gates Land Co. donated a 50-acre site southwest of Interstate 25 and Circle Drive. Members of the public also contributed via their purchase of decorative tiles installed in the arena's concourse.
There was a taxpayer component; the city and El Paso County chipped in about $9 million for parking, drainage and roadwork around the arena site.
Still, over its 20 years, the facility has operated and been maintained using revenues generated by its shows, events and activities; the facility receives no annual taxpayer subsidy. The arena's revenues totaled $2.6 million in 2016, according to the latest tax filing by the nonprofit organization that operates the venue. Some of those revenues are used to award grants to local organizations; since the arena opened, its nonprofit board has provided more than $1.1 million to dozens of community groups.
"We felt we were a civic entity and needed to help out the community," Susemihl said.
Several improvements have been made since its opening, including new signs, roomier entrances and upgraded amenities.
One of its biggest changes: the World Arena's brand. The venue signed a naming rights deal in 2014 with The Broadmoor hotel, which had operated its own, onsite Broadmoor World Arena starting in 1961 until it was razed in 1994. Also in 2014, The Broadmoor World Arena and the Anschutz Entertainment Group signed a deal for AEG to provide several services, including booking talent.
In 2004, the World Arena's management also took over operation of the downtown Pikes Peak Center, which also hosts concerts, shows and the like, albeit in a smaller, 2,000-seat venue.
Going forward, the World Arena's management and nonprofit ownership has more changes in store. The facility's seating capacity can't be expanded, Susemihl said. But additional upgrades include new dasherboards for hockey, a new scoreboard and improved Wi-Fi capacity for building attendees.
"We were told by a management company at the very beginning that it was the type of building, because of its size and the location and the size of Colorado Springs, it was the type of building that we'd expect to make $500,000 a year or lose $500,000 a year," Susemihl said. "It would kind of go up and down."
Yet, Susemihl said, there's never been a year the arena has lost money, and its cash reserves are solid.
"It has exceeded our expectations of what it would do," he said. "Financially. The amount of attendance we've had. The types of things that have occurred in the arena, whether they're athletic events or shows or concerts or whatever. . It's done extremely well."