Olympic Museum in Colorado Springs receives $4 million new pledges

photo - U.S. Olympic Museum backers are all but ruling out a February 2018 opening to coincide with that year's Winter Olympics. Image courtesy of Diller, Scofido & Renfro via usolympicmuseum.org.

U.S. Olympic Museum supporters, who’ve said they need to raise another $10 million in private donations before they’ll break ground on their $73 million project, have taken a big step toward that goal.

Museum officials this week received pledges totaling $4 million from four Colorado Springs-area individuals, B.J. Hybl, treasurer of the nonprofit museum’s board of directors, said Thursday. He declined to disclose their identities, other than to say the pledges came separately from one large donor and three smaller ones.

Project backers worked for a few weeks to finalize the commitments and confirmed them this week, Hybl said. Springs Mayor John Suthers alluded to the donations during his State of the City address Thursday.

While museum backers remain $6 million shy of their $10 million goal, the new pledges are a big boost, Hybl said.

Besides narrowing the funding gap, the pledges have made museum backers comfortable enough financially to move ahead with extending utility lines to the project site – 1.7 acres at Sierra Madre Street and Vermijo Avenue in southwest downtown, Hybl said.

“That’s all very positive,” he said. “There’s really a lot of momentum on the fundraising side – maybe attributable to the (recently completed) Olympics.”

Still, Hybl said he can’t put a timetable on when museum supporters might raise the final $6 million in private donations or when the museum’s groundbreaking will take place.

Supporters originally wanted to break ground this past spring, and to open the museum by February 2018 to coincide with that year’s Winter Olympics. However, backers missed their timetable for the groundbreaking and this summer acknowledged they likely wouldn’t open in early 2018 because they needed to raise the additional private funds.

Museum backers say they’ve raised about $31 million in private cash and pledges, and expect to borrow another $27.4 million – leaving them about $10 million short of what they’ll need.

Museum board chairman Dick Celeste has said the actual museum cost is $73 million, and backers want $80 million to provide reserves and to cover operating costs. However, the museum can be constructed and opened for $68 million, Hybl said.

The 60,000-square-foot museum is envisioned as a showcase – through displays and exhibits – for the nation’s Olympic and Paralympic movements.

Building it in Colorado Springs would strengthen the city’s ties with the Olympic movement, backers have said; the U.S. Olympic Committee has been headquartered in the Springs since 1978, one of the nation’s three Olympic Training Centers is located here, and city officials began branding Colorado Springs as “Olympic City USA” this year.

At the same time, community leaders see the museum as a catalyst for the redevelopment of southwest downtown, while it would boost tourism in the Pikes Peak region.

The museum is one of four projects that make up City for Champions – a tourism initiative proposed by city officials, area business people and civic leaders that will receive state sales tax revenues through Colorado’s Regional Tourism Act. City for Champions includes a proposed downtown sports and events center, an Air Force Academy visitors center and a sports medicine and performance center at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

The Colorado Springs Urban Renewal Authority, which is acting as the entity to handle state sales tax revenues for City for Champions, is expected to issue $39 million in bonds to help fund the museum and public improvements in southwest downtown. The museum would receive $27.4 million of that figure, Hybl has said.