Work starts on Penrose Stadium ‘entry facility’

       Following close on the heels of final city approval Oct. 21, foundation work started just three days later on the new “entry facility” for Penrose Stadium.
       Estimated to cost $2 million, the three-level addition at the east end of the stadium marks phase 1 of a major upgrade envisioned by the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo Foundation, which took over the Norris-Penrose Events Center off Rio Grande Street early this year. It will replace a small, one-story ticket booth at the east end.
       “It's exciting,” said foundation board member Rob Alexander. “This first phase is big for us. We're anxious to get it behind us so we can focus on the business side of running the center.”
       The entry facility will become the only way in for people attending events at the roughly 70-year-old stadium. People now can enter through the ticket booth, as well as the north and south sides, which is not good from a security standpoint, explained project architect Gene Yergensen of Yergensen, Obering and Whittaker (YOW) in a recent interview.
       The new facility is also a chance to “make an entry statement,” he said. “It wasn't much of an entry before.”
       In addition to being a ticket facility and entry, the first floor will have concessions and restrooms, while the limited-access second floor can be used for meeting space, parties or luxury boxes at events. These two floors together will make up about 15,000 square feet. A future possibility is an open-air deck on the roof/third level, but that's still a concept for now, Yergensen said.
       The hope is to have the entry facility done in time for the 2006 Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo in July. Yergensen thinks that's possible, as long as the winter isn't extremely nasty. The key time is the initial weeks, when warmer weather is needed to allow the concrete to be poured for the foundation. After that, pre-cast panels will be used for much of the structure - so weather won't be as much of a factor. He estimated five months to completion. City approval had been anticipated sooner, but staff needed additional time to study soil-stability issues related to the stadium site's history as both a gold mill and a landfill. The foundation also met with neighbors regarding lights and noise, Yergensen said.
       Working in the foundation's favor is the contractor, Scott Bryan Construction. Not only is it a respected regional/natonal company, its owner, Scott Bryan, is on the rodeo board. “He's doing it for cost,” Alexander said. “He gets big kudos for that.”
       Yergensen said the entry facility's design, featuring ornamental step turrets, has the “Broadmoor look.” This is a nod to the origins of the stadium, which was built at the Broadmoor by Colorado Springs magnate/benefactor Spencer Penrose in 1937. The Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo was held there until the stadium was dismantled and reassembled at the current site in the early '70s and became part of the then-Penrose Equestrian Cen-ter. The Norris-Penrose Center also includes an indoor arena, warm- up arenas, boarding stables and horse trails.
       The foundation is a non-profit that uses the rodeo as a fund raiser for military charities. Until this year, the center had been owned and operated at a loss by El Paso County. The county also did not put much money into it, and, according to reports, the stadium was becoming less attractive over time for booking events that might turn the financial situation around. Even the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo relocated for three years, becoming an indoor event at the World Arena. However, the foundation decided last year it wanted the rodeo outdoors again at the stadium, and the best way to have it the way its members wanted was to take it over. The county, glad to get rid of the annual money drain, essentially gave the property to the foundation. A major donation by long-time area rancher/rodeo supporter Bob Norris (leading to the name change) is helping pay for Phase 1.
       In all, foundation leaders foresee four phases of upgrades at the 60-acre center - not counting “phase zero,” as Yergensen put it, which has already taken place this year. Phase zero involved the creation of 59 power-supplied parking spots for RVs for event contestants in the farther lot south of the stadium. The dual effect was ending a situation where RVs camped willy-nilly, without electricity, while freeing up the near parking lot south of the stadium for event parking, he noted.
       Norris-Penrose has about 1,000 parking spaces in all, including the gravel lot it owns off Moreno Avenue.
       Phases 2 through 4, still in the conceptual stages, are expected to be accomplished over the next 5 to 10 years, according to Alexander. Phase 2 will involve improved access to the Moreno parking lot; phase 3 will create a pavilion east of the stadium for small outdoor activities, as well as a new alignment for vehicles entering the center from Rio Grande; and phase 4 will improve pedestrian access from the north parking lot, Yergensen said.

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