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Dream big, Colorado Springs


Around the room atop Phantom Canyon Brewing Co., about 75 of this city's movers and shakers listen over lunch to a different pitch for an addition to the downtown area.

At the Colorado Springs Business Journal's behest, this group of "power" people political, business and/or civic leaders has gathered to hear about an idea that has worked for Glendale, a small village in southeast Denver. Journal publisher Lon Matejczyk has brought in many of Glendale's key players to tell their story.

They describe their community-owned Infinity Park Event Center, a high-tech, 5,000-seat stadium and facilities for corporate and private events, with sponsors helping pay for everything. Their message: If it works there, why not here?

But the concept isn't that easy to sell at this Monday luncheon, in part because it includes buying into a sport that wouldn't be most cities' first choice rugby. Nothing against the game, which has many admirable traits and traditions, but let's just say it wouldn't work everywhere.

Matejczyk understands that, and says you could sub in a different sport. But his deep-rooted affection for rugby shines through.

Meanwhile, near the back of the room, another presentation is quietly unfolding. It makes a lot more sense, though this is a whispered conversation between two people.

"Nothing against their motives," Terry Rector says to me, "but it wouldn't work here. It would be just one more case of this town thinking too small."

Rector, a 51-year-old Springs native and attorney, has his own concept. He says he's been working on it about four years, as other plans convention center, Sky Sox stadium and more have come and gone.

His plan is different, and he fervently believes it would work. It's also simple enough to draw on a sheet of paper. It's a highly adaptable stadium (football and anything else played on a larger field, plus basketball or ice), concert/event venue and convention center, all rolled into one. It would have a brand-name hotel on one side, a wing for the U.S. Olympic Committee and its member sports to have offices and a Hall of Fame attraction, plus ample room for stores, restaurants and other businesses and amenities.

All of that would fill three sides. The fourth could be open or closed, depending on the event, with a retractable thin-membrane roof (becoming more popular worldwide, and less costly). Above that roof would be a second deck of seating on each side, raising the capacity for outdoor events to 20,000 or more.

With the roof closed, the floor and meeting space around it would become a convention center second only in this state to Denver's Colorado Convention Center. With so many configurations, Rector says, "this facility easily could be used 365 days a year. ... It would be a showpiece."

Rector doesn't have a price tag, because he's not a developer, just the idea man. But with major investors, plus public money that likely would be more feasible because of the multiple uses, Rector is fully convinced it would work.

It's at least worth exploring, and Rector already has taken his idea to HNTB, the globally known Kansas City architecture and engineering firm that has designed stadiums, convention centers and more across the nation including Invesco Field at Mile High and the Air Force Academy athletic expansion.

"They told me this kind of idea will be the next wave of stadiums and facilities," Rector says.

Glendale's contingent finishes talking about their plan and how it could fit here. They've also talked about rugby, a lot.

Vice Mayor Larry Small stands up, thanks everyone involved and says, "There are no bad ideas." He adds that "we're still trying to find an anchor, especially for the southwest downtown [urban] renewal area."

The luncheon ends with some expressing interest and everyone sharing hope for some kind of facility in or near downtown. But they aren't sure this is the answer.

It's not, because it isn't big, bold and audacious enough. It's not what Colorado Springs will need in 2010, 2020 and beyond.

Terry Rector, sitting quietly in the back, had that answer. Perhaps next time, whatever the situation, everyone will be listening to him.

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