Is Colorado Springs the city of sunshine, hate, evangelical Christianity, millionaires or something else? Or all of the above?
Those are some of the labels given the city over the years. The upbeat tags were self-imposed, while outsiders applied the negative ones.
Doug Price, CEO of the Colorado Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), says it's best for a city to take control of its own brand. "I think, historically, Colorado Springs has been branded from the outside in," Price says. "What I mean by that, people from outside our community had impressions of what the image and brand was of Colorado Springs, rightly or wrongly."
The latest identity, Olympic City USA, was adopted "from the inside out," Price says. But it's only the latest in a list spanning the city's 147-year existence.
1880s: "Newport in the Rockies" or "Little London." These labels stemmed from wealthy tourists flocking to the city (which many still knew by its original name, the Fountain Colony), as well as a good number of folks who moved here from Great Britain to invest in Gen. William Jackson Palmer's Denver & Rio Grande Railroad.
1890s: "City of Millionaires." After gold was discovered in 1890 on the western slope of Pikes Peak, a stampede of prospectors flooded Cripple Creek and Victor, and many struck it rich. Within a decade or so, the city was said to host a third of the nation's millionaires.
1901 to 1955: "City of Sunshine." Climate played a significant role in marketing the city as a destination for "lungers," those suffering from tuberculosis, says Pioneers Museum Director Matt Mayberry. "Of course," he adds, "it was also tied to the number of days of sunshine offered by our climate, which was frequently touted in various marketing efforts." One Chamber of Commerce flyer boasted 310 days of sunshine a year helped cure TB. A 1911 flier used the label "America's Scenic Playground."
1955 to early 1980s: No distinct label, though starting in the late 1970s "Amateur Sports Capital of the U.S." was used as the Olympic presence developed.
Mid-1980s: "Space Capital of the World." The military's growing space effort brought Air Force Space Command and U.S. Space Command here in 1985, both housed at Peterson Air Force Base. In addition, the nonprofit Space Foundation was established in 1983. In 2002, Space Command merged into U.S. Strategic Command, at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska.
Mid-1980s to 1990: "Foreclosure Capital of the World." The savings and loan crisis caused massive loan defaults and foreclosures on commercial and residential properties. It's worth noting that many other American cities were similarly labeled.
1990s: "City of Hate," "Vatican of the West," "Evangelical Capital of the World." All grew from two events. The first was the relocation of Focus on the Family, a Christian nonprofit, from California to Colorado Springs in 1990, helped by a $4 million grant from El Pomar Foundation. The city hosts other Christian ministries, notably the Navigators and Compassion International. The second event came in 1992 when voters approved Amendment 2 to the state Constitution, petitioned onto the ballot by Colorado Springs-based Colorado for Family Values. It prohibited state and local governments from giving protected status for sexual orientation. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down Amendment 2 in 1996.
2012: "Live it up!" The Community Branding Task Force was formed in 2011 to develop a city brand. The panel included representatives from the city, CVB, Colorado Springs Regional EDC, Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce, Colorado Springs Sports Corp., El Pomar Foundation and Housing & Building Association of Colorado Springs. The label is still used on some promotional materials.
2016: "Olympic City USA."