My drive to work every morning, down Colorado Avenue from the west side, brings me under Interstate 25 and out to a nice view of downtown.
Without fail, each day, my mind wanders at that point to imagining how Colorado Springs must look to first-time visitors. I can't help but think that we could do more to grab people's attention and make them realize they've arrived at a special place — worth a longer look.
That appeared to be happening, at least on a stopgap level, last month when City Council approved putting a large promotional mural/sign across the wide horizontal roof of a warehouse building in the arts district area, just east of I-25 and north of Colorado Avenue.
The design prototype looked nice and colorful — not striking, but at least promising — with the words "Proud Home of the United States Olympic Committee" emblazoned across that roof. City leaders approved the expense, with the hope that it would be completed and installed in time for July 4, and the thousands of visitors who converged on the area last week for the U.S. Women's Open golf tournament.
Initially, the idea was to put the banner on a vinyl surface and attach it to the top of the warehouse. But then it was discovered that the banner wouldn't work that way, given that the roof wasn't a smooth surface.
That led to Plan B, which meant actually painting the mural on the warehouse roof.
As anyone can now tell, that was not the right decision.
First, the idea of making the paint job look professionally exact on corrugated metal was not realistic. Neither was finishing it by early July.
Now we have the prospect, as even the un-artsy eye can see, of an embarrassing finished product.
So the City Council, Mayor Steve Bach or somebody with authority should simply pull the plug. Now. Just spray-paint a coat of gray over the work that's already been done and move on. Surely there's a better way out there for appealing to the I-25 traffic.
This is not about looking for scapegoats, or treating the situation like some kind of scandal. Because it's not. At this point, don't even call it a waste of money — more like a victim of circumstances. The motives were honorable, the original idea's expense appeared reasonable, and if it had worked, the mural actually had the potential to become a source of pride.
There are lessons to be learned from this. First, do we really need a sign or mural that many might miss anyway in heavy traffic or foul weather? From driving in and around the city last weekend, it was obvious that the most dominant signage was on the I-25 message boards, saying, "Women's Open parking Exit 138."
Something else to ponder: If we're going to promote anything about the Olympic presence, let's embrace the real drawing cards. In other words, not just the USOC, but the athletes, and a slogan such as: "Colorado Springs, where Olympic dreams come true." With the rings, of course. Perhaps gold medals. And its own message board, either counting down to the next Olympics or leading visitors to the Olympic Training Center.
That's what we really need, beginning with a modest fund-raising effort to pay for a bold, impressive, permanent fixture, large enough that nobody could miss it.
But first, let's forget about that mural. Quickly, before it's too late.