Opened in 1978, the Colorado Springs Pride Center was once the backbone of the Colorado Springs LGBT community. In recent years, however, its influence had waned, along with its financial support. On Monday, its board of directors dissolved the organization, citing "unretired debt from years past, as well as management issues."
Eric Marcum, acting president of the Pride Center board, explained in an interview that the budget had shrunk — best he can recall, the center had about $30,000 last year — and the center also had about $25,000 in debts it couldn't pay, including about $10,000 owed in taxes and $3,338.82 owed to the city of Colorado Springs. He added that the center's reputation "hasn't been ideal."
"Hopefully, [the closing] means a rebirth," he says. "Hopefully, the death allows something else to be born."
Marcum and others think that one or several organizations may take over where the center left off, offering programs such as support groups, maintaining a list of LGBT-friendly businesses, and running the annual Pride Fest.
That last function, in fact, is already being spoken for. Nic Grzecka, owner of Club Q and V Bar, has applied for 501(c)3 status for Colorado Springs Pride Fest, Inc. His organization is already planning the 25th annual Pride Fest, to be held July 18 and 19 in America the Beautiful Park. "We're the second-largest city in Colorado, and we can't not have a Pride [festival]," Grzecka says.
The bar owner has hired Charlie Irwin, who led the Pride Center for several years until he was laid off last month, and Irwin has agreed to help facilitate the festival. Irwin says he's happy to be helping with Pride Fest once again, though he's sad to see the center shutter.
Last March, we reported that the 2014 Pride Fest was in trouble because the Pride Center hadn't to date paid more than $6,000 to the city for services rendered at the 2013 Pride Fest. The center made the payments and saved the festival. But it was just one hurdle.
Many of Pride's financial troubles started with the economic downturn of 2009, when it lost some of the grants it had come to rely on. In 2012, the Gill Foundation stopped funding LGBT centers across the state, as part of a reorganization. By March 2014, the center had moved to a smaller location, reorganized, and begun concentrating more on private donations than grants.
The Pride Center is the second major LGBT organization to exit the Springs in recent years. In 2011, the Gill Foundation, citing progress in LGBT civil rights, closed the Gay and Lesbian Fund for Colorado's local office.