The new U.S. Air Force Academy Visitor Center and TrueNorth Commons mixed-use space are set to launch in Colorado Springs with high-flying plans that include top-shelf hotel service and cutting-edge architecture and design. The 57-acre complex located at Academy’s North Entrance will include the new USAFA Visitor Center, a four-diamond hotel and conference center, as well as commercial retail and office space.
The $340-million complex is the fourth and final development in the City for Champions projects, designed to add dimension, energy, economic vitality and tourism to the Pikes Peak region. The large-scale undertaking is being financed through a public-private partnership between the Association of Graduates and Air Force Academy Foundation, the City of Colorado Springs, Blue & Silver Development Partners and Provident Resources Group.
“This has been an incredibly collaborative effort and we could not be more pleased that the Visitor Center and TrueNorth Commons will become a reality, marking the successful completion of the entire City for Champions vision,” said Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers in a press release. “The Air Force Academy has long been a celebrated part of our city’s identity, and the Visitor Center will provide a fantastic opportunity to share it with residents and visitors alike.”
With modern and informative displays, a grand atrium and interactive exhibits, the new USAFA Visitor Center will expand opportunities for people of all ages to learn about Air Force and Space Force missions. Hands-on experiences may feature glider controls attached to a craft suspended from the ceiling and a speed challenge test to allow visitors to experience running at the local altitude. Other exhibits will feature Air Force Academy history and athletics. The new Visitor Center will also be designated a Colorado Welcome Center. Early renderings of the visitor center suggest that a series of tiered rooflines will create the impression of an airplane or series of planes taking flight.
Alongside the visitor center, the Blue & Silver Development Partners’ TrueNorth Commons mixed-use development will include more than 190,000 square feet of retail and office space and the 375-room hotel and conference center.
“This project will reimagine how we welcome visitors not only to our campus, but to the entire region,” said Lt. Gen. Richard M. Clark, Superintendent, U.S. Air Force Academy. “For some of the most promising young people our nation has to offer, the journey toward leading the Air Force and Space Force begins right here in Colorado Springs. The new visitor center will tell the story of our Academy and its critical mission, and we are grateful for the supportive partnerships turning a bold vision into reality.”
The upscale hotel will be managed by Denver-based CoralTree Hospitality and will be second only to The Broadmoor in its number of rooms and meeting space. The yet-to-be named hotel will welcome Colorado visitors with an upscale spa and business center, as well as a variety of dining experiences that include a restaurant, bar and café.
The hotel’s most unique feature is likely to be two flight simulators in the lobby that will provide guests with a real-life pilot experience. The simulators will reproduce the flight deck of a Boeing 737 NG aircraft with seats, throttles, switches, pedals and yoke from an original aircraft (other parts of the flight deck are scale reproductions). The experience will include a 220-degree wraparound screen with HD imagery to make the experience as life-like as possible.
The hotel will be owned by Provident Group – Falcon Properties LLC, a special purpose nonprofit entity.
“This major milestone means we can proceed in making this exciting new project a reality for Colorado Springs, the Air Force Academy, local residents and visitors,” said Steve Hicks, chairman and chief executive officer, Provident Resources Group. “The financing for these exciting new projects was completed through a public-private partnership that included local stakeholders working alongside experts in the areas of finance, real estate development, construction, hospitality management and law to bring something truly amazing to Colorado Springs and the U.S. Air Force Academy.”
Construction is slated to begin spring 2022 with both the hotel and Visitor Center expected to open in 2024.