A downtown stadium in Colorado Springs has always been a big vision, part of the City for Champions series of grand projects meant to spur economic development and tourism while cementing the city’s legacy as Olympic City USA. It’s only fitting then that Weidner Field, home of the Switchbacks FC, would make a grand statement with a bold artistic entrance hearkening an out-of-this-world style that ties the stadium to the rich, surrounding arts scene and its booming south downtown neighborhood
The public art sculpture titled “The Epicenter” will be unveiled today in a private ceremony, and the 164,000-pound, 35-foot tall, 65-foot-diameter, stainless steel sculpture will be hard to miss after that. The $4.5 million Saturnesque artwork evokes imagery of the stadium’s soccer roots, the rings of the city’s Olympic heritage and a planetary orbit that hearkens the Springs’ space industry. Along with the large-scale collection of Leroy Neiman Olympic paintings lining the stadium’s exterior eastern wall, “The Epicenter” helps to extend downtown’s already thriving public art scene into its emerging southwest side. (The reveal ceremony video can be streamed here.)
“‘The Epicenter’ is designed to showcase the views, sounds and emotions people experience as they enter southwest downtown Colorado Springs through the gateway of the Cimarron Street bridge,” said Weidner Apartment Homes Vice President Greg Cerbana in a press release. “Envisioned by the Partnership of Switchbacks Football Club and Weidner Apartment Homes, the sculpture is an iconic placemaking piece and an artful representation of ‘all things possible’ in Colorado Springs. Weidner founder and Colorado Springs native Dean Weidner commissioned the sculpture as a gift to the city reflecting the optimism of the Colorado Springs of tomorrow.”
“The re-emergence of downtown Colorado Springs as a place where people want to live, work, and play was a key motivator for me to participate in the repositioning of this once vacant lot,” said Weidner. “During the planning for a development that combines walkable character with an engaging urban experience, we realized that investing in the quality of the streetscapes by including public art into the overall design was critical. I look forward to the community being able to connect with and enjoy this new and iconic symbol of this great city.”
From the distinctive finish material to the dynamic shape of the sculpture, the design was envisioned as a nod to the neighborhood’s unique and rich history while looking to celebrate the unlimited potential of the city’s future. The brushed and polished stainless-steel rings have a “dragon-scale” finish and were chosen to be both modern and reflective. Modern, to represent soccer as the largest and fastest growing sport in the world. Reflective, to honor Colorado Springs’ rich heritage and the site’s history as a foundry.
“We anticipate that ‘The Epicenter’ will be among the most coveted locations for visitors and locals alike to gather in our city and that it will be one of the most photographed backdrops for a venue of this size throughout the U.S.,” said Switchbacks President Nick Ragain. “The gentle slope and circular design of the sculpture and stadium main entrance was intentional in its function, enabling a greater number of people to queue up safely at the entrance off the street and enable physical accessibility for all.”
The 19-foot sphere emphasizes Colorado Springs’ important role in the global world of sport. More than 7,000 pieces make up the rings and the remote-controlled digital LED lighting system. “Mirroring the city skyline and the backdrop of the Front Range will be an ever-changing reflection of this unique destination that varies with the seasons, the time of day and the activity within Weidner Field itself,” Cerbana said.
While the sculpture was incorporated into the stadium’s original architecture, it was constructed by the local firm Springs Fabrication. “We are extremely proud and humbled to have been trusted by the Partnership to design and build such an iconic piece of functional art,” said Tom Neppl, president of Springs Fabrication.
The machining and metal fabrication company logged more than 20,000 work hours over 12 months to accomplish the challenging design. “As a result, the entire Colorado Springs community, along with visitors from around the world, will have the opportunity to enjoy this architectural and engineering wonder day or night, 365 days a year, for generations to come,” Neppl said.
Although with its grand artistic displays, Weidner Field is forging its place as a community events and entertainment venue, as well as a sports stadium. Many local high schools and colleges are scheduled to host graduation ceremonies in the stadium this spring. And back to back concerts are scheduled for Memorial Day weekend. The Weidner Field official grand opening takes place May 21 for the Switchbacks’ home opening game. With high aspirations, Weidner Field seems on track to deliver a gateway stadium in a city for champions.
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