Renovation plans for historic Colorado Springs City Auditorium paused after fundraising falls short, donors question city ownership

Courtesy of Community Cultural Collective
In 1923, the City Auditorium opened following a culmination of community-driven efforts to create a large, multi-purpose meeting and entertainment facility for the City of Colorado Springs. A new non-profit is hoping to bring the building back to its former glory. This rendering from the city shows what it looks like now and what it could look like, pending the revitalization.

The Colorado Springs Community Cultural Collective (CSCCC), a nonprofit formed to revitalize the century-old Colorado Springs City Auditorium, has paused all planned renovations. In its prime, the colloquially-known "City Aud '' was once a grand community space, hosting everything from political rallies to the circus. 

Work was set to start early next year. Upgrades included redoing the exterior, adding two new levels inside the auditorium, constructing an addition, and bringing things within ADA compliance, among other things.

In 2021, the CSCCC announced a $53 million campaign After extensive evaluation of the building's condition and safety and the anticipated amount of time for construction, that cost ballooned to nearly $87 million. 

Linda Weise, leader of the CSCCC, said the capital campaign to fund the project suffered, mainly because donors had concerns about the city still owning the building.

"Folks are hesitant to make a contribution to a city-owned building with this much-deferred maintenance until there is a better understanding of what role that municipality will play in the future," she said.

Initial funding plans focused on financial gifts from individual donors, a variety of tax credits, and grants. Weise said the city designated $4 million from the American Rescue Plan Act for the project to help cover design work and other pre-construction planning. But the amount raised was just a fraction of the target goal. When asked about the future of the existing funds, Weise said much of the public donation for the work went toward specific programming and operations costs at the site. 

"I had a lot of significant pledges from folks that wanted to contribute, but not until the city demonstrated financial contribution," she said. "I need to have conversations with those individuals, but those dollars specifically were held contingent upon city participation." 

There was talk of transferring the building to the CSCCC, but Weise says priorities within the city's government have changed, taking that possibility off the table for now. 

In a statement, Ryan Trujillo, Deputy Chief of Staff for the City of Colorado Springs said the city is thankful for Weise and the work her group has done to support the city auditorium. 

"There is no question that this building has unique needs and historic features that impact its usage and future. The City does not desire for the City Auditorium to become vacant indefinitely and is committed to assessing the options and next steps for this space. We will keep the community updated on next steps,” Trujillo said.

A Memorandum of Understanding with the city to determine the viability of restoring and managing the space has been ended. That had beenset to continue through 2025.

"The city made it very clear right now that they cannot engage in that conversation at this time," Weise said. "I anticipate that there will be further conversations around this project. I think it's important to honor this new administration and give them the space to understand what role this project plays." 

The CSCCC will continue its workforce development programs focusing on early childhood enrichment, culinary arts, and creative technology, among other things.

Meantime, Weise said she is still committed to re-imagining the city auditorium and preserving the city's history.

"It [would be] a lot easier to tear it down," she said. "And I think of the people that are still alive that watched us tear down the Burns Theater and a dozen other historic buildings, many of which are now parking lots, and you just say, 'remind me why we got rid of our history?'"

All events scheduled at the auditorium after November 1st have been canceled.

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