When the Colorado Springs City Auditorium opened its doors 100 years ago, its classical revival architecture harmonized beautifully with other grand downtown buildings, such as City Hall, the El Paso County Courthouse (now the Pioneers Museum), the Burns Opera House (razed in the 1960’s), the Antlers Hotel (also razed in the 60’s) and the Mining Exchange Building (beautifully renovated by Perry Sanders in the 2010’s).
The Auditorium was collaboratively designed by three of the city’s most prominent architects: Charles Thomas, Thomas MacLaren, and Thompson Hetherington. It was funded by a bond issue approved by a public vote, and was intended to be, as the Latin motto above the proscenium states, “for the use of the people and the glory of the city.” It did so for seventy years, hosting graduations, operas, events, parties, symphonies, square dances, antique shows, the unveiling of the Tucker Torpedo, Jimmy Rogers and Jimi Hendrix.
The noble old Aud is still a grand building, yet its owner (the City of Colorado Springs) has neglected it for decades. Thanks to deferred maintenance and failure to upgrade crucial HVAC, plumbing and electrical systems, it needs a complete redesign and reimagining. It was clear that a private sector organization would have to do the job.
Enter one of our city’s most formidable arts entrepreneurs, Linda Weise. She’d been eyeing the auditorium for years, realizing that a revived auditorium could be a boon for downtown, the arts and the entire community. She formed a new non-profit venture in 2018, the Community Cultural Collective, pitched the powers that be and suddenly it was up to her. It would cost as much as $83 million, which she’d have to raise through local, state and federal grants as well as through private philanthropy and joint ventures.
“I think of the auditorium as a Grand Old Lady whose bones are really strong,” said Weise, “so why shouldn’t we give her another 100 years. She will be what she once was – the Soul of the City!”
The pandemic put things on hold for a couple of years, but the Aud is already reactivated, hosting fundraising events of all kinds even as Weise prepares to begin major renovations in the near future. Preserved and renewed, its usable interior space will triple, its historic facade will be preserved and it will house dozens of arts-related organizations. The “Grand Old Lady” will once more be the beating heart of Colorado Springs, welcoming all and giving to all.