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Posted: June 10, 2011

Seeing the Springs with new eyes

As a resident, it's easy to overlook its treasures

Christen Sipsey

Editor's note: This is the fourth in a series of six articles written by business and community leaders who participated in the Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation's "Colorado Experience" excursion to Colorado Springs in late April.

Colorado Experience, a program of the Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation, brought delegates from the Denver Metro area to Colorado Springs for two days filled with tours, dynamic presenters and coverage of many issues facing Colorado Springs and the state.

As a Colorado Springs resident, it is easy to forget about our local treasures. Peterson Air Force Base is the headquarters for Air Force Space Command, which works directly with NORTHCOM and SPACECOM. The mission is to be the leader in space and cyberspace capabilities to assist America's war fighting commands. The military has been on the leading edge of technology, giving the United States a competitive advantage.

The United State Olympic Training Center is another unique attraction. Athletes from across the country are selected to prepare for competition at its state of the art training venues. An athlete's primary goal is to perfect their sport and represent the United States at the Olympics or the Paralympics. The U.S. Olympic Committee is challenged with finding sponsorships and funding to support these athletes, who train as a full-time job, as well as support the athletes with top coaches and training equipment.

In addition to the program's onsite tours, experts in numerous fields shared their challenges. A unique challenge for Colorado Springs is obtaining water from sources outside the Front Range. As a solution, the Southern Delivery System was developed and has been in the planning stages for more than 20 years. This project remains controversial primarily due to its cost, which increase utility rates by 12 percent a year over the next six years.

The Pikes Peak region receives more than 6 million visitors annually, accounting for 25 percent of the city's annual budget. Now imagine one art project that is available for two weeks in 2014 bringing more than 400,000 people to Southern Colorado. The artist Christo selected a 42-mile stretch of the Arkansas River to drape 5.9 miles of silvery fabric panels. This controversial project faces numerous challenges, including logistics for the more than 400,000 tourists expected to flock to the installation, traffic on a two-lane highway, and environmental concerns.

Perspectives from fellow delegates included the surprise of not realizing Colorado Springs was home to three different military installations and the impact these installations have on the Colorado Springs economy. Also, the potential partnerships across the space industry could benefit many communities in Colorado.

Colorado Experience was an exciting way to learn about major issues facing both Colorado Springs and the state. With more than 150 participants, it was easy to meet new people throughout the program. The opportunity to revisit Colorado Springs as a guest and not as a 12-year resident provided a new perspective on local issues.
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Christen Sipsey is vice president at First Bank Colorado Springs.

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