Healthy, sports-centered living is a way of life in the Centennial State, but as much as they love hitting the slopes or trekking the trails, Coloradans also support athletics at every level of competition — from Olympic trials to NASCAR, rodeo riders or Super Bowl champs.
With a population close to 3 million, metropolitan Denver has not one, not two, but five professional sports franchises, including the 2016 NFL Super Bowl championship. In fact, the small-market Denver Broncos have won two Super Bowl championships behind two of the game’s most famous quarterbacks, John Elway in 1993 and Peyton Manning in 2016, with their orange-clad fans cheering all the way.
Denver is also home to other teams who have seen playoff success through the seasons, including the Denver Nuggets NBA franchise, the Colorado Rockies Major League Baseball team and the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche. One of the city’s newest and professional teams with a fast-growing fan base is the Colorado Rapids, a major league soccer club.
Other Colorado cities with professional sports teams include Grand Junction — home of the Grand Junction Rockies, a rookie ball affiliate of the Colorado Rockies — and Colorado Springs, home to the Colorado Springs Sky Sox, the Triple-A affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers.
The economic impact of professional sports franchises is certainly influenced by the success of the team. After all, it’s not just the locals buying game tickets, jerseys, beer and wings at the local tavern. City officials estimated that tourists alone spent approximately $10 million when the AFC Championship game was played in Denver in January 2016.
But a much longer-lasting impact is demonstrated by the revitalization of the Lower Downtown (LoDo) district of downtown Denver following the construction of Coors Field, home of the Colorado Rockies. The ballpark, which opened in 1995, served as both a catalyst and an anchor in downtown Denver, sparking commercial, residential and cultural redevelopment in the city that continues to this day.
The Olympics are typically considered the pinnacle of amateur athletics, and Colorado has a unique spot in US Olympic history. In 1894, the US Olympic Committee (USOC) was founded in Colorado Springs. After a long stint in New York City, the USOC moved the organization’s headquarters back to Colorado Springs in 1978, and the city is considered the “Official Hometown of the USOC.”
The USOC functions as the leadership and administrative arm of the US Olympic movement. The committee is designed to serve the nation’s elite athletes competing at the highest level of global competition, whether in the Olympics, Paralympics or Pan American Games. Each particular Olympic sport has its own National Governing Body (NGB); there are 21 NGB’s in Colorado Springs.
Situated on a 35-acre campus just minutes from downtown Colorado Springs is the US Olympic Training Center (USOTC). It is one of three such centers operated by the USOC, and is considered the flagship center. The USOTC in Colorado Springs complex houses the national headquarters of two Olympic teams — USA Swimming and USA Shooting.
The campus includes practice and competition facilities for sports from fencing and modern pentathlon to swimming and taekwondo. The USOTC provides residence and dining halls, and a complete sports medicine and sports science center. Athletes, coaches, and staff use the facility throughout the year.
A recent addition to the USOTC is a wind tunnel allowing the US cycling team to test the aerodynamics of the athlete’s cycling suits and other hard equipment, like bike frames, wheels, and helmets. The data from the wind tunnel analysis is used to personalize the athlete’s suit, where possible, and also make posture corrections to enhance performance.
The economic impact of the USOC, NGB and USOTC on Colorado Springs and the surrounding area is substantial. The USOC has 361 employees with a payroll of $31 million. The 21 NGB’s employ 750, though not all live in Colorado Springs — some work remotely.
The presence of the USOC, NGB and USOTC has had a spillover effect on the region. Sports companies and other sports events have located in the area to take advantage of proximity to high-caliber athletes and training facilities. Tourists interested in seeing how and where Olympic athletes live and train are welcomed at USOTC. An estimated 130,000 visitors tour the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs annually, making the site among the top 10 tourist destinations in the region.