A Denver-based hotel management company is considering building a hotel next to the Air Force Academy’s planned new visitor center as a “one-of-a-kind iconic property” that will pay homage to the flight.
André Fournier, executive vice president of CoralTree Hospitality, which will manage the 375-room hotel, said the Greenwood Village-based company hopes the hotel will become as connected to the academy as the historic Thayer Hotel near West Point is at the US military academy. and the upscale Westin Annapolis is at the Naval Academy.
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“This location is one of a kind and will be an iconic property, the third hotel built directly outside of a service academy,” Fourier said. “This hotel and visitor center will pay homage to flight and if you are interested, it will be a cultural tourism destination, focusing on the history of the Air Force Academy and its cadets. Architecture is tied to the chapel and the rest of the academy. It’s time we built something like this.
The hotel, which will be built just east of the academy’s north gate, will include a wellness spa, rooftop bar, full-service restaurant, cafe, business center and a souvenir shop, as well as an outdoor lawn, swimming pool and terrace. But what will really set the hotel apart will be its two flight simulators in the lobby. The simulators will reproduce the cockpit of a Boeing 737 with seats, joysticks, switches, pedals and yoke of an aircraft of the same model.
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The name of the hotel will not be retained for three or four months. It won’t wear a national brand, Fournier said, because “it’s in a place distinctive enough to fly its own flag.” The hotel will be the second largest after The Broadmoor by number of rooms and with nearly 48,000 square feet of meeting space, it will offer one of the largest meeting spaces of any local hotel.
The hotel, which will employ 275 people, targets aerospace, technology, space and cybersecurity companies as well as academy graduates, parents of cadets, those attending sporting events in the academy and cadets for weddings right after graduation, Fournier said. CoralTree will also use its national sales staff to attract state and national groups and corporate customers, he said.
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Fournier said the hotel will be designed to earn a AAA four-diamond rating, a rating held by only five other local hotels – The Mining Exchange, a Wyndham Grand Hotel; Cheyenne Hill Station; the Garden of the Gods Resort & Club and The Lodge at Flying Horse, all in Colorado Springs, and The Cliff House at Pikes Peak in Manitou Springs. The Broadmoor is the only five diamond hotel in the area.
The project will be funded by $250 million in bonds that were sold Jan. 31 through RBC Capital Markets, along with an additional $90 million in bonds for the visitor center. Construction of roads and utilities on the 57-acre site, called True North Commons, is expected to begin in April with the hotel and visitor center underway a few months later. Both projects are expected to open in early 2024 with office buildings and restaurants planned in later development phases.
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Blue & Silver Development Partners, based in Colorado Springs, led by Dan Schnepf, founding partner of Matrix Design Group of Colorado Springs, is developing the visitor center. Provident Resources Group, based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, a nonprofit organization specializing in housing, health care and educational facilities, is developing the hotel and the rest of True North Commons.
The new visitor center, designed to resemble a wing in flight, will replace the current center just west of the academy’s iconic chapel. This center attracted more visitors than any other man-made tourist site in Colorado, but visitor numbers dwindled when new rules for entering the academy were enacted after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The new center is expected to include interactive displays that could include glider controls attached to an airplane suspended from the ceiling and other exhibits that showcase the academy’s history.
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