Ben Theune, Wings Over the Rockies director of marketing, Mayor Stephanie Piko of Centennial, PK Knickerbocker of Visit Pikes Peak, and SSPR’s Rob Hanna spoke at the August South Denver EDP partnership meeting. Photo by Freda Miklin
BY FREDA MIKLIN
South Denver Economic Development Partnership’s (SDEDP) Aug. 2 meeting at the Lone Tree Arts Center was all about outdoor recreational activities for residents and tourists. Speakers, introduced by Centennial Mayor Stephanie Piko, were South Suburban Parks & Recreation (SSPR) Executive Director Rob Hanna, Wings Over the Rockies Director of Marketing Ben Theune, and P.K. Knickerbocker, executive director of Visit Pikes Peak. Chris Cakes provided a delicious pancake breakfast with all the fixings. Lone Tree Mayor Jackie Millet was an ever-gracious hostess.
Piko began by telling the members that Colorado’s outdoor recreation economy consists of 220,000 direct jobs that pay $9.7 billion in wages and generate $28 billion in consumer spending, resulting in $2 billion in state and local tax revenue.
South Suburban Parks and Recreation District
Hanna described SSPR as consisting of 155,000 residents in six different cities and three counties. Its mission is to offer activities that improve quality of life, enrich wellness and connect people to nature. The district offers activities at over 100 parks, four rec centers, 100 miles of trails, 61 playgrounds, four golf courses, 137 sports fields, 50 tennis courts, 15 pickleball courts, and 7 miles of the South Platte River.
With the money generated by ballot issues 4B and 4C in November 2017, SSPR is moving forward with a new 180,000-square-foot rec center near County Line Road and Holly Street that will have two new ice rinks, a large gym and two indoor turf fields, along with concessions, including a snack bar.
Wings Over the Rockies
Theune talked about the new Exploration of Flight building recently opened on weekends at Centennial Airport. He said, “Wings Over the Rockies (WOTR) is one organization with two locations, one (at Lowry in Denver) focused on the history of aviation and one focused on the future of aviation.”
He said that Boeing estimates that the aviation industry will need 2 million pilots, air traffic controllers and other aerospace-related new personnel in the next 18 years.
In addition to its exciting interactive exhibits, the Boeing Exploration of Flight building offers an aircraft viewing lounge where visitors can watch planes take off and land at Centennial Airport while listening to the control tower.
Theune expects the ground to be broken on the 12,000-square-foot Osmond Black Sky Gallery, focused on space, in late 2019 or early 2020.
WOTR is working with a California company, iLead Schools, to open a charter school with a focus on aerospace, for grades 6, 7 and 8, under the auspices of the Cherry Creek School District, in the next two years.
Full build-out of the WOTR complex at Centennial is anticipated to take 10 years.
Visit Pikes Peak
P.K. Knickerbocker is a third-generation resident of the Pikes Peak area who began visiting Santa’s Workshop in Manitou Springs as a young child. She remains as passionate about the beauty of the area today as she was then. Knickerbocker shared that the first draft of America the Beautiful was written at Pikes Peak by lyricist Katharine Lee Bates as she admired its majesty.
Visit Pikes Peak represents area attractions including Broadmoor Seven Falls, Echo Canyon River Expeditions, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and the Cave of the Winds Mountain Park. Knickerbocker shared that another affiliated attraction, Academy Riding Stables, is the only horseback riding group licensed to ride through the Garden of the Gods.
Knickerbocker said about another Visit Pikes Peak attraction, Space Foundation Discovery Center in Colorado Springs, “The spirit of the west that drove us here is the same spirit that drives us into space.”
She emphasized the importance of tourism to our state, saying that Colorado is the sixth most popular state for visitors, recently falling behind Arizona.
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