Note to readers: this story was written as part of our April Fools' Day package. Enjoy accordingly.
After months of closed-door meetings, City Councilors are set to approve a game-changing deal in April that will sell the treasured Pioneers Museum to Pueblo. The deal will net Colorado Springs a cool $5 million, and plans are in the works to use the money to build a water park, which will be operated by a yet-to-be-named private company.
Under the deal, the historic gem and downtown anchor will be carefully dismantled, then shipped down I-25, where it will be reconstructed as a fixture of Pueblo's trendy Riverwalk and serve as a new headquarters for city operations.
Pueblo plans to maintain the art and historic documents currently contained in the museum. And Chuck Murphy, of Murphy Constructors, says that it will take just two years and approximately 350 truck trips to transport the museum piece by piece.
But that's of little consolation to museum director Matt Mayberry.
"When I heard about the plan, I felt like the wind had been knocked out of me," says Mayberry. "This is just such a terrible loss for Colorado Springs."
Mayberry and other museum supporters say they made their concerns quite clear to Council, but in the end only Vice Mayor Larry Small and Councilors Jan Martin, Bernie Herpin and Randy Purvis voted against the plan.
"This is an outrage!" Small says. "What idiot would turn over the last great building in Colorado Springs to Pueblo? And for what? A water park? Our city leaders have to be rolling in their graves."
On the flip side, Tom Gallagher has this to say about his "yes" vote: "Three words: Water slide, baby."
Contacted by phone, departing City Manager Penny Culbreth-Graft laughed hysterically upon hearing the news.
"See you later, you crazy bastards!" she said.
Plans are already in the works for the water park, which will be modeled after the popular Uncle Wilber Fountain downtown. Preliminary plans show a giant pole jutting three stories into the sky that will spray children, as well as downtown traffic. The city will pay to build the facility, then turn it over to a private corporation.
"This makes so much sense," Councilor Sean Paige says. "Here we've taken a historic city asset that was really just a liability and turned it into a profit center for a corporation that will help pump money and jobs into our community."
There are a few small issues to iron out. Colorado Springs Utilities CEO Jerry Forte says that in a dry year, the park would be a major drain on reservoirs — and residents may be forced to cut back on water use or pay for an expansion to the Southern Delivery System in order to keep the water park running.
"Depending on weather trends and whether or not we ever decide to water our parks again, yes, we may have to look at a slight upgrade to SDS, which may cost in the range of $30 to $40 million," Forte says. "But we're really not to the point where we would know for sure."
And police Chief Richard Myers says that while officers enjoy impromptu "water noodle fights" as much as anyone, the park will put some pressure on law enforcement.
"One thing we know from experience is that large-scale water parks have a tendency to attract sexual predators," Myers says. "We'll have to really step up enforcement to ensure our children are kept safe from these creeps."
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