Ray Marshall sat on the dais Monday afternoon inside the U.S. Olympic Committee's conference center, surrounded by four big hitters in the worlds of sport, business and politics.
About 250 people had crowded into the room, excited to cheer the official announcement that the USOC would continue to call Colorado Springs home. There were city and county officials, sports administrators, business and civic leaders, and a mixture of past, recent and future Olympic athletes.
Amid that jovial gathering, many might have thought Marshall was out of place. He was just the local developer who helped turn the deal into reality.
But Ray Marshall totally belonged on that stage, between USOC board chairman Peter Ueberroth and CEO Jim Scherr, and a few feet from Mayor Lionel Rivera and California real-estate mogul Jim Didion.
Actually, Marshall had a better reason to be there than anybody else. Because, on a day that some leaders rightly called "historic," it was only proper that a Colorado Springs native would be so prominently involved. Not just a native, but someone who himself has been inspired by the Olympic presence.
Marshall, 44, remembers when he was a kid back in the mid-1970s, and his father would drive him from their home down Union Boulevard to hockey practice at Memorial Park's Sertich Ice Center. They would pass by the old Ent Air Force Base complex on Union, the original home for NORAD, and Marshall would ask his dad, "If that's an air base, why doesn't it have any runways?"
"One day he said to me, "Son, I don't think that's going to be an Air Force base much longer.'" Marshall recalls. "Not long after that, we found out the Olympic Committee was coming."
Marshall watched that property become the Olympic Training Center as his own dreams grew. He became a talented hockey goalie and played a few years in the rugged Canadian junior leagues. Along the way, as a high school standout at Wasson, he saw the 1979 National Sports Festival here give birth to the 1980 Olympic hockey team. Yes, the Miracle on Ice guys.
After his own hockey dreams came to an end, Marshall later did what most local kids don't do. He wound up back home, working his way up in the business world. He's now president of LandCo, the developer that has become a major player in taking Colorado Springs' downtown toward new, more dynamic horizons.
Nothing means more to downtown's future than having what Ueberroth called "a true anchor, a heartbeat," and that's what the Olympic Committee provides. Marshall could see that, and he and his group pushed hard to give the USOC its best option. Yet, Marshall knows the creative part is just beginning.
What the city, LandCo and Marshall must do now is make the most of this deal. They now can use the iconic Olympic rings to enhance the downtown presence, and it's a huge opportunity to attract visitors, even the thousands of driving tourists who don't realize what's here as they pass through.
They'll know soon. Marshall was giddy as he outlined the ambitious plans taking shape, some firm and others still being explored. Such as:
having the rings, 30 feet high and colorfully lit, on top of the seven-story Olympic headquarters;
developing an interactive "Olympic Experience" attraction on the street level of the new USOC building at Colorado Avenue and Tejon Street;
and turning the city's former gas operations building, between Colorado Avenue and America the Beautiful Park alongside Interstate 25 and Monument Creek, into an "urban, high-tech design" including images of athletes and, of course, the rings. Marshall's eyes gleamed as he talked about the capper there: an amphitheatre, able to handle a huge video screen, where people could gather to watch the Olympics and enjoy other events, such as sending off or welcoming home athletes.
That's not about making money for an investment return. That's about making this city better, providing a reason and a place to share its prized possession.
And Ray Marshall, a successful Colorado Springs native just coming into the prime of his life, is the perfect person to help drive this deal. Because he should be around for the next 25 years to enjoy every bit of it.
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