Cost of Olympic & Paralympic Museum vaults far above early estimate 

A flying leap

click to enlarge New technology and a larger café space make for a more expensive museum. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • New technology and a larger café space make for a more expensive museum.

A tentative grand opening date has been set for late May for the long-awaited U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum and Hall of Fame — a project whose price tag has taken a leap much like, well, an Olympic high jumper.

Approved as part of the city’s 2013 request for state money to bolster tourism, the museum was originally priced at $60 million but now stands at $90 million.

Peter Maiurro, chief communications and business affairs officer for the museum, tells the Indy the museum will hold its grand opening May 28 to 30, followed by a splashy community event on May 31.

The price tag grew as sophisticated technology to enhance the visitor experience was added, along with other changes, such as tripling the café’s size from seating for 55 to 160, Maiurro says.

“The board has been very intentional in increasing the budget to be sure the technology is cutting-edge, the guest experience is second to none, that all elements — architecture, hardware and software — are all top-notch,” Maiurro says.

For example, each visitor can customize their experience by identifying their favorite athletes and sports; a radio frequency identification (RFID) chip embedded in their admission credential will trigger specific content at each exhibit.

Among the features:

• A digital U.S. map with Olympians’ hometowns where guests can read about every Olympic or Paralympic athlete who’s competed for Team USA.
• The athlete training gallery offering six interactives, including a 30-meter track where visitors can race against virtual Olympians, an archery competition and a ski run down a virtual slope.
• Videos of athletes that have been programmed to allow guests to have conversations with those athletes.

The $90 million cost doesn’t include an endowment or an operating reserve, Maiurro says, noting that museum backers have nearly finished raising funds to cover the project’s actual cost.

“We’re awfully close and will continue to do fundraising for sustainability and to enhance exhibits and technology in the future,” he says.

Significant gifts from local donors include $10 million from El Pomar Foundation and $1 million from the John and Margot Lane Foundation.

The other funding component — $26.1 million — comes from a bond issue funded by state sales tax money allotted in 2013 by the Colorado Economic Development Commission.

It’s part of $120.5 million the EDC allocated under the Regional Tourism Act for the museum, a downtown stadium and sports arena at Colorado College, a sports medicine center at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and a new visitor center at the Air Force Academy — which collectively are labeled City for Champions.

The museum has drawn attention from Architectural Digest, which named it one of the most anticipated buildings to open this year (others are Central Park Tower in New York City, Vista Tower in Chicago and the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston), and The New York Times, which labeled the museum one of the 52 places to go this year.

“The building is organized around a continuous pathway spiraling through a pinwheel series of cantilevered galleries,” Benjamin Gilmartin, partner at Diller Scofidio + Renfro, which designed the museum, told the Digest.


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