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The Olympic & Paralympic Museum brought in about a third of projected visitors.

For the first time since it opened in mid-2020, the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum and Hall of Fame has publicly released attendance numbers, saying the premier facility drew 116,097 in its first 13 months of operations.

That’s about a third of the number predicted when the museum was first proposed as part of the City for Champions tourism package in 2013.

After it opened July 30, 2020, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the museum’s best month came in July 2021 with 24,644 guests. That’s shy of the predicted average monthly attendance of 29,166 — or 350,000 per year.

The 116,097 attendance figure, first reported on the Indy’s website Nov. 17, spans the 13 months from its opening through September, the museum’s chief communications and business affairs officer Peter Maiurro says.

Maiurro says a breakdown of how many of those who attended paid the full admission and how many received complimentary tickets wasn’t available, adding, “I can assure you that the vast majority were paid guests.”

The museum’s website shows admission prices of $19.95 for adults, $11.95 for children 3 to 12 years old, with children 2 years and under free; $15.95 for active duty and retired military and first responders; and $15.95 for seniors. Group tickets cost less. 

While the pandemic continues to impact visitor numbers, Maiurro says via email, “The guest reviews remain extremely positive and we are confident in the future success.

“Of course, the presence of covid and a reduced tourist season impacted our initially projected attendance but we remain very optimistic about the future of the museum and remain committed to ensuring the safety of our guests and our staff,” he says. “We will continue to monitor the guidance of health experts and continue to think about ways we can safely attract guests to the museum for them to experience the impressive exhibits.”

The museum’s attendance saw an uptick through the summer as it hosted events surrounding the rescheduled Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Summer Games. In addition, the museum reached out to specific segments of the community to draw attendees.

“We have had special events recently for veterans surrounding Veterans Day, we had activities around Teacher Appreciation Week, we had a welcome home event for Colorado athletes that competed in Tokyo, we had a number of activities to recognize Hospital employees, and we have provided free admission for youth involved in local youth sports,” Maiurro explains. “Additionally, we frequently have visits from Olympic and Paralympic athletes for meet-and-greet events with visitors and those are VERY popular.”

The strategy, he notes, is “to create special programming that generates awareness and provides special deals for local visitors.”

The museum has been reluctant to release attendance numbers in the past. Last spring, it sought and was given $3.5 million from the city of Colorado Springs from the city’s cut of the $1.9 trillion federal American Rescue Plan Act. The museum also received $500,000 from El Paso County under an agreement through which county employees get special admission prices, and county dignitaries are granted inclusion in certain special events.

In the city’s 2013 application for state sales tax rebates under the Regional Tourism Act (RTA), the city pegged the museum’s annual visitors at 350,000, a prediction some disputed as too optimistic, including a third-party consultant hired by the state to analyze the city’s application.

Of those, 172,200 were to come from out of state. Maiurro didn’t provide how many of those attending the museum came from out of state but said he would try to gather that information.

The city’s $120.5 million RTA allocation over 30 years included partial funding for the museum, a Downtown stadium and Robson Arena at Colorado College, an Air Force Academy visitors center and a sports medicine complex at UCCS. All of the City for Champions projects have opened, except the visitors center.

In addition, the city invested millions of dollars in the pedestrian bridge that links the museum with America the Beautiful Park that opened this year.

The museum originally was pegged to cost $59.3 million, with $26.7 million coming from state sales tax funding and $32.6 million from private funding. But the building and exhibits ultimately cost $90 million, and weak attendance, for which COVID-19 was largely blamed, meant the museum needed an infusion of tax money for operations.

City Councilor Bill Murray has predicted the city’s $3.5 million allocation is only the first of what might be more to come, but the museum has not indicated it plans to seek additional tax support. 

Senior Reporter

Pam Zubeck is a graduate from Emporia State University. She worked at the Tulsa Tribune before coming to Colorado Springs, where she spent 16 years at the Gazette and in 2009 joined Colorado Publishing House.

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