Generosity of Alumnus, Foundation are key
The year 1970 was a banner one for Colorado College. It introduced the innovative Block Plan, which allowed students to devote all their time to one subject every three and a half weeks.
Also new that year? El Pomar Sports Center, on Cache La Poudre Street near Cascade Avenue. The building included a large gym and a practice gym, and an artificial turf area to allow CC athletes to move their practices indoors during inclement weather.
The Block Plan was revolutionary, and to this day, it continues to attract students. The sports center didn’t age quite so well. CC’s student body has grown, and students’ interest in recreation has grown as well, taxing the sports center that was built with a generous $1.6 million donation by El Pomar Foundation in the late 1960s.
Today, more than 85 percent of the 2,040 students at CC are involved in some sort of physical activity, says Athletics Director Ken Ralph. A sports center to meet the fitness, recreation, and sports needs of those students “is probably 20 years overdue,” Ralph says.
The current sports center has been given a much-needed $27 million facelift. The project was completed this spring and dedicated on May 3.
The first phase began with an 11,000-square-foot addition on the center’s south side. The new space serves as a gateway to the complex and includes 21 new offices and four meeting rooms for athletic department staff and coaches, as well as meeting rooms and classrooms.
The second phase saw a total remodel of El Pomar Sports Center, including a completely transformed Reid Arena, all new locker rooms, and a new press box and turf for Washburn Field. Other El Pomar improvements include a new hockey shooting room,
a renovated Great Hall, the addition of the student lounge, and new squash and racquetball courts.
It also houses the remodeled sports medicine facility, which, with more than 4,000 square feet, is one of the largest of its kind at any liberal arts college. The adjacent strength and conditioning center provides 6,200 square feet for the college’s 300 varsity athletes.
The state-of-the-art Adam F. Press Fitness Center marks the final phase of the project. The 29,000-square foot addition on the north end is fully enclosed in glass and metal, and features a cardio conditioning room, a strength area, full-sized basketball/volleyball court, yoga studio, and locker rooms for students, faculty, and staff.
A significantly expanded and renovated Ritt Kellogg Climbing Gym includes a bouldering area and top-rope climbing routes that provide technical and difficult elements rarely found in college climbing gyms.
Press, from Los Angeles, is a philanthropist, investor, and art collector. Press has been on the CC Board of Trustees for six years, and when he began looking for an impactful area of the college to target for a gift, he realized “The fitness center was ideal.”
“The facility hadn’t changed much (at all!) since I was a student, and now, there is much greater significance on ‘working out’ in modern culture as both a place to work out and to socialize.”
Press said he believes in the importance of such a center for CC students and athletes.
“I hope it will have a real multifaceted impact, not just as a place to work out, but to provide an element which I think has been woefully missing,” he says.
Those thoughts are shared by William Hybl ’64, chairman and CEO of El Pomar Foundation. In 2007, El Pomar donated $10 million toward CC’s Vision 2010 initiative. All but $1.5 million of that amount went into the sports center improvements.
Hybl says the foundation has been committed to Colorado College for decades “because it is not only very important as an outstanding liberal arts college, but it is also a great asset to the Colorado Springs community and Pikes Peak region.”
Since El Pomar Foundation was established 75 years ago, Colorado College has received the largest number of the foundation’s grants, Hybl says. “They exceed $40 million. So a natural evolution of commitment to El Pomar Sports Center was the $10 million grant in 2007, which ultimately funds a good deal of this project.”
Colorado College’s sports facilities were lagging behind other colleges in the country, Athletics Director Ralph says. “We were substantially behind. Our athletics and fitness facilities were among the worst for schools like ours. In the past, when we gave tours, we would just point at the building. Even coaches who were recruiting athletes would avoid showing parts of the building. Now, we have something exciting; an entirely new complex that’s open to the entire CC community.”
The CC community is grateful to El Pomar Foundation, Adam F. Press, and the many other alumni, parents, and friends of the college whose financial support made the building a reality. As you visit the building, look for their names listed on the dedication plaque.