The U.S. Olympic Museum has received a $500,000 grant from the Denver-based Daniels Fund, giving organizers another boost toward their goal of raising $80 million for the project.
The fund, created 16 years ago by the late cable television pioneer Bill Daniels, targets amateur sports among areas it seeks to support through its charitable giving, said fund president and CEO Linda Childears.
“When we looked at that opportunity, we said, ‘this will inspire young people to understand what it really means to be an elite athlete,'” Childears said Thursday. “The exhibits that are planned for the museum are to be very interactive and very encouraging to a young potential athlete.”
The fund’s board of directors approved the grant Monday, which will be given to the museum in a lump sum, Childears said.
Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers is a Daniels Fund board member, but he recused himself from the panel’s vote on the grant because of his close relationship to the museum, she said.
Still, Suthers shared with the board the importance of the project to the Springs, Childears said.
In a news release announcing the grant, Suthers said the museum will help boost tourism, create jobs and solidify the Springs as “Olympic City USA” – a new effort to brand the city as the Olympic movement’s home. Besides the proposed museum, the Springs houses the U.S. Olympic Committee’s headquarters and one of the nation’s three Olympic Training Centers.
Dick Celeste, board chairman of the nonprofit Olympic Museum, said Thursday that the Daniels Fund grant “is an affirmation of the support from a foundation established by a guy who loved sports, who loved to inspire young people in the world of competitive sports and encourage amateur athletics. It’s a particularly meaningful donation.”
The museum is one of four projects that make up City for Champions, a tourism initiative whose goal is to attract visitors to the Pikes Peak region and boost the local economy.
The Colorado Economic Development Commission has pledged $120.5 million in state funds over 30 years to help finance City for Champions – money made available through the state’s Regional Tourism Act. That program allows qualified projects to receive a percentage of increased state sales tax revenue generated by the spending of out-of-state visitors who are attracted to Colorado by the new tourism venues.
Museum officials say they have $29 million in private funding either in hand or committed, and are counting on another $20 million in state sales tax revenue that will help support a bond issue for the museum.
But, Celeste said, organizers “have a long way to go.” The museum’s construction cost is estimated at $73 million, but organizers want to raise $80 million, with the extra funds earmarked to help cover operating costs and contingencies.
As envisioned, the 60,000-square-foot Olympic Museum would showcase the nation’s Olympic and Paralympic movements through exhibits and artifacts.
The museum is planned for 1.7 acres just west of Vermijo Avenue and Sierra Madre Street in southwest downtown; the City Council targeted the mostly light industrial area for redevelopment 15 years ago.
Razing old buildings and other site preparation work began in December. Museum organizers want to break ground in the spring, although Celeste said Thursday work probably won’t begin until April at the earliest.
Museum officials hope to open the venue no later than the start of the February 2018 Winter Games.
By Rich Laden: 636-0228
This article was orginially published on The Gazette.