#Celebrating80Years: 2017 marked 80 years of working with Colorado’s nonprofits as they seek to strengthen their communities. Throughout 2018, we will be looking back on this history of the outstanding organizations and the people the Trustees have had the opportunity to support. On the blog you will find a history of the Foundation’s grant making and a representative organization from every year since our founding in 1937.
Spencer Penrose loved and celebrated western heritage, and one certain way to do that was to found and host the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo in a stadium at the Broadmoor Hotel in 1938. While the event and venue have changed over the years, the Rodeo continues to take place each July in celebration of Western tradition and in recognition of the servicemen and women who have sacrificed their lives in defense of the United States of America.
Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo Foundation (Norris Penrose Event Center)
Rodeo has a long history in Colorado Springs that dates back to 1911, when events were first hosted in the old Sportsman’s Park between North Nevada and North Cascade Avenues. Although the original rodeo died out in the late 1920s, Spencer Penrose resurrected the city’s connection to the sport in 1937 by building the Will Rogers Stadium and founding the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo, which first took place in 1938 and continues annually to this day. Penrose enlisted the help of two of his close friends, Charles L. Tutt and Jasper Ackerman, to promote the event. Following World War II, they decided to dedicate the event and its proceeds to the men and women who had sacrificed their lives in the war—a tradition that continues today.
Now called the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo, under the auspices of the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo Foundation, the Rodeo is no longer held at its original site on the grounds of the Broadmoor Hotel. By the 1970s, the Hotel needed the land for expansion and parking was growing problematic, so in 1973 William T. Tutt, Russell Tutt, Eugene McCleary (mayor of Colorado Springs) and Robert Norris (a prominent rancher) developed the site where the facility is presently located at 1045 Lower Gold Camp Road in Colorado Springs.
With a contribution of $1.25 million from El Pomar Foundation and substantially reduced fees from the involved contractors, the old “Will Rogers Memorial Stadium” was cut into sections and moved to the new location one piece at a time. New boarding barns were built, the open end of the stadium’s horseshoe shape was enclosed with a new entry way, and the building was renamed the “Spencer Penrose Stadium.”
In early 1999, El Paso County acquired the 179 acres of land on which the stadium and facilities sit from the city of Colorado Springs which became part of Bear Creek Park, and in 2005 the Penrose Equestrian Center, including the grounds and the stadium, was purchased from the County by the newly established Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo Foundation. El Pomar supported this effort and also provided guidance regarding the establishment of the Foundation, which was charged with maintaining and operating the facility. The Foundation remains a supporter of the facility and its continued innovations, and in recognition of Spencer Penrose and Robert Norris’s significant financial and personal contributions, the new venue was named the Norris Penrose Event Center.
Today, a wide variety of events take place in the center, including equestrian events, rodeos, weddings, banquets, flower shows, cross county runs and monster truck jams. Of course, honoring the tradition that dates to 1938, the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo is still held each July as well.
El Pomar in 1973:
El Pomar provided considerable capital support in 1973, with total giving reaching an unprecedented level of $5.96 million (the equivalent of $34.9 million today.) Major grants included: $1.5 million toward the construction of a new addition at Penrose Hospital; $1.25 million to the movement of the Will Rogers Memorial Stadium; $1 million toward the endowment of a scholarship fund at Colorado College; $500,000 toward the construction of a concert hall at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts; $500,000 toward renovations at Colorado Women’s College; and $350,000 toward construction at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.
Images courtesy of Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo Foundation
History prepared by Vicky Kipp, Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo Foundation