Spencer Penrose's Foundations of Sport in Colorado Springs
By Abby Steen
In the wake of the long awaited Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, people around the world are unified once again in supporting their respective national teams. The Olympics and Paralympics have served as a unifying event for individuals around the world. This year’s events have been eagerly anticipated by both fans and athletes as the competition was postponed due to COVID-19. Athletes were no longer able to train, selection competitions could not be held and travel to a central location was a dangerous proposition for the International Olympic Committee. These factors together resulted in the decision to postpone the 2020 Olympic Competition in Tokyo until 2021. This was a landmark decision, the first event postponement in modern Olympic history. There have only ever been five Olympic cancellations since the birth of the modern Olympic Games in 1896, all during wartime. Though the threat of cancellation loomed large for this year’s Olympics, the show has gone on in Tokyo, but looks very different than the past competitions. The biggest change: athletes are competing with no fans in the stands, all instead viewing from home. One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is the power of sport as a cultural phenomenon and an economic force.
Spencer Penrose had a deep understanding of the value of sports competition and the athletics industry to a city’s culture. Sporting events are an opportunity for people to gather and connect on common ground, a way to bring Colorado Springs out of the days of the Wild West and into a modern society that more closely reflected the East Coast cities of the time. In the early years of Colorado Springs, Penrose sought to fill the need for sport in the city, prompting him to start the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo and the Pike Peak International Hill climb. These sporting events set the tone for the sports industry to follow, an inherent demand for excellence. Today, visitors come to Colorado Springs not only to watch these events but to ignite a dream and to take part in the Olympic and Paralympic Movements which are alive and well here in what is now known as Olympic City USA. Since 2014, Colorado Springs has had a Sister City relationship with Ancient Olympia, Greece, allowing the Olympic spirit to inhabit both cities.
The early work of Spencer Penrose to bring sport to his newly minted city, laid the foundation for a city that embodies the values that athletics teaches. The Olympic Values include friendship, excellence and respect. In the same vein, the Paralympic values include courage, determination, inspiration and equality. These values are woven into the fabric of Colorado Springs, and the current sports landscape grew directly from Spencer’s ground work.
El Pomar Foundation has been proud to continue in Penrose’s footsteps, supporting the sports industry in Colorado Springs, including the Olympic and Paralympic movements. El Pomar’s Executive Chairman, William J. Hybl, supported the effort to attract the U.S. Olympic Committee headquarters to Colorado Springs and remains involved in efforts to retain their presence, in addition to serving as a past Chair of the U.S. Olympic Committee and on the boards of other Olympic organizations. El Pomar has also supported many of the national governing bodies of sport headquartered in the region as well as entities such as the Colorado Springs Sports Corporation, and the more recent U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Museum and Hall of Fame project. The Foundation also continues to build upon Spencer Penrose’s legacy by supporting the growth of sport through the William J. Hybl Fund, which funds Olympic, Paralympic and youth sports.
As the Olympic Festivities come to a close and we anticipate the Paralympic Games to come, we take this moment to reflect on the legacy of Spencer Penrose whose work has helped shape the city’s current reputation as a sports destination.
Below are historical photos of Spencer Penrose's various sponsored sporting events and institutions at the Broadmoor and around Colorado Springs.