Keeping It 100 Colorado Springs

Keeping It 100

The AdAmAn Club is emblematic of a century’s worth of adventure, pride, tradition, a strong sense of community, and downright fun. It is well-known throughout the Colorado Springs region that the members have annually ascended the summit of Pikes Peak for the past 100 years to shoot off fireworks at midnight for the enjoyment of New Year’s Eve revelers below.

This design, created by artist Zane Prater, incorporates a variety of subtle symbolism that evokes the spirit of the AdAmAm Club even as the figures remain anonymous and androgynous.  A sense of community togetherness is represented by the rope connecting the climbers as they are backlit by fireworks bursting overhead.

The members thought long and hard about how to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the AdAmAn Club and the 101st climb that will begin on December 30, 2022. “There ought to be something in Colorado Springs to let people know about the AdAmAn Club after we have been entertaining people on New Year’s Eve for 100 years,” says Jack Donley, who has made the climb 27 times and been a member since 1999.

He adds, “The tradition of the club is so, so rich. This group of people, who trust each other, take care of each other, and are remarkably close share a passion for Colorado Springs and for hiking Pikes Peak and shooting off high explosives.” The idea for a way to honor all that club members hold dear about the unique tradition and experience they share has been percolating over the past few years—often during their New Year’s Eve ascents.

Gradually a plan was developed for a unique, ambitious placemaking project that would come to fruition through a collaboration between the AdAmAn Club, the Colorado Springs Downtown Partnership, the city and public utilities, and downtown business owners. “It was a dream team made up of enthusiastic, hard-working, committed decision makers. These elements were critical to the success of the project,” says AdAmAn Club President Dan Stuart. Fortunately, the organizational qualities of the team mirror traits shared by all of the club members. They love the mountains, are very well-prepared and supportive of each other, but can—Stuart adds with a chuckle—“lack common sense.”

“The theme is to bring a little of Pikes Peak into downtown Colorado Springs,” Donley says, “General William Jackson Palmer picked the community’s location because of Pikes Peak.”

This composite photo of fireworks was taken atop Pikes Peak by local photographer Daniel Forster.

Gradually, the idea for AdAmAn Alley solidified. It was the perfect coalescence with Downtown’s master plan, launched in 2016, that included a goal to develop downtown alleyways. Chelsea Gondeck, director of planning and mobility for the Colorado Springs Downtown Partnership, has been instrumental in bringing the project toward fruition. She says AdAmAn Alley “will be a huge draw for Downtown,” adding that it will “provide a truly unique experience for visitors to enjoy public art and create new opportunities for businesses to expand and activate underutilized public space.”

The project has been underway for some time, and the opening celebration for the alley is scheduled for the end of the year. It will be a model for successive alleyway experiences downtown with the goal of creating welcoming places for hanging out amid thought-provoking art installations, creative lighting, and a sense of magic.

The alley runs east to west from Nevada Avenue to North Tejon Street with a southern leg that extends from the middle of the block to Colorado Avenue. The freshly paved concrete surface of the alley is uniquely textured to resemble native granite with imprints of regional plants. A representation of Barr Trail is painted on the pavement with the trailhead at the eastern alley entrance and the summit of Pikes Peak at the western alley entrance (between the historic Hibbard and Carlton buildings). Trail markers announce an interactive experience with QR codes that link visitors to archived information and photos from the club on the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum website.

Michelle Winchell, executive director of Downtown Ventures, outlines how the conceptual pieces fit together. Artwork includes two enormous murals hand-painted on the rising brick walls that shelter the alley. They signify the ascent of Sun Mountain and the sense of wonder and excitement young people feel—or the youthful excitement grownups feel—about New Year’s fireworks. Vinyl murals along the alleyway walls include colorful cairns leading the way to the summit. The northern breezeway from the alley will evoke the experience of walking up Barr Trail through the dense forest. A composite image of the annual fireworks lights up the City administration building with an archived photo of firemasters further into the alley.

One of the painted murals is highlighted by projection-mapping when darkness falls with images of native animals, plant species, and, of course, fireworks. At the western end of the alley, a place name arch curves between the buildings with an LED screen strung above that illuminates the entrance with a loop of fireworks beginning at dusk for all to enjoy.

The AdAmAn Alley project team is composed of club members, business owners, and the Colorado Downtown Partnership. Other entities playing key roles include RTA Architects (designers of the Pikes Peak Summit House), Colorado Springs Utilities, and the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum. “It’s unbelievable the amount of resources that have been poured into this project,” says Donley. “Everybody we talked to was excited about this project and on board with it…This shows how close-knit and united our community is…and the connection with the sense of adventure that the AdAmAn Club represents.”

Ryan Phipps, senior engineer for the City of Colorado Springs, has been actively involved with the project since its inception, evaluating and upgrading antiquated underground utilities, some of which are up to 150 years old. “This [project] has been very challenging as it’s within a 20-foot alleyway where the utilities are like spaghetti underground,” he says. “It will be satisfying in the end to get everything upgraded and functional. Crews representing each of the utilities involved have partnered together, hand-in-hand, to overcome all obstacles.” Phipps has managed every layer of infrastructure from upgrading underground utilities to laying new pavement. He takes great pride in his part as a team member bringing the AdAmAn Alley project to life: “There is ongoing growth within the outskirts of Colorado Springs, but downtown is the heartbeat of the city, where the vibrancy keeps our community alive.”

Stuart emphasizes the welcome presence of a new generation making the challenging New Year’s Eve climb. His son, Tyler Stuart, a member since 2019, has made the climb with him around 10 times and, with his daughter-in-law, Jessica Stuart, has participated the last two years. “It’s fun knowing that they have learned the traditions of the club and will be able to carry those traditions into the future,” says Stuart.

Priscilla Clayton became the fourth female member in 2021. “Pretty quickly, I knew that I wanted to be a part of the AdAmAn Club,” she says. “It’s a great feeling to reach the summit and carry on the tradition. It’s an incredible experience.” She shares the unique enthusiasm and energy of her fellow members: “A common theme is the camaraderie; it’s incredible!” Clayton says that the common goal of all the members is making a successful climb, whether they are male or female. “It’s like I have 30 big brothers on the trail with me. Gender is not really that important up there. It doesn’t come into play. We’re all mountaineers.”

“The model of adding one member a year to the club is a recipe for longevity,” says Don Sanborn, a member since 2003 and the first grandson of a previous member. His grandfather, Don Lawrie, became a member in 1940. Sanborn adds, “The community response and support leading to the creation of AdAmAn Alley has been exceptionally gratifying. With the aid of the internet, our guest/member selection process is leading to a more diverse membership which will further contribute to the ongoing public interest. We don’t see the club ever going away.”