Reviving A Grand Old Lady

Reviving A Grand Old Lady

If ever there was a passion project, it would be the resurrection of the Colorado Springs City Auditorium. The seed of an idea was planted back in 2004 when the city asked for proposals on what to do with the decaying and little-used yet historic venue across from City Hall. Linda Weise had an idea, but it was too ambitious and didn’t fly.

Fast-forward to 2018, when it did. The logistics fell into place, and suddenly, everybody was on board: the mayor and city council, school districts, arts organizations, civic groups, and others.

Weise’s vision was for a cultural hub in the city, a commercially successful and viable one, embracing everyone and every aspect of the arts. “It filled a gap—a lot of gaps—in what we now have,” says Weise, president and CEO of the Community Cultural Collective, which is responsible for the project and will take over ownership once the project is complete.

The renovation and reimagining of the venue will cost an estimated $85 million and include completely replacing the infrastructure, adding windows and two floors of studios and shops to augment the 

New spaces will be created for offices and shops.

activities expected to happen there. An annex will be constructed on the back to accommodate the mechanics and storage. The designers and architects will preserve the early 20th century neoclassical look inside and out, she says.

The old city auditorium hosted everything from wrestling matches and basketball games to graduations and dog shows.

The historic stage and decorative proscenium will be the centerpiece of the ground-floor theater, which will have retractable (but comfortable, be assured) seats. An orchestra pit will be inserted in front, using basement space. Depending on the event, it can seat from 600 to 750 people.

Offices, shops, rehearsal halls, dance studios, and even a food venue featuring “the best of the Springs” will be included in the plan, Weise says. It will become the permanent home for many arts organizations that now only have a post office box as an address. The famous Wurlitzer organ will relocate to the basement on a platform that can be raised to ground floor height for silent movies and concerts. “In all, we’re taking 30,000 square feet of usable space and creating 117,000 square feet of usable space,” Weise says.

Weise, who founded and directed the Colorado Springs Conservatory for 30 years, gets visibly excited about this project, which consumes her life right now. She even held her 60th birthday party there recently to raise money for the project.

Fundraising is a big part of her job. The venue will be open to host 60 parties in the coming two years to help pay for the renovation. It also will open for specific fundraising events, called the “Illumination of the City Aud.” The project is expected to be complete by spring 2025.

“She’s a grand old lady,” Weise says. “That’s what we call her. And when she wakes up, she’ll be tap dancing!”

A Little History

Completed in 1923, the Colorado Springs City Auditorium was once the premier downtown venue for events and to this day serves the city in a limited capacity. The building reportedly cost $424,910 when it was built, and it was primarily used for concerts, theater performances, and graduations. 

The plaque above the stage is inscribed “Usui Civium Decori Urbis” (“For the use of the people and the glory of the city”). Over the years, the auditorium has hosted musical concerts, stage productions, the Harlem Globetrotters, circuses, conventions, trade shows, professional wrestling, boxing, mixed martial arts, roller derby, and a model railroad club. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places on November 7, 1995.

Who's In Charge Here?

Linda Weise is the human dynamo behind the City Auditorium revival. When she came here in the 1990s, she took her Juilliard training and degree from the Oberlin Conservatory to create the Colorado Springs Conservatory, which she directed for 30 years. She left it only recently to head up the city auditorium renovation and invests the same enthusiasm and passion for this project as she has for every other thing she has done as a community leader. 

Linda Weise is the creative force behind the multimillion-dollar renovation.

 She also created the PBS early childhood music and literacy program, Simple Gift Series. In 2022, it was awarded the Edward Zigler Innovation Award from the National Head Start Association.

The recipient of numerous awards and accolades, Weise has been a governor’s appointee for the state board of Colorado Humanities, vice chair of the Colorado Springs Leadership Institute, and on the regional advisory council for the Central City Opera as well as involvement in the Chamber Orchestra of the Springs, Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce, Friends of the Fountain Fund, and PILLAR Institute for Lifelong Learning.

And she’s just getting started.