In 2008, the much-anticipated Newseum opened to rave reviews in Washington, D.C. It featured 15 galleries, 15 theaters, and two state-of-the-art television studios. In 2019, Time magazine named it one of the world’s 100 greatest places…just before it closed its doors for good.
In 2020, the world-class U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum (USOPM) opened in Colorado Springs, a gleaming marvel of interactive experience, leading-edge architecture, and unparalleled accessibility. It was also met with international acclaim, but it opened under very different circumstances: The pandemic put a severe dent in 2020 attendance projections.
So how will the USOPM avoid the same fate as the Newseum?
The USOPM is made of sterner stuff, says Peter Maiurro, USOPM chief communications & business affairs officer. “First, the community supported us from the beginning stages and has demonstrated a renewed commitment in recent months,” he says. In contrast to the Newseum, which was the brainchild of Al Neuharth (the founder of USAToday), there isn’t enough space here to list all who contributed to the creation of the USOPM. One was top-down; the other is bottom-up.
The museum is also the catalyst for the transformation of a wide swath of blighted land on the southwest edge of downtown. It has sparked new hotels, soaring residences, burgeoning businesses, a new stadium, and the renewal of America the Beautiful Park.
Maiurro notes that Colorado Springs was already a desirable destination, “Pikes Peak and Garden of the Gods are not going away,” he says. Although D.C. is saturated with museums, the USOPM is a perfect complement to the Olympic Training Center, the Air Force Academy, the Broadmoor, and other regional assets.
Maiurro also points out that “the Olympic Games happen every two years, giving us the chance to constantly refresh content.” The Games will be the best public relations event the museum could ever hope for, featuring it on an international stage in a way no money can buy.
The USOPM is well positioned to attract throngs of visitors this spring, when travelers rise with increased vaccinations. Despite the temporary setback, it seems like the $91 million spent to create this shining gem was a safe bet.