COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — A groundbreaking ceremony was held Friday for an Olympic museum that will include a Hall of Fame and make mention of every athlete who has competed for the U.S. team.
Attending the ceremony were Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and former Ohio Gov. Dick Celeste.
The U.S. Olympic Museum will cost $75 million and is set to open in 2019, blocks from the U.S. Olympic Committee headquarters and a short drive from the Olympic Training Center.
This will be the first full-fledged Olympic museum in the United States. Lake Placid has a small museum that commemorates the two Winter Games held in New York. There are more than 20 Olympic museums around the world, but previous attempts to establish one in the U.S. floundered over the decades.
"I was stunned there wasn't a proper celebration of the Olympic movement here," said Celeste, the project chairman who previously served as president of Colorado College, about a mile north of the museum site.
As governor of Ohio, Celeste was key in helping Cleveland win the contest to become home of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. He sees similarities between that museum and this one.
"People come to Cleveland to see the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and if they're in Cleveland, they say, 'Let's spend an extra day to see the rock hall,'" Celeste said. "The interest in the Olympic movement is even stronger in a sense. It's maybe the single most recognized brand, globally."
It's a project more than five years in the making that has been hit with typical funding challenges. In the end, about $49 million of the cost is being covered through private fundraising, with the rest coming through public bonds sold to three local banks.
The Olympic Training Center draws about 130,000 visitors a year. Museum officials are expecting their 60,000-square-foot showcase to eventually draw up to 350,000 a year, with more than half the visitors coming from outside the state.
"I think the synergy you're going to see between the Olympic Training Center and the museum is going to be profound," Hickenlooper said.