Denver hotel operator planning ‘four-diamond’ lodging at Air Force Academy | Subscriber-Only Content

A Denver-based hotel management company envisions a hotel to be built adjacent to the Air Force Academy’s planned new visitors center as a “one-of-a-kind iconic property” that will pay tribute to flight.

André Fournier, executive vice president of CoralTree Hospitality, which will manage the 375-room hotel, said the Greenwood Village-based company hopes the hotel will become as linked to the academy as the historic Thayer Hotel near West Point is to the US Military Academy and the upscale Westin Annapolis is to the Naval Academy.

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“This location is one of a kind and will be an iconic property, the third hotel built just outside a service academy,” Fourier said. “This hotel and the visitor center will pay tribute to flight and if you have any interest in that, this will be a cultural tourism destination, focusing on the history of the Air Force Academy and its cadets. The architecture ties into the chapel and the rest of the academy. It’s about time we built something like this.”

The hotel, to be built just east of the academy’s north gate, will feature a wellness spa, rooftop bar, a full-service restaurant, cafe, business center and gift shop and an outdoor lawn, pool and sundeck. But what will really set the hotel apart from others will be its two flight simulators in the lobby. The simulators will reproduce the flight deck of a Boeing 737 aircraft with seats, throttles, switches, pedals and yoke from an aircraft of the same model.

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The name of the hotel will not be selected for another three or four months. It will not carry a national brand, Fournier said, because “it is in a distinctive enough location to fly its own flag.” The hotel will be the second largest to The Broadmoor in the number of rooms and with nearly 48,000 square feet of meeting space will offer among the most meeting space of any local hotel.

The hotel, which will employ 275 people, is targeting aerospace, technology, space and cybersecurity companies as well as academy graduates, parents of cadets, those attending academy athletic events and cadets for weddings just after graduation, Fournier said. CoralTree also will use its national sales staff to attract state and national groups and corporate customers, he said.

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Fournier said the hotel will be designed to win a four-diamond rating from AAA, a rating held by just five other local hotels — The Mining Exchange, a Wyndham Grand Hotel; the Cheyenne Mountain Resort; the Garden of the Gods Resort & Club and The Lodge at Flying Horse, all in Colorado Springs, and The Cliff House at Pikes Peak in Manitou Springs. The Broadmoor is the area’s only five-diamond hotel.

The project will be financed by $250 million in bonds that were sold Jan. 31 through underwriter RBC Capital Markets, along with another $90 million in bonds for the visitors center. Construction on roads and utilities in the 57-acre site, called True North Commons, is expected to begin by April with the hotel and visitors center underway a few months later. Both projects are expected to open in early 2024 with office buildings and restaurants planned in later development phases.

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Colorado Springs-based Blue & Silver Development Partners, headed by Dan Schnepf, a founding partner of Matrix Design Group of Colorado Springs, is developing the visitors center. Baton Rouge, La.-based Provident Resources Group, a nonprofit that specializes in housing, health care and education facilities, is developing the hotel and the rest of True North Commons.

The new visitor center, designed to look like a wing in flight, will replace the current center just west of the academy’s iconic chapel. That center attracted more visitors than any other man-made tourist venue in Colorado, but visitor numbers declined when new rules to enter the academy were adopted after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The new center is expected to include interactive displays that could include glider controls attached to an aircraft suspended from the ceiling and other exhibits that feature the academy’s history.

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CoralTree operates 23 hotels and resorts, including the Magnolia Denver and Ptarmigan Inn in Steamboat Springs. CoralTree acquired controlling interest in the six-hotel Magnolia brand in September.

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