Construction is nearing a finish on the Historic Arkansas Riverwalk of Pueblo improvements.
Major construction on the $31 million project to expand of the Pueblo Convention Center and add a 449-space public parking garage is set to finish by mid-March, according to Jerry Pacheco, director of the Pueblo Urban Renewal Authority.
Work on the $2.7 million Gateway Plaza outdoor activities space will continue through the summer.
A grand opening celebration for the convention center expansion is tentatively planned for April, he said.
On May 11, a public re-dedication of the Pueblo Medal of Honor Memorial is scheduled.
Displaced by the construction, the memorial features individual bronze statues of Pueblo’s four Medal recipients. It will be brought back to anchor a new Medal of Honor Plaza at the convention center that will include several new features and greater visibility, the Pueblo Home of Heroes Association says. The re-dedication ceremony is part of a two-day event that will include the annual Home of Heroes Golf Tournament.
The main convention center additions include a 17,500-square-foot exhibit hall; a Professional Bull Riders-managed sports performance center; an 83-feet-tall decorative landmark tower and a smaller attached building that will serve as a combination PBR Fan Zone and Greater Pueblo Chamber of Commerce visitor center.
This weekend, a delegation of Pueblo leaders will travel to the PBR Global Cup event at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, for the premier of a special video presentation introducing the training center project to athletes and fans, Pacheco said.
PBR training center
The PBR Sports Performance Center will offer training and conditioning programs, video rooms and instructional camps for athletes from a wide range of professional, college, prep and amateur sports in addition to PBR athletes from across the world.
PBR’s parent company Endeavor is well versed on operating training centers with properties that include the large IMG Sports Academy campus in Bradenton, Fla. and the large UFC Performance Institute mixed martial arts training complex in Las Vegas.
The delegation to visit Texas will include Pueblo City Council President Dennis Flores, chamber president Rod Slyhoff and Colorado State Fair General Manager Scott Stoller.
PBR is in the process of staffing the center and determining an official opening date, Pacheco said.
PBR Chief Executive Sean Gleason issued a statement saying the center will be the first of its kind for athletes in Western sports in addition to being an attractive option to athletes from other sports.
PBR manages and markets a growing number of Western sports, including top rodeos. Last year, it launched the RidePass Western sports digital streaming channel and opened membership in its athlete health and wellness programs to other Western sports organizations.
“As the leader in Western sports, PBR is thrilled to take a leadership role in this state-of-the-art facility,” Gleason said. PBR’s global headquarters building is located on the Riverwalk a few blocks away from the new training center.
Gateway Plaza, other improvements
Other improvement projects in the current phase are either completed or underway.
The convention center recently finished a major interior redecoration to include new carpet, tile and paint. New chairs were purchased last year. “Everybody I talk to is just blown away by how new and fresh it looks,” Pacheco said.
Next door, the attached Courtyard by Marriott hotel is working to finish a project to remodel its covered drive-up entryway and repaint the parts of its exterior not covered by brick.
Work continues on the Gateway Plaza outdoor area that will run between the expanded convention center and the riverwalk channel.
The project will bring outdoor event spaces, trees and other landscaping, a playground and a display of privately donated bronze sculptures to celebrate Charles Goodnight’s historic cattle drives to Pueblo. Construction is set for completion by September.
“It’s going to be beautiful,” Lynn Clark, executive director of the Riverwalk, said of the Gateway project. Right now, “everyone’s asking about the (large) concrete donuts” recently installed near the riverwalk channel in the area, she quipped. “They are tree planters,” she explained.
All of the improvements make up Phase 1 of the planned Riverwalk additions that Pueblo announced in 2011. The project builds upon other recent public and private Riverwalk investments such as the renovation of Memorial Hall and the addition of restaurants, hotels and microbreweries to the area.
The overall project was awarded one of the state’s major tourism grants that brings millions of dollars in funding support from state sales taxes. The state developed the grant program after the 2007-2009 U.S. recession with the goal of drawing more out-of-state visitors and tourists to Colorado.
Pueblo’s project also has received significant federal grant support.
Future phases of the Riverwalk expansion — envisioned to take place over the next 20 years — call for the extension of the riverwalk channel, the construction of a combination boathouse and Riverwalk visitor center and the addition of an aquatics center to include a competition swimming pool and indoor or outdoor water park.
Pueblo also continues its push to draw more private development to the area.
Soon, the Urban Renewal Authority plans to begin a Request for Proposals process with the goal of identifying a developer interested in building a small to midsized hotel on the lot where the former police annex building stood, between the expanded convention center and the Brues Alehouse building, Pacheco said.
Pacheco praised the efforts of the Urban Renewal Authority’s board members and its four-person staff; local, state and federal governments; project general contractor H.W. Houston Construction of Pueblo and others for their support of the project.
After years of planning and funding delays, construction was started in November 2017 on an accelerated schedule in order to comply with state deadlines, he said. “This was a big lift. It took some big-time community leaders to step up. … Here we are 14 to 15 months later and we’re ready to go,” he said