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Colorado Springs is a home rule municipality that is the largest city by area in Colorado as well as the county seat and the most populous municipality of El Paso County, Colorado, United States. Colorado Springs is located in the east central portion of the state. It is situated on Fountain Creek and is located 60 miles (97 km) south of the Colorado State Capitol in Denver.
At 6,035 feet (1,839 m) the city stands over 1 mile (1.6 km) above sea level. This is higher than Denver, though some areas of the city are significantly higher and lower. Colorado Springs is situated near the base of one of the most famous American mountains, Pikes Peak, rising above 14,000 feet (4,300 m) on the eastern edge of the Southern Rocky Mountains. The city is home to 24 national governing bodies of sport, including the United States Olympic Committee, the United States Olympic Training Center, and USA Hockey.
The city had an estimated population of 465,101 in 2016, and a metro population of approximately 712,000, ranking as the second most populous city in the state of Colorado, behind Denver, and the 40th most populous city in the United States. The Colorado Springs, CO Metropolitan Statistical Area had an estimated population of 712,327 in 2016. The city is included in the Front Range Urban Corridor, an oblong region of urban population along the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado and Wyoming, generally following the path of Interstate 25 in both states.
The city covers 194.9 square miles (505 km2), making it the most extensive municipality in Colorado.
The Ute, Arapaho and Cheyenne peoples were the first to inhabit the area which would become Colorado Springs. Part of the territory included in the United States' 1803 Louisiana Purchase, the current city area was designated part of the 1854 Kansas Territory. In 1859, after the first local settlement was established, it became part of the Jefferson Territory on October 24 and of El Paso County on November 28. Colorado City at the Front Range confluence of Fountain and Camp creeks was "formally organized on August 13, 1859" during the Pike's Peak Gold Rush. It served as the capital of the Colorado Territory from November 5, 1861, until August 14, 1862, when the capital was moved to Denver.
In 1871 the Colorado Springs Company laid out the towns of La Font (later called Manitou Springs) and Fountain Colony, upstream and downstream respectively, of Colorado City. Within a year, Fountain Colony would be renamed "Colorado Springs", and was officially incorporated. The El Paso County seat shifted from Colorado City in 1873 to the Town of Colorado Springs. On December 1, 1880, Colorado Springs expanded northward with two annexations.
The second period of annexations was during 1889–90, and included Seavey's Addition, West Colorado Springs, East End, and another North End addition. In 1891 the Broadmoor Land Company built the Broadmoor suburb, which included the Broadmoor Casino, and by December 12, 1895, the city had "four Mining Exchanges and 275 mining brokers." By 1898, the city was designated into quadrants by the north-south Cascade Avenue and the east-west Washington/Pike's Peak avenues.
From 1899 to 1901 Tesla Experimental Station operated on Knob Hill, and aircraft flights to the Broadmoor's neighboring fields began in 1919. Alexander Airport north of the city opened in 1925, and in 1927 the original Colorado Springs Municipal Airport land was purchased east of the city.
In World War II the United States Army Air Forces leased land adjacent to the municipal airfield, naming it "Peterson Field" in December 1942. This was only one of several military presences in and around Colorado Springs during the war.
In November 1950, Ent Air Force Base was selected as the Cold War headquarters for Air Defense Command (ADC). The former WWII Army Air Base, Peterson Field, which had been inactivated at the end of the war, was re-opened in 1951 as a U.S. Air Force base. The 1950s through 1970s saw a continued expansion of the military presence in the area, with the establishment of NORAD's headquarters in the city, as well as the ADCOM headquarters.
Between 1965 and 1968, the University of Colorado Colorado Springs, Pikes Peak Community College and Colorado Technical University were established in or near the city. In 1977 most of the former Ent AFB became a US Olympic training center. The Libertarian Party was founded within the city in the 1970s.
On October 1, 1981, the Broadmoor Addition, Cheyenne Canon, Ivywild, Skyway, and Stratton Meadows were annexed after the Colorado Supreme Court "overturned a district court decision that voided the annexation". Further annexations expanding the city include the Nielson Addition and Vineyard Commerce Park Annexation in September 2008.
The city lies in a high desert with the Southern Rocky Mountains to the west, the Palmer Divide to the north, high plains further east, and high desert lands to the south when leaving Fountain and approaching Pueblo.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 194.6 square miles (504.1 km2), of which 194.6 square miles (503.9 km2) is land and 0.35 square miles (0.9 km2), or 0.19%, is water.
Colorado Springs has many features of a modern urban area, such as parks, bike trails, and urban open-area spaces. However, it is not exempt from problems that typically plague cities that experience tremendous growth, such as overcrowded roads and highways, crime, sprawl, and government budget issues. Many of the problems are indirectly or directly caused by the city's difficulty in coping with the large population growth experienced in the last twenty years, and the annexation of the Banning Lewis Ranch area to accommodate further population growth of 175,000 future residents.
Colorado Springs has a semi-arid climate (Köppen BSk), and its location just east of the Rocky Mountains affords it the rapid warming influence from chinook winds during winter but also subjects it to drastic day-to-day variability in weather conditions. The city has abundant sunshine year-round, averaging 243 sunny days per year, and receives approximately 16.5 inches (419 mm) of annual precipitation. Due to unusually low precipitation for several years after flooding in 1999, Colorado Springs enacted lawn water restrictions in 2002. These were lifted in 2005.
Colorado Springs is one of the most active lightning strike areas in the United States. This natural phenomenon led Nikola Tesla to select Colorado Springs as the preferred location to build his lab and study electricity.
Winters range from mild to moderately cold, with December, the coldest month, averaging 30.8 °F (−0.7 °C); historically January has been the coldest month, but, in recent years, December has had both lower daily maxima and minima. Typically, there are 5.2 nights with sub-0 °F (−18 °C) lows and 23.6 days where the high does not rise above freezing, and extended sub-zero (°F) cold snaps are possible but infrequent.
Snowfall is usually moderate and remains on the ground briefly because of direct sun, with the city receiving 38 inches (97 cm) per season, although the mountains to the west often receive in excess of triple that amount; March is the snowiest month in the region, both by total accumulation and number of days with measurable snowfall. In addition, 8 of the top 10 heaviest 24-hour snowfalls have occurred from March to May. Summers are warm, with July, the warmest month, averaging 70.9 °F (21.6 °C), and 18 days of 90 °F (32 °C)+ highs annually. Due to the high elevation and aridity, nights are usually relatively cool and rarely does the low remain above 70 °F (21 °C). Dry weather generally prevails, but brief afternoon thunderstorms are common, especially in July and August when the city receives the majority of its annual rainfall, due to the North American Monsoon.
The first autumn freeze and the last freeze in the spring, on average, occur on October 2 and May 6, respectively; the average window for measurable snowfall (≥0.1 in or 0.25 cm) is October 21 through April 25. Extreme temperatures range from 101 °F (38 °C) on June 26, 2012 and most recently on June 21, 2016, down to −27 °F (−33 °C) on February 1, 1951 and December 9, 1919.
As of the 2010 census, the population of Colorado Springs was 416,427 (40th most populous U.S. city), and the population of the Colorado Springs Metropolitan Statistical Area was 645,613 in 2010 (84th most populous MSA), and the population of the Front Range Urban Corridor in Colorado was an estimated 4,166,855.
As of the April 2010 census: 78.8% White, 16.1% Hispanic or Latino (of any race), 6.3% Black or African American, 3.0% Asian, 1.0% Native American, 0.3% Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander, 5.5% Some other race, 5.1% Two or more races. Mexican Americans made up 14.6% of the city's population. The median age in the city was 35 years. Non-Hispanic Whites were 70.7% of the population, compared to 86.6% in 1970.
Colorado Springs' economy is driven primarily by the military, the high-tech industry, and tourism, in that order. The city is currently experiencing some growth mainly in the service sectors. The unemployment rate for the city as of October 2015 was 3.9%, a decrease from 4.8% in October 2014 and 7.3% in November 2013 and compared to 3.8% for the state and 5.0% for the nation.
The defense industry plays a major role in the Colorado Springs economy, with some of the city's largest employers coming from the sector. A large segment of this industry is dedicated to the development and operation of various projects for missile defense. With its close ties to defense, the aerospace industry has also influenced the Colorado Springs economy.
Although some defense corporations have left or downsized city campuses, a slight growth trend is still recorded. Significant defense corporations in the city include Boeing, General Dynamics, Harris Corporation, SAIC, ITT, L-3 Communications, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman. The Space Foundation is based in Colorado Springs.
A large percentage of Colorado Springs' economy is based on manufacturing high tech and complex electronic equipment. The high tech sector in the Colorado Springs area has decreased its overall presence from 2000 to 2006 (from around 21,000 down to around 8,000), with notable reductions in information technology and complex electronic equipment. Due to a slowing in tourism, the high tech sector still remains second to the military in terms of total revenue generated and employment. Current trends project the high tech employment ratio will continue to decrease in the near future.
High tech corporations with connections to the city include:
Verizon Business, a telecommunications firm, had nearly 1300 employees in 2008. Hewlett-Packard has a large sales, support, and SAN storage engineering center for the computer industry.
Storage Networking Industry Association is the home of the SNIA Technology Center. Agilent, spun off from HP in 1999 as an independent, publicly traded company. Intel had 250 employees in 2009. The facility is now used for the centralized unemployment and social services complex.
Broadcom (formerly LSI Corporation) designs semiconductors and software that accelerate storage and networking in datacenters and mobile networks. Microchip Technology (formerly Atmel), is a chip fabrication organization. Cypress Semiconductor Colorado Design Center is a chip fabrication research and development site. The Apple Inc. facility was sold to Sanmina-SCI in 1996.
Almost immediately following the arrival of railroads beginning in 1871, the city's location at the base of Pikes Peak and the Rocky Mountains made it a popular tourism destination. Tourism is the third largest employer in the Pikes Peak region, accounting for more than 16,000 jobs. Nearly 5 million visitors come to the area annually, contributing $1.35 billion in revenue.
Colorado Springs has more than 55 attractions and activities in the area, including Garden of the Gods, United States Air Force Academy, the ANA Money Museum, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, Old Colorado City and the U.S. Olympic Training Center.
The downtown Colorado Springs Visitor Information Center offers free area information to leisure and business travelers. The Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region (COPPeR), also located downtown, supports and advocates for the arts throughout the Pikes Peak Region. It operates the PeakRadar website to communicate city events.
Although houses of worship of almost every major world religion can be found in the city, Colorado Springs has in particular attracted a large influx of Evangelical Christians and Christian organizations in recent years. At one time Colorado Springs was counted to be the national headquarters for 81 different religious organizations, earning the city the tongue-in-cheek nicknames "the Evangelical Vatican" and "The Christian Mecca." Religious groups with regional or international headquarters in Colorado Springs include:
Although Colorado voters approved Colorado Amendment 64, a constitutional amendment in 2013 legalizing retail sales of marijuana for recreational purposes, the Colorado Springs city council voted not to permit retail shops in the city, as was allowed in the amendment. Medical marijuana outlets continue to operate in Colorado Springs. As of 2015, there were 91 medical marijuana clinics in the city, which reported sales of $59.6 million in 2014, up 11 percent from the previous year but without recreational marijuana shops. On April 26, 2016 Colorado Springs city council decided to extend the current six-month moratorium to eighteen months with no new licenses to be granted until May 2017. On July 27, 2017 the Cannabist published an article with a link to a scholarly paper where the author suggest the city will give up 25.4 million dollars in tax revenue and fees if the city continues to thwart the industry from opening within the city limits. On March 1, 2018 there were 131 medical marijuana centers and no recreational cannabis stores.
Colorado Springs has been the subject of or setting for many books, movies and television shows, and is a frequent backdrop for political thrillers and military-themed stories because of its many military installations and vital importance to the United States' continental defense. Notable television series using the city as a setting include Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman and the Stargate series Stargate SG-1, as well as the films WarGames and The Prestige.
In a North Korean propaganda video released in April 2013, Colorado Springs was inexplicably singled out as one of four targets for a missile strike. The video failed to pinpoint Colorado Springs on the map, instead showing a spot somewhere in Louisiana.
The documentary television series Homicide Hunter, in which former Colorado Springs police detective Joseph Kenda recounts cases of homicide from his career, is set in Colorado Springs.
Colorado Springs, dubbed Olympic City USA, is home to the United States Olympic Training Center and the headquarters of the United States Olympic Committee and the United States Anti-Doping Agency. In addition, 24 of the United States' national federations for individual Olympic sports have their headquarters in Colorado Springs, including: US bobsled, fencing, figure skating, basketball, boxing, cycling, judo, field hockey, hockey, swimming, shooting, table tennis, taekwondo, triathlon, volleyball, pentathlon, handball, and wrestling associations and organizations.
Further, over 50 national sports organizations (non-Olympic) headquarter in Colorado Springs. These include the National Strength and Conditioning Association, Sports Incubator, a various non-Olympic Sports (such as USA Ultimate), and more.
Colorado Springs and Denver hosted the 1962 World Ice Hockey Championships.
The city has a long association with the sport of figure skating, having hosted the U.S. Figure Skating Championships six times and the World Figure Skating Championships five times. It is home to the World Figure Skating Museum and Hall of Fame and the Broadmoor Skating Club, a notable training center for the sport. In recent years, the World Arena has hosted skating events such as Skate America and the Four Continents Figure Skating Championships.
The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (PPIHC), also known as The Race to the Clouds, is an annual invitational automobile and motorcycle hill climb to the summit of Pikes Peak, every year on the last Sunday of June. The first running of the Pikes Peak Hill Climb was promoted by Spencer Penrose. Penrose had finished widening the narrow carriage road into a much wider "Pikes Peak Highway." He decided to encourage tourists to visit by creating a race to the clouds.
The PPIHC takes place on a 12.42 mile (19.99 km) public toll-road boasting 156 turns, while competitors climb 4,720 ft. (1,440 m.) from the 9,390 ft. (2,862 m.) start line at mile 7 marker on the Pikes Peak Highway to the 14,115 ft. (4,300 m) finish line at the summit.
The race is self-sanctioned and is the most diverse one day motorsports event in the world with everything from Sidecars, Motorcycles, Semi-Trucks, and 1,400+hp EV & Unlimited Racers being able to compete in the same event. The highway wasn't completely paved until 2011.
The local colleges feature many sports teams. Notable among them are the following nationally competitive NCAA Division I teams: United States Air Force Academy (Falcons) Football, Basketball and Hockey, Colorado College (Tigers) Hockey, and Women's Soccer. Colorado Springs also boasts three top-ranked Division III collegiate ultimate programs: Air Force Afterburn (Open), Colorado College Wasabi (Open), and Colorado College Strata (Women's).
The Mountain West Conference and the National Collegiate Hockey Conference is based in Colorado Springs.
Colorado Springs is home to the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame and the headquarters of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.
Colorado Springs was the original headquarters of the Professional Bull Riders (PBR) from its founding in 1992 until 2005, when the organization was moved to Pueblo; the PBR used to hold an annual Built Ford Tough Series event at the World Arena from 2001 until 2005 when the organization made the move to Pueblo.
There are 136 neighborhood, 8 community, 7 regional parks and 5 sports complexes totaling 9,000 acres managed by the city's Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services. They also manage 500 acres of trails, which are 160 miles of park trails and 105 miles of urban trails. There are 5,000 acres of open spaces in 48 open space areas.
One of the most popular areas in Colorado Springs is the park on its western edge, Garden of the Gods, considered by many to be the most beautiful park in the world. It is a National Natural Landmark with 300 foot sandstone rock formations often viewed against a backdrop of the snow-capped mountains of Pikes Peak. The park offers a variety of annual events, one of the most popular of which is the Starlight Spectacular; a recreational bike ride held every summer to benefit the Trails and Open Space Coalition of Colorado Springs.
Colorado Springs has several major parks, such as Palmer Park, America the Beautiful Park (Confluence Park), Memorial Park, and Monument Valley Park. The Austin Bluffs Park also affords a place of recreation in eastern Colorado Springs. Ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa), Gambel oak (Quercus gambelii), narrowleaf yucca (Yucca angustissima, syn. Yucca glauca) and prickly pear cactus (Opuntia macrorhiza) are some of the more common flora endemic to the Front Range in Colorado Springs.
Three trails, the New Santa Fe Regional Trail, Pikes Peak Greenway and Fountain Creek Regional Trail, form a continuous path from Palmer Lake, through Colorado Springs, to Fountain, Colorado. The majority of the trail between Palmer Lake and Fountain is a soft surface breeze gravel trail. A major segment of the trail within the Colorado Springs city limits is paved.
The Urban Trail system within Colorado Springs consists of more than 110 miles of multi-use trail for biking, jogging, roller blading and walking.
The trails, except Monument Valley Park trails, may be used for equestrian traffic. Motorized vehicles are not allowed on the trails. Many of the trails are interconnected, having main "spine" trails, like the Pikes Peak Greenway, that lead to secondary trails.
On November 2, 2010, Colorado Springs voters adopted a council-strong mayor form of government. The City of Colorado Springs transitioned to the new system of government in 2011. Under the council-strong mayor system of government, the mayor is the chief executive and the city council is the legislative branch. The mayor is a full-time elected position and not a member of the city council. The city council has nine members total, six of which represent one of six equally populated districts each. The remaining three members are elected "at-large". The mayor has veto authority, with the city council having the ability to override a mayoral veto by a two-thirds majority vote (6 out of 9).
Colorado Springs City Hall was built from 1902 to 1904 on land donated by W. S. Stratton.
Bachelors and graduate degree programs are offered at these colleges and universities in the city:
The United States Air Force Academy is a military school for officer candidates.
IntelliTec College is a technical training school. Pikes Peak Community College offers a two-year degree program.
In March 2016 there were six newspapers actively publishing in Colorado Springs including the newspaper with the largest circulation in the state. Colorado-Pueblo MSA is the 90th largest broadcast market in the US. There are 24 digital television stations in Colorado Springs and 34 radio stations.
Colorado Springs is primarily served by two interstate highways. I-25 runs north and south through Colorado, and traverses the city for nearly 18 miles (29 km), entering the city south of Circle Drive and exiting north of North Gate Blvd. In El Paso County it is known as Ronald Reagan Highway. US 24 runs across the central mountains, through the city, and onto the plains. From west to east in Colorado Springs, US 24 follows the western portion of Cimarron Street and the Midland Expressway, a 2-mile concurrent section with I-25/US 87 between exits 139 and 141, part of Fountain Blvd, an expressway called the Martin Luther King Bypass, part of South Powers Blvd (where it is concurrent with Colorado 21), and the easternmost portion of Platte Avenue out of the city.
A number of state highways serve the city. State Highway 21 is a major east side semi-expressway from Black Forest to Fountain. It is widely known as Powers Boulevard. State Highway 83 runs north-south from Denver to northern Colorado Springs. State Highway 94 runs east-west from western Cheyenne County to eastern Colorado Springs. State Highway 115 begins in Cañon City and runs up Nevada Avenue. US 85 and SH 115 are concurrent between Lake Avenue and I-25. US 85 enters the city at Fountain and was signed at Venetucci Blvd, Lake Avenue, and Nevada Avenue.
In November 2015, voters in Colorado Springs overwhelmingly passed ballot measure 2C, dedicating funds from a temporary sales tax increase to much needed road and infrastructure improvements over five years. This temporary increase is estimated to bring in approximately $50M annually, which will be used solely to improve roads and infrastructure. The Ballot measure passed by a margin of approximately 65–35%, and was championed by newly elected Mayor John Suthers.
In 2004, the voters of Colorado Springs and El Paso County established the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority and adopted a 1% sales tax dedicated to improving the region's transportation infrastructure. Together with state funding for the Colorado Springs Metro Interstate Expansion (COSMIX) (2007 completion) and the I-25 interchange with Highway 16 (2008 completion), significant progress has been made since 2003 in addressing the transportation needs of the area.
In early 2010, the city of Colorado Springs approved an expansion of the northernmost part of Powers Boulevard in order to create an Interstate 25 bypass commonly referred to as the Copper Ridge Expansion.
Colorado Springs Airport (COS), six miles to the southeast, is the second-largest commercial airport in the state. Peterson Air Force Base is a tenant of the airport.
Freight service is provided by Union Pacific and BNSF. Currently there is no intercity passenger service.
A 2011 study by Walk Score ranked Colorado Springs 34th most walkable of fifty largest U.S. cities.
Mountain Metropolitan Transit (MMT) is the primary source of clean, safe, and economical public transportation services in the Pikes Peak region providing over 11,000 one-way trips per day. In addition to bus routes within the City of Colorado Springs, Mountain Metro Transit provides service into Manitou Springs, north to the Chapel Hills Mall, east to Peterson Air Force Base and south into the Widefield area.
Mountain Metro Mobility is an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) federally mandated complementary ADA paratransit service, which provides demand-response service for individuals with mobility needs that prevent them from using the fixed-route bus system.
Mountain Metro Rides offers alternative transportation options to residents of the Pikes Peak Region. The program is designed to reduce congestion and pollution by encouraging people to commute by carpool, vanpool, bicycling or walking.
Sister cities of Colorado Springs include:
Colorado Springs' sister city organization began when Colorado Springs became partners with Fujiyoshida. The torii gate erected to commemorate the relationship stands at the corner of Bijou Street and Nevada Avenue, and is one of the city's most recognizable landmarks. The torii gate, crisscrossed bridge and shrine, located in the median between Platte and Bijou Streets in downtown Colorado Springs, were a gift to Colorado Springs, erected in 1966 by the Rotary Club of Colorado Springs to celebrate the friendship between the two communities. A plaque near the torii gate states that "the purpose of the sister city relationship is to promote understanding between the people of our two countries and cities". The Fujiyoshida Student exchange program has become an annual event.
To strengthen relations between the two cities, the Colorado Springs Youth Symphony regularly invites the Taiko drummers from the city to participate in a joint concert in the Pikes Peak Center. The orchestra played in Bankstown, Australia, in 2002 and again in June 2006 as part of their tours to Australia and New Zealand.
Also, in 2006 and 2010, the Bankstown TAP (Talent Advancement Program), performed with the Youth Symphony, and the Colorado Springs Children's Chorale, as a part of the annual "In Harmony" program.
A notable similarity between Colorado Springs and its sister cities are their geographic positions: three of the seven cities are also located near the base of a major mountain or mountain range.
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