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New Pikes Peak Summit Complex opens to public Thursday

PIKES PEAK, Colo. (KRDO) -- Cloudy skies, rain and snow didn't dampen the enthusiasm of thousands of visitors eager to see the new Summit House Complex as it opened to the public Thursday.

The complex replaces the old Summit House built in the early 1960s and was demolished earlier this spring. But remaining on the grounds is a wall from the first Summit House built in 1873.

"We love that they did that," said Missouri tourists Cheryl McGowan, and her granddaughter, Emma Hathaway. McGowan taught history and Hathaway will go to college this fall as a history major. "We love the scenic views and the walkways."

Visitors seemed impressed with the larger, modern facility and its additional windows to capture more of the surrounding mountain scenery; indeed, the views look more majestic than ever from the complex.

The walkways also allow people to take in more of the scenery and were a big hit, as were the larger cafe and gift shop, increased restroom space -- and, of course, the popular donuts.

Arizona tourist Kerrigan McClellan grabbed three bags of donuts, saying that she'd heard so much about them.

For much of the day, however, lines in the cafe were long as visitors waited for the treats made of a special batter that works at high altitudes.

Timothy Keith knows something about tourist attractions. He recently retired from Disney World and was on Pikes Peak as part of an extensive summer vacation.

"I didn't know about this project," he said. "We got lucky. We were going to come up here yesterday, so we Googled and saw that today was the grand opening. So we said, let's wait and come up today. I've never been at this high of an altitude before. This is natural beauty at its best. Even the magic of Disney can't compare to this."

Louisiana tourist Hank Frazier returned to America's Mountain for the first time in several decades.

"Yes, it's been 45 years ago that we came here -- me and my brother here," he said. "And just looking at the place, it's going to be really nice when they get done with it."

The Summit Complex also served as a nice honeymoon destination for Emma Heitz, of Idaho.

"I think it's beautiful," she said. "It was nice and clean. Very pretty inside."

Even a Colorado Springs resident sounds impressed by the new facility.

"It's been a couple of years since we came up here," said Jerry McCoy. "It's very nice. I think it was well worth the wait."

Rob Clough, a construction supervisor for the project, said that it's around 70% complete and should be finished this fall.

"The majority of the site is open," he said. "We have a small part that's still closed off to the public, as we prepare for final grading and increased parking."

Parking was hard to find on the summit Thursday as thousands of visitors came to see the new visitors' center.

"They've heard about it, they've read about it," said Brad Densmore, of the Pikes Peak Highway. "Today, they got to come in and see. I would guess we're pushing 6,000 people on the summit. That'd be my guess. There's a lot of people up there. But the building's big enough. It doesn't seem crowded."

Officials are counting on the new facility to bring back record levels of attendance; Pikes Peak accomplished that for at least five straight years prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The complex opening coincides with the resumption of the Cog Railway service to the peak, and with this weekend's Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.

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Scott Harrison

Scott is a reporter for KRDO. Learn more about Scott here.


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