Pikes Peak Center - CSPM

Pikes Peak Center

In 1981, Bee Vradenburg received the Louis Sudler Award for distinguished service in the profession of symphony orchestra management from the American Symphony Orchestra League. She was recognized for, among other things, her leadership in the development of the ambitious Pikes Peak Center project, which was created with “near-perfect” acoustics, just right for symphony music. It wasn’t accidental. Vradenburg was at the heart of the planning.” She was such a successful organizer, fundraiser, and champion of the project – someone gave her a new nickname: Superbee.

– From the CSPM Curator of History

The Pikes Peak Center for the Performing Arts, located at 190 South Cascade Avenue, was built in 1982 as part of the downtown Colorado Springs economic revitalization program. The goal of its establishment was to provide El Paso County with a regional cultural center for performances and educational programs. However, during the construction phase it had reached international acclaim for its progressive and advanced acoustic technological design.

Every detail of the building is designed to deliver a near perfect acoustic experience for audiences. A sound booth is located in the middle of the main level of continental seating so that a sound technician can hear exactly what the audience hears and adjust acoustic levels accordingly. The water pipes are suspended on springs to eliminate vibrations, the walls are coated with epoxy to create a smoother surface for the sound waves to reverberate off, and the basement is constructed on separate support pillars from the rest of the building so no vibration is transmitted from other areas of the building.

The seating for the auditorium is separated into four sections: the orchestra, loge, mezzanine, and balcony totaling 2,000 seats. The auditorium is designed with an oblong shape surrounded by 15 acoustic towers. The PCC was also one of the first in the Rocky Mountain region to use a computerized lighting system where lighting cues could be saved onto a floppy disk. The computer would run all the light cues without the need for lighting technicians to worry about missing cues or using the wrong effect. But if a performer made a mistake such as missing a line, the technician could pause the computer and re-time the rest of the cues.

Since its grand opening on October 21, 1982, artists and critics have praised the center for its design as well as its numerous programs and shows. The building symbolized the desire of the Colorado Springs community to support the arts on a new level. For the first time excited local residents could see Broadway shows without having to travel to Denver. The annual performance of The Nutcracker by the Colorado Springs Philharmonic has become a holiday tradition for thousands of residents. The center is also the home of the Colorado Springs Symphony.
The opening and continued success of the center is attributed to the passion and determination of Bee Vradenburg. As the general manager of the Colorado Springs Symphony for 37 years, she lead the push for the center’s construction, had wizard-like abilities to find funding for the building and numerous programs, and is considered “a legend in the orchestra world” for her ability to grow the Colorado Springs Symphony from a fledgling operation into an 82 member organization that receive national attention. Vradenburg is known for creating the strong connection between the Colorado Springs community and the symphony. In her own words the construction of the PCC was “the highlight of what I have done and has brought me the greatest joy.”

Generously Submitted by Heather Poll, M.A.

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