Construction is underway for the much-awaited United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) Visitor Center and True North Commons development outside USAFA’s North Gate. The center is a central part of the public-private partnership bringing a unique visitor experience to the Academy. The 57-acre development will include a publicly accessible commercial hotel, conference center, office space, and other amenities.
TrueNorth Commons is the vision of Colorado Springs-based Blue & Silver Development Partners, LLC, headed by Dan Schnepf, founder and former chief executive officer of Matrix, which performed the project’s planning and engineering components and created design guidelines to ensure the development is congruent with USAFA’s image.
“Planning and engineering for a project of this significant size requires innovative design to successfully integrate all components,” said Schnepf. “This is a very exciting opportunity for visitors of all ages to engage with the history of the U.S. Air Force and is expected to attract more than a million people a year.”
The strikingly designed new USAFA visitor center replaces the current center located on the academy campus, which saw a decline in visitors when enhanced security measures were adopted after 9/11. The new center will be more easily accessible to the public and feature displays representing Air Force and Space Force missions, hands-on experiences, and exhibits detailing USAFA history and athletics to help attract recruits to the academy. The center will also serve as a designated Colorado Welcome Center, staffed to provide visitors with face-to-face local and statewide travel resources.
The hotel and conference center will feature approximately 48,000 square feet of meeting and convention space — making it one of the largest venues in the area — a rooftop bar, restaurant, cafe, business center, spa, and gift shop inside, plus a pool, lawn, and sundeck outside. The landmark facility will have the only hotel in the country featuring two flight simulators in the lobby that provide guests with a real-life piloting experience. In addition to marketing to usual travelers and corporate groups, promotional efforts will also target meeting planners in the aerospace and technology industries, as well as visitors to academy athletic events and academy graduates, cadets, and their families.