U.S. Olympic Museum: a virtual reality

U.S. Olympic Museum
An abstract image of the planned U.S. Olympic Museum all set to launch in 2018. (Courtesy of U.S. Olympic Museum)

By Aishwarya Kumar Lakshminarayanapuram

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Usain Bolt will be in the starting blocks, ready to sprint 27 mph toward yet another Olympic gold medal in the 100-meter heats. And so will you – if you visit the U.S. Olympic Museum set to open in 2018.

Virtual reality that will let visitors race next to their favorite athletes will be the prime focus of the first “comprehensive” Olympic and Paralympic museum in the United States, said Kristen Downs, director of administration for the U.S. Olympic Museum.

A young figure skater will be able look at what Olympian Jason Brown eats at each meal, and a 50-year-old retired sports enthusiast will be able to put on audio-visual goggles to see and hear the crowd cheering for his country in an Olympic arena, and, she said.

The price tag for the 60,000-square-foot building: $73 million. It will sit three miles from the Olympic Training Center in downtown Colorado Springs on a 1.7-acre plot by Vermijo and Sierra Madre streets.

Plans call for a free shuttle to help tourists get from one destination to the other.

The New York architecture firm Diller Scofidio+Renfro is designing the expansion of the Museum of Modern Art — and this project.

Athletes such as Olympic figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi, who won a gold medal in 1992, contributed ideas.

Conceived as a spiral structure, the building will look as if two flower petals extend from both sides. Inside, a central elevator will take visitors upstairs for a panoramic view.

U.S. Olympic Museum
A sketch of the museum’s side view. (Courtesy of the U.S. Olympic Museum)

Different spaces will showcase Hall of Fame Olympians, virtual-reality simulated events, a large broadcast studio, a theater, an event space and artifacts (such as figure skates, track shoes, medals and torches).

“This museum will be geared towards every age group, especially the younger kids to inspire them,” Downs said.

Curators will regularly change the displays to keep the experiential museum “relevant and make people come back for more,” Downs said.

Visitors will be able to see the artifacts as they walk along the spiral ramp, which will make it easy for people with disabilities to see everything, she said.

The Hall of Fame exhibit will change as new athletes are inducted every year, Downs said.

Plans also call for a theater to showcase inspiring movies and documentaries – “movies that give you goose bumps,” said Downs. Most likely, the museum will partner with a broadcast network that sponsors the U.S.O.C.

The project is a partnership between the U.S. Olympic Museum and the U.S. Olympic Committee. A feasibility study began in 2012 after a group of Colorado Springs citizens came up with the idea that the new destination would attract more tourists year round.

“What we want to do is work with the museum in terms of cross promoting each other, and in that way we can mutually benefit off of each other,” said Aron McGuire, director of the Colorado Olympic Training Center. “The cool thing about it is you can come up to the museum one day, and you can stick around and see the training center the next day or vice versa.”

Downs estimates that the number of visitors will more than triple from 100,000 to 350,000 within one year.

Colorado Springs real-estate company Nor’wood Development Group, known for the planned community Wolf Ranch, donated the land.

In the broadcast studio, visitors will be able to test their on-air skills. Eventually, the museum may live stream Olympic events.

There will also be a café and a retail space, and Downs said interviews to decide on the food and retail brands will begin this week.

Construction is scheduled to begin in March, and the museum should open in early 2018, said Downs. The entry fee per person, according to the feasibility study, will be $18. A tour of the Olympic Training Center costs $5.

Photo at top: An abstract image of the planned U.S. Olympic Museum all set to launch in 2018. (Courtesy of the U.S. Olympic Museum)