The former Sunbird Restaurant, perched on a hillside in northwest Colorado Springs that has been a go-to place for dining, family gatherings, and great views for more than 40 years until it closed in 2018, is to be demolished and replaced by a state-of-the-art wedding and event center, proposed by Three local businessmen.
The High Garden, as the new venue will be called, will provide 16,000 square feet to accommodate weddings, corporate gatherings, baby showers and other events, said Colt Haugen, chief operating officer and co-owner of Springs-based ad agency WickedThink.
LLC set up by Haugen, WickedThink CEO Kim Shugart — longtime marketing and communications executive and co-founder of the Magnum Shooting Center in Springs — and Shugart’s son, Mike, Vice President of WickedThink, paid nearly $1.8 million in May 2021 for ownership Former Sunbird, according to El Paso County land records.
Land records show that the approximately 9,700-square-foot Sunbird Building is located on approximately 4 acres.
Since buying it, Haugen said he’s worked with Shugarts to develop a vision for the venue — soliciting input from wedding planners, photographers, caterers, and others in the event industry. They are now seeking approval for a development plan for their project, according to a proposal submitted to city government officials.
In a best-case scenario, they hope to begin demolishing the Sunbird building and building the new venue this summer at the restaurant’s site, 230 Point of the Pines Drive. The High Garden project is scheduled for completion in the fall of 2023.
“It’s a beautiful opportunity for the city of Colorado Springs,” Haugen said. “We need something like this. There has been an incredible demand for an event space after the COVID pandemic that was specifically created to allow a large enough opportunity for people to come together in spaces large and small, indoor and outdoor.
“The site is great,” he added. “It has incredible city views, great parking. The property itself is iconic.”
Sunbird, known as Sunbird Mountain Grill and Tavern at the time of its closing, opened in 1975.
Pikes Peak and Cheyenne Mountain has become famous for its award-winning cuisine and unique views of the city, the specialty restaurant company said at the time when it announced the restaurant’s closure.
Families gathered there to celebrate birthdays and wedding anniversaries, while couples got engaged and married, while Sunday brunch was especially popular.
However, The Sunbird has faltered over the years. It got a new name, menu, and revamp in 2013, though a Gazette restaurant review four years later said Sunbird was “showing its age” and described its food quality as “inconsistent”.
“For a long time, it was a very, very nice restaurant,” said Haugen. “It’s just, this location won’t work for a restaurant anymore. You must have a reason to go to this place.”
He added that the restaurant building itself was in poor condition.
“There is nothing that can be done to save this building,” said Haugen.
He said the upper garden would be divided into four parts: a banquet hall for 350 people for meals; Separate indoor event side – with Pikes Peak stage and backdrop – for weddings and other activities that can seat another 350 people; The lobby is a common area connected to patios and covered decks. High Garden will also have kitchen facilities on site.
Haugen said weddings can take place in the indoor event space or they can take place outside, overlooking the city and mountains.
“If you want an outdoor wedding in July, no problem; we have a lovely big patio in the back that looks out over the whole city,” he said. “If the weather turns negative, we take you inside, real ease, and the wedding can be inside.”
Haugen said the building itself would have a mountainous country, similar in look and feel.
“So it doesn’t look like a spaceship on the hill,” he said. “It looks a lot like a castle/inn, with beautiful stonework, covered patios…providing views of the city.”