Cripple Creek Experiencing Early Economic Benefits From Signature Projects

Rick Langenberg.

It’s still too early for any form of celebration, but Cripple Creek’s signature development and tourism ventures are having a positive impact for the town financially.

For the first time in months, Cripple Creek Finance Director Paul Harris last week delivered a device-count report that wasn’t all “doom and gloom,” a scenario that occurred following the COVID epidemic.  This was a trend that developed when more casinos operated with fewer devices and games, following the COVID-related closures and restrictions.

According to Harris, the town now bustles with 3,033 gaming devices, which represents a 7.9 percent increase from the previous reporting period. “That is good news on the device front,” said Harris.  He attributed the rise in devices and games to the opening of the new Chamonix Casino and Hotel. The Chamonix sported 221 slots and 10 table games when they opened in late December 2023.

A few other adjustments gave the town’s gaming industry one of its stronger device counts since the COVID closures of 2020. Around the time of COVID, the town was equipped with 3,585 games and devices, according to Harris.

So, it’s still not time to uncork the champagne bottles.

As far as other developments with the Chamonix, building official Ken Hartsfield said last week that the casino has received the okay to open nearly the full bulk of their rooms. They also got the okay from the state fire marshal’s office. Initially, they only opened about 130 rooms and had a rough opening week with infrastructure woes.

Currently, only one of the facility’s two massive towers are fully open, and its main showcase sections, the high-end steakhouse restaurant, the spa and rooftop pool, still remain closed. The restaurant, 980 Prime, is slated to open sometime in February.

And the Ice Castles attraction continues to draw strong and consistent traffic numbers. Lines of cars regularly cruise up and down Hwy. 67 in the later afternoon and early evening hours from people traveling to or from Ice Castles.

On the upside, no major accidents have occurred due to this definite unprecedented hike in winter traffic.

“I think it is going very well,” said City Administrator Frank Salvato. He believes Ice Castles is on track to achieve their goal of generating 70,000 to 80,000 customers during their stint in Cripple Creek, which will end in March.  He stated that company operators have told him that visitor traffic at their site is doing better than expected.

To date, Salvato said he hasn’t heard of any major negative incidents due to the arrival of this iconic winter attraction.

Later this year, he stated officials and company operators will conduct a Pow-Wow to see if Ice Castles should return to Cripple Creek.  According to Salvato, the only main complaint has dealt with the formidable challenges for food and restaurant operators in serving the huge surge in winter customers. Normally, this a slower time of year for local eateries, so that aren’t staffed at peak levels.  Signs have been posted in front of some establishments warning patrons that wait times will increase.

He said he hopes the forthcoming opening of the District Saloon on Bennett Avenue will help alleviate the problem.

In some ways, the experience of getting a restaurant meal in Cripple Creek is similar to what customers, and especially families, may deal with during special events in the summer.

Festival season will soon kick into high gear with the Cripple Creek Ice Fest, planned for mid-February. This is a two-weekend event that could bring tens of thousands of additional visitors to the gaming community.