Morgridge Commons offers first-of-its-kind space in western Colorado | PostIndependent.com

Morgridge Commons offers first-of-its-kind space in western Colorado

The Western Slope now has 13,000 square feet of state-of-the-art conference space available in the heart of Glenwood Springs.

Colorado Mountain College's Morgridge Commons celebrated its grand opening Monday. It was the culmination of a number of partnerships between funders, the college and the communities it serves.

"When I started a little over four years ago, this was 13,000 square feet of concrete shelled space. There was nothing in here," said CMC President Carrie Besnette Hauser.

Debbie Wilde and Tresi Houpt hosted planning charettes so the college could gather community feedback on how the space could best address needs.

"It was meeting space. It was collaborative space," Hauser said.

It took collaboration to make the space reality. Garfield County Federal Mineral Lease District was the first donor, and its $750,000 grant was the largest the organization has made to date. Three of the rooms are named in its honor: Garfield 1, 2 and 3.

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That first funder helped provide leverage to raise the remainder of the money, Hauser said. The Morgridge Family Foundation garnered naming rights with its $1.25 million gift. Other donors include The Boettcher Foundation ($175,000) and the Gates Family Foundation ($40,000), and smaller meeting rooms carry their names. These donors contributed the majority of money necessary for the $2.5 million effort.

The resulting project includes several smaller conference rooms and a larger, flexible space that can be subdivided into as many as four rooms. During the building's soft opening, groups have found that setup ideal for general sessions followed my smaller-group breakout sessions, said retired CMC CFO Linda English.

Together, the meeting rooms can host as many as 373 people. An adjacent Garfield County Public Library District meeting space can hold another 92 people and can be linked to the other rooms via video conferencing.

"The reason we've been able to do that is the power of partnership," said GCPLD Executive Director Jesse Henning.

The rooms are each outfitted with touch panel controls so users can easily connect their laptops and other devices to the in-house systems. Although the technology is intuitive, said Executive Director of Information Technology Jim English, staff are trained to support those who rent the space. Morgridge Commons utilizes broadband fiber connections and all units are high definition. The rooms easily link with CMC campuses in Steamboat, Rifle and Aspen, as well as outside entities.

"Given the technology that's been installed, the whole mountain community can benefit from this," said Houpt, a former county commissioner.

"It's not just outrageous for the Western Slope. It's outrageous for the state," said Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association Chairman of the Board Ian Exelbert. Exelbert has hosted meetings in Morgridge Commons with business associates from around the state and said his Denver visitors were just as impressed as locals.

During the charettes, community members said it was important not to siphon business from the area even while creating something new. The college has identified a number of preferred caterers and a hotel partner in an effort to not only avoid competition, but also instead support the local economy.

Aesthetics were also important to the design, Hauser said. A wall-sized John Fielder photograph of lupines greets visitors, and another mural-sized Fielder photo, this one of the Flat Tops Wilderness, lines the back wall of the Delaplane Board Room. They are efforts to bring the outdoors in, and the space's many windows do the same.

Morgridge Family Foundation Vice President Carrie Morgridge suggested the open catering kitchen during a tour of the partially built space. It's adjacent to an art gallery, which currently displays work by Anderson Ranch's Ben Timpson.

Although Morgridge Commons officially opened to the public Monday, it's already hosted a number of groups in an effort to work out kinks in the past several months. Area nonprofit YouthZone was among those to have used the space. Executive Director Lori Mueller said many nonprofits have limited meeting space, and this has already been an asset for her organization.

She said, "It creates and inspires creativity, I think, when you have space that supports what you're trying to do."

Learn more

Rental rates vary based on the requested space and requesting organization. They begin at $10 per hour for a nonprofit in the CMC district during regular business hours.

Learn more at morgridgecommons.org.