(COLORADO SPRINGS) – The former Sunbird restaurant, a Colorado Springs staple that stood on a hillside in northwest Colorado Springs for over 44 years, was demolished on Monday, April 10.

Formerly a go-to spot for families during events and celebrations, as well as picturesque views of the city and Pikes Peak, the Sunbird restaurant was reduced to rubble on Monday. It is to be replaced by a state-of-the-art wedding and event center called The High Garden Event Center.

“It was just not financially feasible to save the building…The infrastructure here was not savable.
We agreed as a team that it was best to start new and put up a big, beautiful building that we could be proud of,” said Colt Haugen, the President of The High Garden Event Center.

The new event center is planned to be an 18,000-square-foot venue, with a courtyard, chapel, banquet hall, and more, according to Haugen. The space will be able to seat 350 people, at most, per event, but there will also be spaces for smaller events.

“It is a beautiful, well-thought-out building,” said Haugen, with pride.

However, some members of the Colorado Springs community feel nostalgic about the Sunbird’s demolition.

“It was great in its heyday, so it’s a bittersweet time… And nostalgic as far as seeing… that memory that they had, kind of gone away,” said Al Smith, who lives in the same community as the Sunbird restaurant.

The restaurant even held weddings for many community members against its majestic backdrop. While the restaurant provided the views, the Sunbird restaurant sign was also the view for people down below.

Many who hadn’t ever been to the Sunbird restaurant, know it by its signage. The bright letters could be seen by drivers traveling northbound on I-25 for decades.

“It’s kind of an end of an era,” said Jennifer Zezlina, a long-time Springs resident, who said she would see the sign every day on her commute to work. Zezlina is also the architect for the project.

Haugen, the developer, relates to the sentimental value of the restaurant. As a child, he said he would come to the Sunbird every Easter Sunday, and when he was in high school, he came to the Sunbird for his after-prom event. With the new space he is building, Haugen is hoping to create a similarly iconic space where a new generation can create memories like he once did.

“Coming out of the rubble of this is going to be…everything the Sunbird was, except for a full-service restaurant,” said Haugen. “I would love for high school kids to come back to this building after we get it open, and they have their prom here…and have the same memories walking in the door that I had as a kid.”

The Sunbird restaurant hasn’t been operating for five years now, officially closing its doors in February 2018. The surrounding community says they are excited about their new neighbor.

“We have had conversations with the new owner Colt [Haugen]. He’s very amenable to the concerns that we have expressed,” said Smith, whose property neighbors the Sunbird restaurant.

Smith says that he isn’t worried about construction, or noise over the next year, but if he does have issues, he is confident Haugen will address his concerns. This is the general consensus among neighbors, who say they aren’t too worried about parking, or an influx of people, especially since it is only a space that will hold events periodically.

“The Sunbird has run its course… This, I think, represents a new beginning for the community,” said Smith.

The event center is expected to open in the fall of 2024, according to Haugen. He says they plan to have virtual tours up by the Christmas season, so people can start booking weddings in advance.