Norris Penrose Event Center has its roots in rodeo. Three men, Spencer Penrose, Charles Leaming Tutt, and Jasper Ackerman, are primarily responsible for creating three of this city’s most prominent organizations. Those organizations are the Colorado Rodeo Associations (CSRA), the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA), and Norris-Penrose Event Center.
Spencer Penrose was a man of considerable vision. He believed that the City could capitalize on the Pikes Peak or Bust Days celebration and beef up the tourist industry. The Pikes Peak or Bust Days celebration of 1936 had been particularly successful and had drawn a large number of tourists to the city. The following year, Penrose staged the first professional rodeo at the Cheyenne Mountain Polo Field on what is now Polo Drive. There was an immediate problem; the polo stadium only provided seats for 500 people.
Penrose immediately began plans for building a stadium that would contain 10,000 covered seats. In 1938 the “Will Rogers Memorial Stadium” was built on the west side of the Broadmoor Lake across from the Hotel. It was opened, but still unfinished, and initially dedicated, in August, 1938 and hosted the Pikes Peak of Bust Rodeo. It was re-dedicated in November, 1938 when it hosted a football game between the Los Angeles Bulldogs and the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The stadium was considerably larger than the present stadium. It was horseshoe shaped and could seat 10,000 people. The cost of building it was $1,000,000.00 and, as Penrose pointed out during the dedication, not one cent of government money went into its construction.(This was particularly significant in 1937-38 because very little was built in Colorado without government money.)
Penrose enlisted the help of two close friends to promote the Rodeo. Charles Leaming Tutt had been his mining partner and Jasper Ackerman was a banker and rancher. The efforts of these three spawned the Cowhands, which is the predecessor to the Colorado Springs Rodeo Association, and the Turtles, which is the predecessor to the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.
The Rodeo was held every year except 1942-1945. When it resumed after World War II it was dedicated to the men and women who had sacrificed their lives in the War. This tradition has continued to this day and is also the tradition now of the Norris Penrose Event Center.