New headquarters facilitates expansion for Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center
For the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center, a leaky roof ultimately led to one of the nonprofit organization’s greatest leaps forward in its 40-plus year history.
What seemingly started as a $2,500 roof repair at their headquarters on Campion Trail in Breckenridge about five years ago ultimately evolved into a $2.4 million capital campaign that took the old “BOEC Base Camp,” as it was known, and reduced it down to its studs. Then, on Oct. 9 of this year, the BOEC unveiled their recreated headquarters, boasting an entirely new third floor with 11 beds for employees and two-thirds more storage space for BOEC programming gear.
The expansion effectively means the BOEC can increase its supply of summer gear and programming to meet what BOEC executive director Sonya Norris says is an increasing interest in adaptive sports and outdoor programming in recent years.
The new, expanded building also directly affects Jamie Overmyer, the BOEC’s wilderness program director for 15 years and counting. Overmyer said the new workforce housing and expanded storage space will enable the BOEC to, ostensibly, put more boats, rafts and tents in the outdoors come spring, summer and autumn while also helping to retain its most important talent.
“We were definitely limited in the amount of growth we could do because we didn’t have any more space for any more toys, if you will,” Overmyer said. “I didn’t see us closing or anything like that, but I did see us being able to grow. And now, we are in a place we can totally take off from versus working with so little.”
The completed capital campaign will also enable the BOEC to turn its attention to its next location for expansion: Breckenridge Ski Resort’s Peak 8. The BOEC currently operates all of its on-mountain programming off of the resort’s Peak 9 area, whether it be down near The Maggie or up at their current Wilderness Campus, which features the Griffith Lodge at 9,963 feet.
Over at Peak 8, Norris said one of the BOEC’s many community partners, Breckenridge Grand Vacations, has donated about 1,200 square feet in a Peak 8 hotel currently under construction. The BOEC also hopes this Peak 8 expansion will help to improve and increase its program offerings, potentially including mountain biking.
“That will be huge for us,” Norris said, “and really will require us to raise additional funds.”
For the BOEC, as they look into the future, it’s nothing but smiles at their new headquarters. The BOEC ultimately received in-kind contributions valued at $850,000 from local businesses, individuals and Breckenridge for what BOEC board chair Tim Casey initially described as a “leap of faith.” The contributions comprised about one-third of the BOEC’s total bill of $2.4 million to rebuild its headquarters into what it is now.
“That’s extraordinary when you think about it,” Casey said.
Those generous gifts included Jon Gunson of Custom Mountain Architects designing the building pro-bono and Rockridge Building Company completing the general contracting pro-bono. The town leased the property to the BOEC for a dollar a year for 50 years and several local landscaping companies donated $50,000 worth of landscaping work. Those are just a few examples. In the end, the entire process took five years, but what had initially started as a $2,500 roof repair multiplied in cost by nearly a thousand.
“We didn’t possibly think we could raise that kind of money,” Casey said. “And, so once we really kind of dipped our toes in the water and started looking at opportunities, all of a sudden we said, ‘I think we can do this.’”
Gunson was also the local man who put the idea in Casey’s head to add employee housing to the headquarters. The BOEC then went to the town and received permitting to put in 11 bedrooms for employees, asking the town for $356,000.
“And they said ‘this is the cheapest per-pillow cost of any workhouse housing we’ve ever done,’” Casey said.
Overmyer said the housing will benefit the BOEC by helping the nonprofit to retain employees year-over-year.
“Which means they can actually afford to live in Breckenridge,” Overmyer said, “and afford to work for the BOEC. My summer staff, asking them to work for me 20 days a month out in the field, they are out of their homes 20 days a month. And they are still being asked to pay market rate for a bedroom they’re in 10 days a month, maybe. It was so impractical for those guys.”
That third-floor expansion wouldn’t have been possible if Xcel Energy hadn’t given a small strip of property adjacent to the headquarters to the BOEC. That parcel enabled the BOEC to conduct work around the other side of the building, in turn expanding the structure and surrounding parking for employees.
In total, for a nonprofit that helps visitors from all over the world, Casey estimates 90 percent of the in-kind and monetary donations the BOEC received came from local businesses and individuals.
“Every major subcontractor, general contractor who does business in this county,” Casey said, “they stepped up and donated asphalt, grading work, rocks. And Xcel Energy really made this thing work.”
“Anytime there was a need, ‘what do we do about this?’ Somebody in the community was like, ‘Oh, I know somebody,” Overmyer said.
Looking ahead, in the wake of the BOEC wilderness program’s most successful year-to-date ever, complete with 4,575 “student days,” Norris and Overmyer envision not only more growth, but more ability to meet the demands of others with their own supply.
“We are constantly thinking of new ideas and going there,” Overmyer said. It’s just a matter of making the funds work.”
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