Ride the Rockies
Special Olympics/Ride the Rockies


Behind the scenes of Special Olympics Colorado’s 2015 Summer Games and Ride the Rockies

Over the course of one very busy week this summer, thousands will visit Colorado Mesa University for two major events. On June 5–7, Special Olympics Colorado will bring nearly 2,000 people — athletes, staff, volunteers and fans — to the university campus for the organization’s 2015 Summer Games, the state’s largest Special Olympics sporting event of the year. On June 13–15, approximately 2,000 cyclists, vendors and supporters arrive for Ride the Rockies, a bicycle tour that starts at CMU (ride headquarters), crosses the Rocky Mountains and ends 465 miles away in Westcliffe, Colo.

What does it take to host 4,000 people and two large events in such a short period of time? CMU’s support staff makes it look easy, a feat achieved through months of behind-the-scenes work and interdepartmental collaboration.

“We have an awesome team who knows how to put on big events,” said Jennifer Stoll, CMU Event Manager. “All the departments work together and they always do a great job of rolling out the red carpet for the people who come on campus.”

This was the third consecutive year that the university will host Special Olympics Colorado’s Summer Games, and the second time it has hosted Ride the Rockies. It’s little wonder organizers chose Colorado Mesa University to host each event. The institution offers convenient housing for large crowds, state-of-the-art athletic facilities and enough space for celebrations and more.

Practically every inch of the campus will be used, necessitating teamwork among university departments including Parking Services, the University Center, Residence Life, Athletics, the Registrar’s Office and especially Facilities Services, which Stoll said is the glue that holds everything together.

“The only way huge events like this can take place is through collaboration,” said Tina Kleespies, director of the University Center. “It’s fun to work with everyone across campus.”

Planning for events like the summer games and Ride the Rockies begins six months to a year in advance.

“There are lots of pieces to this puzzle,” said Tom Ramler, CMU Associate Director of Facilities Services. “There are requests for the athletic fields they’ll need to use, all the tables and chairs that they need, the stages that need to be set up and the tent that has to be out. The coordination piece of that is really what this campus does so well. I don’t know another campus that I’ve been involved with [where] all the various departments integrate so well.”

The logistics can be stressful, especially when they’re compounded by a time crunch. Students moved out of the residence halls in mid-May and staff from Special Olympics Colorado arrived soon after that, followed quickly by athletes, volunteers and supporters. Facilities staff was on campus preparing for these events from 6am to 3am every day for three weeks.

“Summer residents are moving, rooms have to all be cleaned, [we have] to get all those beds made and make sure we have extra supplies,” said Jody Diers, director of Residence Life. “And turnaround time on that is one or two weeks.” Most of that process will be repeated less than a week later to get ready for Ride the Rockies.

It’s a tall order, but residence hall coordinator Jeff Turner said that CMU’s facilities and helpful student and university staff shine during major events.

“What I think is so great about these events is that when [guests] come to campus, they’re thrilled with our facilities,” Kleespies said. “We exceed their expectations. They think, ‘We want to come back!’”

Stoll agreed. “Each of those events has more than 2,000 people on campus that wouldn’t otherwise be here,” she said. “It really gives us an opportunity to show off campus and everything that CMU is all about.”

So does the CMU team think the effort is worth it? Absolutely. “It’s definitely a big undertaking but it’s really great that everyone is willing to put forth all the time and effort,” Turner said.

Media Contact

Dana Nunn, Director of Media Relations


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