The long-awaited project to build Pikes Peak's new Summit House complex is finally ready to begin.

A groundbreaking ceremony will be held Monday at 9 a.m. on the summit of the mountain. The event, hosted by the City of Colorado Springs and the U.S. Forest Service, will include a symbolic controlled blast and a short speaking program. The Colorado Springs Chorale will perform "America the Beautiful."

A celebratory event will follow at 4:30 p.m. at the Penrose House Garden Pavilion.

Severe weather conditions and a short building season are among the challenges of building at 14,115 feet. Despite that, the complex is expected to be completed by the fall of 2020.

The existing summit house will remain fully operational until the new complex opens.

The complex will be built into the southeast side of the mountain, shielding the front from the prevailing winds. That's important, because the complex must be able to withstand winds hurling grit at nearly 200 mph.

"By controlling where cars and people go, it controls the grit that blows across," Stuart L. Coppedge, principal of RTA Architects in Colorado Springs, told The Gazette a year ago. "Most grit blows lower, so we have a wall at the bottom (of the glass). We might add a sacrificial layer that we could replace more easily than special glass."

That special glass is a triple-glazed electrochromic material that darkens to cut glare and solar gain, helping to prevent excessive heat and marred views.

"Because the views are the whole thing," Coppedge said. "We're really trying to avoid mechanical stuff that can break, that takes a lot of maintenance. The glass darkens to cut the glare. As the sun moves across the sky, the glass would track it around."

The large windows will also feature a ceramic frit - providing UV patterns in the glass that birds can see but people can't.

"Five or 10 years from now, the summit will feel more pristine and more natural than it does now" Coppedge said. "It's really one of the very few places in the world where anyone from an Olympic athlete to a disabled person can reach such a high altitude. It truly will be one of those things that's going to be on the top of everybody's bucket list."

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