Community honors Colorado Springs’ only black mayor by revamping Leon Young Pavilion

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - It’s been years in the making.

New renovations are complete at the Leon Young Pavilion, located at the corner of Fountain Boulevard and Corona Street.

“I’m ecstatic that it’s happening. There were times when it seemed like it wouldn’t happen, and I was a little bit nervous and concerned,” said Victoria Stone, who lives in the Hillside neighborhood.

More than two years ago, Stone’s daughter, Faith, and her friend Victoria Gallegos -- who were both in high school at the time -- started asking questions about a pavilion on the corner of East Fountain Boulevard and Corona Street near downtown Colorado Springs. It’d been built decades earlier to honor the city’s first -- and only -- black mayor, Leon Young.

“He was also a strong community champion and a long-time council member for the city of Colorado Springs, and his efforts are known for really revitalizing this Shooks Run area,” said Tilah Larson, a senior analyst for the city’s parks department. “He did a lot with youth and academic achievement in our community and is really beloved by a lot of citizens.”

After years of wear and tear, the pavilion had fallen into disrepair. So the community started meeting with the city to work on plans to revamp it. 11 News reported on a meeting in February 2019 when the city asked community members for input. Once everything was finalized, crews began renovations in March.

“The way it used to be, I wouldn’t even bring my grandkids, but the way that they’re going to fix it up and make it beautiful, I’ll bring my grandkids over here now,” said Paul Nelson, the pastor of Living Word Baptist Church in the Hillside neighborhood.

People who live in the area envision using the space to bring the community together.

“I can imagine us having block parties, birthday parties, other social events here,” said Josh Rafail.

Larson said some of the renovations included new lighting, electricity, picnic tables, benches and more handicap-accessibility. She said some materials were delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic, but by June, all the major pieces had been installed.

Due to the pandemic, the city is asking people to avoid gathering in large groups, but families are more than welcome to enjoy a picnic at the new pavilion.

“We’re asking for people to still abide by social distancing guidelines, so they can be used by groups of less than 10, or of course, families,” Larson said.

The community is also working on installing some sort of memorial to Leon Young, so everyone who visits the pavilion knows the story behind it.

“Once his name recognition comes back to this park, that’s going to mean a lot to me. It’s going to be good for the surrounding area,” Rafail said.

Even though the project took years to come to fruition, people who live in the area say it ended up being perfect timing, especially with protests demanding racial equality happening around the country.

“This is what we need to remember us as. Think about the civil rights movement. That’s how we started out. Think about all the churches that are doing good in the community here,” Stone said. “No one would ever say anything bad about Leon Young, and I would say that is the majority of the black community in our country. So the more we can use Leon Young as a mirror and a reflection of ourselves and also show that to people of different races, I think that’s the way to go.”