Banking & Finance  June 12, 2024

Blue Federal Credit Union sees the sky as the limit for Colorado growth

CHEYENNE — Over the last decade or so, Blue Federal Credit Union has repositioned itself from a Cheyenne-based institution closely associated with a local military installation into a multi-state player with branches across the Front Range and its name adorning one of Northern Colorado’s highest profile sports and entertainment venues

Blue’s growth efforts, which for years have been focused in the Boulder Valley and Northern Colorado, expanded even farther south with its merger this spring with Colorado Springs-based Aventa Credit Union.

“We operate in 27 locations that stretch from Cheyenne down to Pueblo, and out to Crestone and Grandby, so we hit the central Colorado region and all the way up and down the Interstate 25 corridor,” Blue FCU vice president of public relations and membership development Michele Bolkovatz said. 

With the Aventa merger, the combined institution has more than $2.25 billion in assets and a membership base that exceeds 150,000 people — more than twice the population of its Cheyenne homebase. 

In addition to bringing more assets, members and new markets into the fold, the Aventa merger provides Blue with a Colorado corporate and administrative homebase at the former Aventa headquarters in Colorado Springs. 

The institution took its current shape and accelerated its Colorado growth strategy in 2016 when Warren Federal Credit Union and Broomfield-based Community Financial Credit Union merged and were rebranded as Blue Federal Credit Union. At that time, Blue FCU had about $800 million in total assets and served 70,000 members at 11 branch locations in Broomfield, Boulder, Fort Collins, Wellington and Wyoming.

The rebrand, evocative of the color of the sky with “its unlimited potential and boundless optimism,” reflected Warren FCU’s U.S. Air Force roots (the institution originally served service members and their families at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne), but eliminated confusion from would-be members who didn’t realize civilians could also join, Bolkovatz said. 

The decision to focus growth efforts on Colorado was a fairly simple one, Bolkovatz said. “Just look at population growth. In Colorado, people are moving to a beautiful state, while Wyoming has had a decline in population” in certain years over the past decade. 

“Blue is very fortunate to have rich roots in the state of Wyoming,” she said. “Our membership is deep and we continue to invest and call Cheyenne our world headquarters. But we want to be a credit union that doesn’t just survive but thrives. Colorado is a booming community that aligns with our goals.”

Blue public relations manager Chandler Elmore added: “Cheyenne and southern Wyoming is the legacy for Blue. … (while) Colorado is the closest and most populated (neighboring market), so that’s a natural explanation for where we’d go next. Cheyenne is about 65,000 people — Fort Collins is double that, so it’s a numbers game.”

Blue has not only boosted its Colorado branch count in recent years, but its profile as well. 

Last year, the credit union took over naming rights of the former Budweiser Events Center. Now called Blue Arena, the 7,200 seat multi-purpose venue had been sponsored by Budweiser since it opened about 20 years ago.

Under the 2023 rights deal, Blue FCU will pay Larimer County, which owns the Budweiser Events Center, $7.5 million over 10 years, Larimer County Board of Commissioners documents released last year showed.

“It’s great to have a name on a building, but more importantly it’s about being a community connector in the places where we’re growing and our members already reside in,” Bolkovatz said.

Because Blue is still a relatively new player in the Colorado financial scene, “we wanted to not just have a billboard or a big advertisement, but to invest in pillars of the community that bring people together so they can experience fun and joy.”

In addition to the Loveland arena naming rights deal, Blue has inked sponsorship deals with with The Ascendant at TPC Colorado professional golf tournament in Berthoud, a town where Blue plans to build a new branch in the next couple of years; and with the Blue Sport Stable, a 186,000-square-foot facility — right across the street from a Blue branch — in Superior that features two NHL-sized ice rinks, one small ice rink, two half-size turf fields, three multi-use basketball/pickleball courts, three batting cages, two weight rooms and a CrossFit area.

“We strategically position our hubs for community engagement close to a branch,” Bolkovatz said.

The sponsorship deals indicate that “this institution is serious, they’re part of this community, and they’re big because they have (a high-profile presence) on I-25” in the form of the arena signage, Elmore said. “I’ve heard countless stories from members and non-members who say, ‘Hey, saw you on that building. Wow, you’re big time now.’ It provides a sense that we’re grounded and we’re not going anywhere. We’re not just going to put our logo up somewhere where we’re not part of the community. We’re part of the Loveland, Fort Collins, Northern Colorado community.”

The sponsorship partnerships have “played very nicely for us,” Elmore said. “It’s impacted us in terms of name recognition and also membership growth.”

Without naming specific markets, Bolkovatz hinted that Blue could sprout branches  in parts of Colorado outside of the Front Range or the central part of the state. 

The institution’s executive team is “always looking for opportunities to bring Blue (branches) to our members and grow within a community.”

Decisions about where to expand branch operations are “really about where our members are and where our potential members are and the viability” of brick-and-mortar locations. “We’re really strategic in our thought process. So if it makes sense to our members and for our growth, then absolutely” Blue could reach into new markets. 

Blue Federal Credit Union has repositioned itself from a Cheyenne-based institution closely associated with a local military installation into a multi-state player with branches across the Front Range and its name adorning one of Northern Colorado’s highest profile sports and entertainment venues. 

Lucas High
A Maryland native, Lucas has worked at news agencies from Wyoming to South Carolina before putting roots down in Colorado.
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