Momentum for downtown convention center picking up

Filed under: Focus |

If approved by local officials, the proposed downtown convention center will create 1,200 jobs and contribute more than $90 million annually to the local economy says Ron Butlin, vice president of Classic Companies and project manager for the $168 million hotel-convention center-sport complex initiative.

Among the project’s stakeholders, none would profit more than the downtown business community, according to a report from HVS International, the consultants hired last year by the Urban Renewal Authority to prepare the convention center/hotel feasibility analysis.

Subsequently, HVS was hired by the Greater Colorado Springs Business Improvement District to determine the economic impact of a convention center on the downtown business community. The findings, which were published this month, project 172,175 convention visitors during the center’s first year of operation. That number is projected to increase to 289,325 visitors by 2011.

The report estimates direct impact spending by conventioneers staying at the convention center hotel and at the Antlers Adam’s Mark at $239 per day. In addition, if the U.S. Olympic Committee moves into the complex, visitors and participants are expected to add another $143 to $190 per day in meals, purchases, overnight stays and entertainment.

Paul Sajovec, HVS senior vice president said the research indicates that 59.5 percent of attendees would stay at the headquarters or Adam’s Marks, and an additional five percent would stay within walking distance of the downtown core. The benefits analysis also indicates that 40-percent of convention visitors would stay at hotels outside the central business district.

Additional direct revenues would be generated by exhibitors, associations and others groups using hotel restaurants and commercial services.

In its summary, HVS predicts that the project will generate 289,025 convention center attendees, 12,000 to 20,000 additional visits to the USOC Hall of Fame and will drive hotel supply increases by 400 rooms in its initial years of operation.

Sajovec said there would be long-term positive impact on downtown real estate investment because of the increased demand for after-hours activities. “More clubs, restaurants, theaters and retail would be required,” he said, “the precursor to a spike in residential and retail development.”

Key to this civic enterprise will be the political and financial support of the downtown business community. HVS estimates that the economic impact on downtown would exceed $18 million in 2007, increasing to more than $40 million by 2011.

Beth Kosley, executive director for the Downtown Partnership and a spokeswoman for the Business Improvement District anticipates growing support to finance the $124 million construction of a hotel and convention center. “We’ve been going out to our members one-on-one and in-person to poll them on whether they’d be willing to support a special BID assessment to support the convention center,” she said. “The process is ongoing and we’re hopeful the members will allow us to go forward.”

Kosley also said that Palmer Village, a partnership between Classic Companies and Nor’Wood Development, would become join the group as landowners within the district’s boundaries. “Their involvement will be vital to our success,” she said.

Butlin said HVS International’s multi-million dollar estimated budget for the hotel-convention center-sports complex could be raised by issuing bonds totaling $157 million and securing a Section 108 Department of Housing and Urban Development loan.

He said the convention center’s hotel owner will be a Public Improvement Corporation that is established by the city and run by an independent board appointed by City Council. “The board will be responsible for choosing a hotel/developer/operator,” he said.

In addition to the Downtown Partnership, other Public Improvement Corporation board members would come from the following organizations: the Colorado Springs Urban Renewal Authority, the Convention and Visitors Bureau; the Greater Colorado Springs Business Improvement District; the USAC; the City of Colorado Springs; the Chamber of Commerce; and the Palmer Village redevelopment organization.

“We are committed to this project because it will help Colorado Springs retain jobs already here and to compete for new companies looking to relocate,” Butlin said. “It’s good for everybody – and would have an energizing affect on downtown.”

- Becky.Hurley@csbj.com