Sports equals economic development

Filed under: Opinion | Tags:,

Colorado Springs is a sports town … supposedly.

A disjointed sports town, perhaps.

Investment in the community during a downturn in the economy makes more sense than curling up and letting opportunities pass by. The city’s decision to save money by not watering parks and letting the grass turn brown is an example of the shortsightedness that is the Springs. In the long run, ugliness will cost the city its reputation.

The city of Glendale has invested in Infinity Park and is now reaping the rewards. Hotels were packed last weekend for the men’s rugby championship. I spent time with Glendale City Councilwoman Patricia Opper and asked her how Glendale was able to build such a multi-use stadium. She said “new leadership had a vision for Glendale and Infinity Park. They stayed on that vision to make it happen.”

It is working. The state-of-the-art events center is getting busier and getting booked through 2010. I spoke with a young family that related that they heard about the park on the radio and found Infinity Park a great, affordable way to spend an afternoon. Now they are learning about rugby.

The city of Frisco, Texas, has built a 145-acre sports and entertainment park. Frisco is 25 miles from the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area. Pizza Hut Park is the anchor and holds 20,500 people for a sporting event and can hold 27,000 for a concert. It is surrounded by 17 soccer fields used by international, professional, high school soccer, high school football, concerts and community events. The site is used 300 days a year and brings in 1.2 million people annually,

Perhaps a 27,000 seat stadium would be a bit large for the Springs, but we should find a way to build something. Maybe Borriello Brothers or Louie’s pizza would pay to put its name on the park.

And I have changed my mind about a sporting venue downtown. I want downtown to have investment and a plethora of activities, but for sports, it is time to look elsewhere.

Let’s go where the land is.

The city already owns 60 acres on north Powers Boulevard, 22 acres near Memorial North Hospital and 54 acres next to Security Service Stadium. North Powers would have easy access to Interstate 25, and a park there may lead to sharing sporting events with Denver. If a multi-use sports park were built with fields for games such as lacrosse and rugby, being near the hospital would be a good thing.

As long as events at the two sites didn’t overlap, the Security Service Stadium parking lot could be used for the stadium at the new park.

Finding a way to pay for a modern sports and entertainment facility is the big hurdle. The community may support something specifically tied to sports. Residents voted yes for the trails and open space tax. Maybe El Paso County and Colorado Springs residents believe in sports enough to make it happen. The Frisco Sports and Entertainment Park cost $105 million.

The city could donate one of the acreages it owns with a 10-year tax abatement to a developer. The developer would then come up with the business plan to make it happen.

Collaboration

Our newsroom is working on a commemorative book, chronicling much of the past 20 years of the Springs business community. The term collaboration keeps coming up. Was there more teamwork in years past? Perhaps. Now is the time we need to get back to more collaborative deals to invest in the community infrastructure and build something we all can be proud of.

Ironically, as I was reviewing the very first edition, April 1, 1989, of the CSBJ the front page story was a pro/con piece on a multi-use arena. Our very own John Hazlehurst was then the spokesman for a group called Citizens Using Resources Efficiently or CURE. He is quoted saying, “The arena is a frivolous, imagined economic benefit and besides, this city doesn’t like taxes.”

Now on staff, Hazlehurst pointed out he was referring to a completely publicly funded stadium and agrees now, that a largely privately funded stadium would be beneficial to the community.

Lon Matejczyk is publisher of the Colorado Springs Business Journal. He can be reached at Lon.Matejczyk@csbj.com or 329-5202.

3 Responses to Sports equals economic development

  1. “Now on staff, Hazlehurst… agrees now, that a privately funded stadium would be beneficial to the community.”? Let’s see a direct quote, Lon! Since when is it OK to put words in the mouth of an employee? P.S. Rugby sucks!

    Dick Burns
    June 8, 2009 at 7:03 am

  2. That was a direct quote from John. I’ll tell Chris Jones the 6′ 6″ second row (Lock) and almost as wide as he is tall you think Rugby sucks. He is in Denver playing for the English Saxons right now.

    http://www.denverpost.com/sports/ci_12537423

    Lon Matejczyk
    June 9, 2009 at 3:50 pm

  3. My Yorkshire Terrier is smarter than your rugby player!

    Dick Burns
    June 11, 2009 at 8:17 am