Lack of funds puts UCCS arena on hold

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UCCS hopes to build a 6,000-seat stadium near Nevada Avenue and Austin Bluffs Parkway.

UCCS hopes to eventually build a 6,000-seat stadium near Nevada Avenue and Austin Bluffs Parkway.

UC Colorado Springs’ hopes of building a 6,000-seat track and soccer arena where Olympic hopefuls as well as disabled athletes can train have been placed on hold as a result of the wobbly economy.

The project, which would have been built below Pulpit Rock, on property the university owns along Nevada Avenue, was conceived in 2007 by the athletic department.

A website was created to market the project. According to the site, the open-air arena was designed to “specifically accommodate track and field and soccer and it will be the first in Colorado Springs designed for teams of handicapped athletes. From the showers to the track, it will accommodate all athletes, handicapped or not.”

“The stadium — with 4,000 seats initially and room to expand to 10,000 — will be home to competitions and training camps. It will also give many Olympic hopefuls and others who have long sought to do endurance training in Colorado the excellent training facility they’ve been hoping for. The stadium will have the distinction of being the only high-altitude facility for USA Track & Field.”

UCCS originally planned to partner with USA Track & Field, Paralympics, Special Olympics, Wounded Warriors and others to build the stadium.

Estimated cost: up to $8 million, all of which would be raised privately.

Under a deal with the developers of University Village, a large-scale retail development on the west side of Nevada Avenue directly across from the proposed facility, excavation for the stadium was completed last year.

“The developers needed fill dirt,” said UCCS athletic director Steve Kirkham, “and we needed the site to be flattened and excavated. So we made a deal that worked out for everybody. We actually dug it out and the dirt work is completed.”

“That was a fantastic way to build infrastructure,” said UCCS Chancellor Pam Shockley, who confirmed this week that the project is “in limbo.”

“It’s still part of the (university’s) strategic master plan,” she said, “but the economy does not permit us to pursue it. It can’t be a priority over student scholarships.”

Shockley added that the university would only pursue the arena again if a major donor stepped forward and committed a substantial amount toward the project.

“In that case,” she said, “I might look at it differently.”