Before an umbrella-toting crowd of about 50 community leaders, downtown advocates and media representatives, Mayor Steve Bach formally revealed a few details Monday of the city’s forthcoming application for up to $82 million in funds from the Colorado Regional Tourism Act.
In partnership with El Pomar Foundation, the Downtown Development Authority and the Anschutz Foundation, the city’s application includes four separate projects (with preliminary cost estimates):
U.S. Olympic museum, $59 million;
Downtown stadium and event center, $60 million;
UCCS Sports Medicine and Performance Center, $27 million;
Air Force Academy Gateway at Falcon Stadium Visitor Center, $20 million.
The project title: City for Champions.
The RTA allows local governments to apply for supplementary funding to build unique projects that attract out-of-state visitors, bringing in dollars that otherwise would not be spent in Colorado. The funding is derived from the expected increment in state sales tax above levels that could be expected without the projects.
Colorado’s Economic Development Commission will review applications and decide in months ahead whether to approve up to two cities’ proposals. Colorado Springs’ projects reinforce the city’s links with the U.S. Olympic Committee and the military community, as well as reinvigorate the long-moribund southwest downtown area.
The UCCS sports medicine facility would cater to a specialized global clientele, and it recalls the city’s distant past as a center for treating tuberculosis.
The city estimates that the four new facilities will attract thousands of new out-of-state visitors annually and lead to an increase of $312 million in new local sales tax revenues over the next 30 years.
Total cost for all four, including endowments for operating costs, should rise to more than $200 million. State funding would cover about one-third, with the other two-thirds picked up by private and public sources.
Speaking first at America the Beautiful Park, Bach noted that public funding could come by reauthorizing bonds that funded the 1999 Springs Community Improvement Program (SCIP), as well as a new market tax credit intended for investing in low-income areas. The stadium and Olympic museum are planned in a designated urban renewal area that abuts a low-income neighborhood.
Bach said that his administration would work to find operating efficiencies in the city budget for more funds, emphasizing: “(These funds) don’t come from new taxes!”
Bach called the museum “an iconic tribute … a mecca for Olympic fans across the country. It’s time to think big.”
El Pomar CEO Bill Hybl was next up, saying, “This is an exciting time for Colorado Springs. Communities go through cycles, and we’re beginning a new one. You can count on the trustees of the El Pomar Foundation as the city moves forward (with these plans).”
UCCS Chancellor Pam Shockley was equally pleased.
“I am excited that UCCS is a part of this vision,” she said. “I’m so excited about what ‘City for Champions’ will do for our city.”
The city’s formal application for funding will be presented to the state EDC on July 8. State guidelines suggest the application will include economic impact analyses, visitor projections, public and private revenue sources and commitments, construction costs and timetables.
After the announcement, the city released some information. Early funding came from the city, the Downtown Development Authority, El Pomar Foundation and the Anschutz Foundation. Each contributed $75,000.
The city shared an abbreviated version of the stadium economic impact analysis prepared by Tom Binnings and Paul Rochette of Summit Economics. According to their calculations, “…the economic and fiscal impacts for Colorado Springs as a result of the new stadium will be mainly driven by non-local visitors, since even if more residents of the City attend games, they may simply be switching their spending patterns.”
The new stadium could provide 224 new jobs, $6 million in additional household earnings, 10,000 additional hotel room nights, and $275,000 in city sales tax revenues.
If there were any skeptics, none spoke up. Doug Price, head of the Convention and Visitors Bureau, turned to the east, gestured toward a landscape of vacant lots and deserted industrial buildings, and said:
“Do you know what this is? This is blight. We’ll replace it with a significant new backdrop to our city.”