Watch what’s happening with the city’s Regional Tourism Act package, in particular the ambitious concept of a U.S. Olympic museum, and you won’t see many clear messages.
You simply have to read the tea leaves, which sometimes doesn’t mean what is happening, but rather what isn’t.
For example, skeptics have been feasting on the fact that the U.S. Olympic Committee hasn’t given its public blessing to a big-time museum in Colorado Springs.
Yet, when local leaders trumpeted the museum as a major part of their state Regional Tourism Act funding application this week, El Pomar Foundation CEO Bill Hybl took the microphone and said, “Communities go through cycles, and we’re beginning a new one.” Hybl added that city residents can count on El Pomar to help make the “City for Champions” package become reality.
Now, consider that Hybl twice has served as USOC president and still has the title of president emeritus. Does anyone think Hybl would stand up with Mayor Steve Bach and others, extolling what the museum could mean to Colorado Springs, if he didn’t know that the USOC’s board of directors has given the concept at least a preliminary green light?
In reality, the USOC board did agree in its June meeting to let the museum plans move forward, pending regular updates. But given the organization’s personality and political sensitivity, you can be sure that the USOC will go along with the idea only if Colorado Springs’ apparent need for $60 million in private donations for the entire RTA project would not have any effect on the USOC’s constant fundraising efforts.
You can also expect other requirements to surface from the USOC, such as approving the museum’s philosophy and strategy toward exhibits, making sure the Olympic rings are used appropriately, and allowing the USOC to have a considerable merchandising presence inside the museum.
One more likely stipulation, based on memories from when Colorado Springs tried to make an Olympic Hall of Fame museum happen in the 1980s: Rest assured, the local organizers will know (if they don’t already) that they must raise enough money for an endowment to cover all operating costs permanently, guaranteeing the museum’s survival without any concern for financial embarrassment.
Another encouraging note: We hear from local supporters that the museum organizing group, headed by former Colorado College president and Ohio Gov. Dick Celeste, has taken care to develop realistic projections for the Olympic museum’s needed visitor numbers. That figure, we’re told, would be about 200,000 visitors a year for the museum to be self-sustaining.
Of course, all the thorough preparations in the world won’t matter unless the “City for Champions” concept is able to go forward. The scary part is that the “insiders” have taken the chance of going this far without building — or properly gauging — public support. What if, let’s say, the public response skews heavily against including a downtown baseball stadium, but in favor of everything else? Would the city be willing to scale back, or is it all or nothing?
We don’t know that answer. But we do know that neither the USOC, nor the Colorado Springs Sky Sox ownership, is standing in the way. If they were, it would be common knowledge.
For the time being, that’s as clear an indication of support as the city apparently wants.