Mayor Steve Bach urged a crowd of 700 to get behind the Regional Tourism Act projects, to think big and to ignore critics of the city’s actions.
“This is our time,” he told the crowd of business leaders Thursday at the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance’s State of the City luncheon at The Broadmoor. “And we can do big things if we think big.”
But he also defended the city’s decision to keep the RTA projects a secret until handed over to the state’s Office of Economic Development and International Trade.
“We had to do it that way, so we wouldn’t tip our hands to potential competitors,” he said. “Some of the finest people in the city came up with these proposals.”
The RTA grants are given by the state to projects that will increase visits from people who live in other parts of the country. The only city to apply for the grants this year, the Colorado Springs’ proposal includes a multi-purpose stadium, the UCCS sports and performance center, an Olympic museum and a new visitors center at the Air Force Academy.
Bach assured that the city would now seek public buy-in for the projects, which are projected to bring about 450,000 new visitors to the city every year and create 750 new full-time jobs.
“Now it’s time for the public process,” he said. “We’ll have town hall meetings, we’ll have public hearings. I encourage you to support this proposal, once you know all the details.”
Bach also promised that the city would not borrow any money to complete the RTA projects without first getting approval from the voters.
But the event wasn’t all business, all the time. Just like Bach’s first State of the City address, it featured a video with people throughout the city having fun and working hard. Not only were there videos of children playing in the park, people rock-climbing at Garden of the Gods and of local theater and musical performances, there were also videos of people building trails, fighting fires and arresting criminals.
He also gave a key to the city – the highest award from Colorado Springs – to Bob Cutter, executive director of Colorado Springs Together, the nonprofit that helped jumpstart the reconstruction process in Mountain Shadows, after 342 homes were burned last year in the Waldo Canyon fire. The nonprofit recently closed its doors, as demand for help slowed.
Pam Shockley-Zalabak, chancellor of UCCS, also received an award from Bach, thanking her for efforts to revitalize the North Nevada Avenue corridor near the school and for building the Lane Center for Health Sciences.
“This is an example of thinking big,” he said. “They started this with no funding and so many obstacles. But they didn’t let that get in the way. They found a way. Pam once told me she doesn’t wait for consensus, she just goes ahead. It’s an interesting concept.”