Attorneys representing clients in the courtroom are guided by a simple set of rules:
The city’s response to the third-party analysis of the administration’s application for state tax-increment funding of the “City for Champions” proposal may be a classic example of table-pounding.
It was impressive that the city and its array of consultants pulled together a 58-page response (plus 17 pages of supportive letters) to the analysis, which had been prepared by Denver-based Economic and Planning Systems (EPS). EPS faulted many of the assumptions, methodologies and conclusions in the original report. Clearly challenged, the city radically changed its proposal.
Forget the downtown baseball stadium! That’s history – now it’s the “Colorado Sports and Event Center” including a 3,000-seat indoor arena and a long field more suitable for soccer, rugby and other sports on the Olympic menu. New renditions appear to show a velodrome as well … let me see, don’t we already have one of those at Memorial Park? Hey, who cares? Velodromes are like hundred-dollar bills; you can never have too many! No mention of an equestrian course and attached stables, but who knows – that may be next.
The RTA team even coined a particularly repellent neologism to describe the new synergy between the Olympic Museum and the downtown sports and events center: “Olympicizing.”
“Each NGB or amateur sport represents a particular aspect of the Olympic movement: a team, athlete group or organization, and many elite and aspiring athletes frequently compete for a chance to represent America on the Olympic Team,” the city notes in its response. “This leads to pre- Olympic and amateur sporting events such as Olympic Time Trials, Qualifiers, Playoffs and World Championship events on an ongoing basis – not just as a run-up to the Olympics every four years. These regional and national events draw thousands of athletes and spectators from around the country and occur with regularity. With a world-class Colorado Sports and Event Center co-located with the United States Olympic Museum, these national events and others would occur at the epicenter of the U.S. Olympic Movement, right in the heart of downtown Colorado Springs. The term ‘Olympicizing’ has been manufactured to describe these developments and refers to focusing the event attraction and marketing efforts towards local and other National Governing Bodies (NGBs), as well as other sporting teams.”
Having scrapped the baseball stadium, the city argues that the newly Olympicized projects will attract even more net new out-of-state visitors than the original iteration. That may be true, but given that this new project was apparently fleshed out in less than two weeks, the numbers may be even more speculative than those of its predecessor.
The RTA team also took umbrage at EPS’ visitor number estimates for the Olympic Museum. Arguing that the Olympic Museum is best compared to other sports-related venues such as the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., the NFL Hall or Fame in Canton, Ohio, or the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, N.C., EPS cut the city’s estimate by a third, dropping the number from 350,000 to 250,000.
In a dozen pages of epic table-pounding, the C4C folks (as they call themselves) claimed that the Olympic brand is a far more significant, exciting and popular sports brand brand than any other. Here are a few of their claims:
“The facilities chosen by EPS merely represent subsets of the sporting industry fan base. Because the United States Olympic Museum is unique in the entire U.S. and even in North America, it is extraordinarily unique. In addition, none of these halls of fame can claim the same kind of concentration that Olympic entities have in Colorado Springs: the United States Olympic Committee, 23 governing bodies, and one of just three national training facilities in the United States…In addition to brand appeal, the Olympics account for the top ten sporting events in US TV viewing history. NBC Sports Group has provided the Applicant with an internal marketing document proving that the USOC and NFL are the top two sporting markets in the country … Comparable Facilities to the United States Olympic Museum will be those that reach the American population at large. These tend not to be sport specific but appeal to the nation as a whole, draw on the American spirit, dream and therefore anchor themselves in national American identity.”
And what might such facilities be? The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland (450,000 annual visitors), the International Spy Museum in Washington (700,000) and the World War II Museum in New Orleans (375,000).
The response conveniently fails to note that New Orleans and Washington are major tourist draws by themselves, attracting millions of visitors annually looking for things to do. If located in Colorado Springs, it’s doubtful that either venue would attract such visitor numbers. And as for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame – Hendrix, the Stones, U2, Blondie and the Eagles vs. the Olympics? American dream-wise, it’s no contest. It’s only Rock & Roll but I like it, like it, yes I do!
But those are relatively minor caveats. The revised application, which EPS will in turn review, seems more to the point than the last one. While specific funding sources are not precisely identified, a letter from the El Pomar Foundation CEO Bill Hybl all but commits the organization to providing substantial support to the Olympic-related projects. Visitation levels, whether estimated by the city or EPS, are speculative by nature, and probably won’t materially affect funding decisions by the Colorado Economic Development Commission. The state DC is scheduled to hear the city’s presentation on Dec. 4 and render a decision on Dec. 16.
Bill Hybl’s letter and Dick Celeste’s presentation may count for a lot more than EPS’ sour grapes. This time, pounding the table may win the case.