Time to promote sportsplex, USOC

As soon as word came that Colorado Springs was revising its City for Champions proposal to the state Economic Development Commission, many assumed that public opinion had made a difference.

Then we learned about the most significant change — converting the baseball-oriented downtown stadium into a truly multi-purpose, 10,000-seat facility shaped more for soccer and other Olympic sports, as well as football. Also, the plan now includes an adjacent 3,000-seat indoor arena, adaptable to multiple uses as well, and perhaps a new velodrome.

That’s not all. Combined with the Olympic museum, the primary goal for that entire complex of downtown facilities now has shifted to Olympic sports. Already, many of those sports’ national governing bodies have pledged their support, saying they would look for ways to schedule major events and Olympic trials here.

And that means the Sky Sox, at least for now, will stay at its 25-year-old stadium in Stetson Hills. The team’s most loyal fans don’t want it to move downtown, attendance has continued to rise in the current location, and the current Security Service Field is situated in the city’s fastest-growing area.

So now the challenge for local organizers will be to sell the state commission on that new downtown sportsplex attracting enough business — and visitors, both athletes and spectators — to succeed and merit funding through the Regional Tourism Act.

It can happen, especially with that ambitious Olympic museum as the initial magnet. But for this revised downtown plan to have a chance, Colorado Springs must take an additional step. It’s been talked about, and nobody has stood in the way, but nothing substantial has moved forward.

We’re talking about Colorado Springs officially, loudly and aggressively labeling itself as America’s Olympic City. Not just on city stationery or in speeches by local leaders, but in every way imaginable. We should even dispense with City for Champions, because that gets in the way.

America’s Olympic City. The U.S. Olympic Committee has already given initial permission for Colorado Springs to use that title, so what’s the holdup?

That means making sure the architecture of the museum and adjoining sports venues will be as dramatic as possible.

It also means pursuing other bold tactics, such as creating a bright mega-sign alongside Interstate 25 in the downtown vicinity, visible to both north- and southbound travelers. Such a sign, perhaps more like a stadium scoreboard, could promote local events, include countdowns to the next Olympics (winter and summer), and lure visitors off I-25 into downtown.

With quick funding, such a scoreboard-type sign could be done before the other facilities. But that’s OK, because the serious promotional effort should be starting now, not later.

This campaign can’t be limited, either. It could mean signs and more in Denver, along interstates and even at Denver International Airport. It could mean using some of our most famous Olympic heroes — Peggy Fleming, Carl Lewis, Shaun White, Amy Van Dyken, Lindsey Vonn, Greg Louganis, Jackie Joyner-Kersee — to push that message on billboards, TV ads and more.

America’s Olympic City has to become reality, widely known and accepted, for that new sportsplex to succeed. So let’s find a way to make it happen.