Week after week, we hear assurances that important announcements are coming, perhaps soon, in regard to City for Champions.
Just a guess, but that probably would not include anything newsworthy in regard to the proposed multipurpose Colorado Sports and Event Center, commonly known as the downtown stadium.
In truth, it’s an indoor-outdoor complex adjacent to the planned U.S. Olympic Museum, including a 10,000-seat outdoor stadium and a 3,000-seat indoor facility, currently projected to cost nearly $92.7 million with an opening date in early 2019.
Listen to even some C4C supporters, and the most consistent message seems to be that the “stadium” portion of the overall project is the least certain of moving forward in its current form.
That doesn’t mean it will fall apart, and we now know that the City for Champions isn’t an all-or-nothing proposition. We also know that the C4C organizers haven’t given up on the Sports and Event Center (which, by the way, certainly could benefit from a sexier name at some point, the sooner the better).
The intent here is not to dig into the uncertainty of whether the sports complex will become reality, and whether it truly can attract enough events involving Olympic sports to meet the projections for attendance and tourism impact.
Instead, my suggestion is that the organizers should look into a backup plan — especially if they want to create a true downtown showplace to package with the museum.
It should be obvious by now that the U.S. Olympic Museum inevitably will be built, since its organizers now have a working agreement with the U.S. Olympic Committee and have also indicated they expect to raise a whopping $70 million — more than the planned cost of $59 million as indicated on the C4C website.
Just from those numbers, the puzzle pieces as we know them don’t fit. That’s more than twice as much private funding as initially planned for the museum. We have to assume other financing options might be percolating related to C4C. In other words, if the museum will open by 2017 before the events complex is ready, perhaps the museum will be able to help pay for more of the planned infrastructure, such as parking and a pedestrian bridge over the railroad.
Wat could become the backup plan for the sports complex?
Here’s a possible answer:
Now that we know the stadium/complex can be separated from City for Champions, let’s consider exactly that. And let’s revisit the original idea of the primary purpose for a downtown stadium being a ballpark for the Colorado Springs Sky Sox.
Many leaders thought it was the ideal alternative last year, when C4C first was taking shape.
Now, that doesn’t seem to matter. So why not try to make it all happen?
The organizers have the location, and the potential, to build a stadium/complex for the next generation. It could even have a partial, or retractable, roof for the outdoor portion, allowing for year-round use and flexibility. It also could still be made adaptable to Olympic sports, outdoors and indoors.
For now, the Sky Sox are fine where they are. But we keep hearing privately that their stadium out east, built in 1988, will require a major upgrade in the next five years or so to keep up with rising Triple-A baseball standards.
Downtown, the stadium could be built to meet those standards, also providing more of what the current stadium doesn’t — such as direct underground access from dugouts to clubhouses, indoor workout areas and more. And there still could be capacity for Olympic-related sports and events, both during baseball season (they only play at home half the time) and the rest of the year.
How much would it cost, and how would it be funded? Those answers might come faster than you’d think.
The whole idea would be satisfying the needs of all concerned, including spectators. And something tells me it might not cost anything more than the current $92.7 million estimate. Perhaps less.
The first step, from this vantage point, would be reopening negotiations with the Sky Sox owners, who would have to be satisfied on one crucial point: The baseball franchise might not come away owning the whole package, as it does now, but the Sky Sox still might come out ahead in the long run. In other words, by controlling (including concessions for) most of a much larger operation.
Just think: We could have baseball, other sports and events, so much more capacity, next to the Olympic Museum — all combining to form the nucleus for a new downtown of the future.
The opportunity is there. So why not make it happen?