Is Colorado Springs truly a City For Champions?
That propaganda has been splashed all over the news in recent weeks, but will the nearly $250 to $300 million project give the city, and the surrounding communities, the distinction that would set the Pikes Peak region apart from the rest of the state?
“No more brand campaigns; no more hiding in the shadows of Peyton Manning's Denver; no more telling the relatives in Nebraska, or Ohio, that Colorado Springs is a great place just to visit to see Pikes Peak, America's Mountain, and ride the cog railway to the summit.,” said Mike Moran, the chief spokesman for the United States Olympic Committee for 25 years. “Colorado Springs is now officially the City For Champions!”
Moran believes that in time - less than 10 years - Colorado Spring “will be known and recognized by millions across the nation.”
Moran was one of the loudest supporters of the City for Champions project. One of the key components that he lobbied for was a multi-million dollar professional baseball facility that would become home to the Colorado Springs Sky Sox. The Sky Sox have been the Triple-A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies since 1993.
But Sky Sox ownership, namely Dave Elmore - a member of the Colorado Springs Sports Hall of Fame - was not keen about getting on board with the project. Elmore, after all, owns his own stadium - Security Service Field - in what used to be the remote Stetson Hill area of town off of Powers Boulevard.
The Rockies, also, were not interested in dumping any money into the project, much less fundraising.
According to the City for Champions proposal, there will be several huge benefits. Among them are 449,000 net new out-of-state visitors to Colorado annually; $6.9 billion in net new state retail sales over 30 years; $201.7 million in net new sales tax revenue over 30 years; more than $312 million in net new local sales tax revenue over 30 years; more than 750 new direct permanent jobs and more than 310 new construction jobs.
Some of the specifics of the City For Champions project include a new $25 to $30 million Air Force Academy Visitors Center; a $59.4 million museum that would display Olympic exhibits and a $92.7 million Colorado Sports Event Center that would have a 10,000-seat outdoor stadium and a 3,000-seat indoor arena.
The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs would get money toward a $27 million project that would include a state-of-the-art rehabilitation clinic.
Air Force Academy officials have stated that they see groundbreaking on a new visitors center in two to three years. The Academy will get about $6 to $8 million in state funds for the new visitors center.
“They make up the historic package that will change the city's image, impact and prestige like nothing else in history,” an enthusiastic Moran said.
On Dec. 16, the Colorado Economic Development Commission approved an estimated $120.5 million over the next 30 years to help finance a package of four world-class venues.
“That will put the city in the same league as Indianapolis, Omaha, Oklahoma City and a handful of others that have blasted away old stereotypes and created, mostly through sports and sport venues, sleek, modern images and made them top-drawer destinations for thousands of visitors and big-time sports events,” Moran said.
Colorado Springs gained importance on a grander stage when USOC moved here in 1978. It had a staff of less than 25 people and a yearly budget of around $12 million.
Today, the USOC is joined by more than two dozen National Governing Bodies contributing an annual economic impact to the city of over $300 million. The organizations employ more than 2,500 people.
And while the U.S. Olympic Training Center is not located in the most ideal part of town (Boulder and Union), it still averages about 140,000 visitors annually.
From a sports perspective alone, the city could experience an economic boom not seen in decades. Into the 1960s, Colorado Springs was known as “City of Millionaires” in large part because of the money that was made a century ago in mining and other industries unique to the region.
Moran envisions Olympic Trials, Qualifiers, Playoffs and World Championship events that would draw thousands of athletes and spectators from around the country.
In order to make the project a reality, however, a huge fundraising effort will have to take place over many months and years. The landscape of downtown Colorado Springs could change significantly in the next five years.
Supporters still need to find other sources of financing to complement state funds. The projects must be started within five years and completed within a decade. Otherwise, the state will not award the money.
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