Friday, November 15, 2013

City for Champions redux

Posted By on Fri, Nov 15, 2013 at 3:54 PM

click to enlarge A rendering of the revamped downtown sports and events center next to the Olympic Museum. - COURTESY CITY FOR CHAMPIONS
  • Courtesy City for Champions
  • A rendering of the revamped downtown sports and events center next to the Olympic Museum.
Now hear this: The City for Champions group seeking $120.5 million in state sales tax rebates hasn't dealt with the "detail" of who would actually own the downtown sports and events center and the Olympic Museum.

At a news briefing at the Colorado Springs Visitors Bureau on Friday afternoon, city economic development official Bob Cope said there's been no decision who or what entity would end up owning the $92.7 million events center and the $59.4 million museum.

"Those details haven't been worked out," he said. "There are plenty of models to look at across the country."

(It's assumed that the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs would own its sports medicine center and the Air Force Academy, the new visitors center.)

Also, it came out at the briefing that the $375,000 raised to fund the application process ($75,000 each from El Paso County, the city, the Downtown Development Authority, El Pomar Foundation and the Anschutz Foundation) is being spent through a fund set up by the Colorado Springs Sports Corp. We might add the Sports Corp. is a non-profit that isn't subject to public disclosure laws, so the public has no idea and can never know how that money is being spent.

Oh well, at least backers said where the money is coming from to fund this tourism package, right? Wrong.
click to enlarge Convention and Visitors Bureau CEO Doug Price. - BRYCE CRAWFORD
  • Bryce Crawford
  • Convention and Visitors Bureau CEO Doug Price.


Colorado Springs Business Journal reporter John Hazlehurst asked, "Where's the money?" And Cope didn't really answer the question, saying the proposal "strikes a balance" between projects being shovel ready and passing the "but for" test required by the Regional Tourism Act through which the state rebates are provided. "But for" means the projects are planned, designed and ready for construction "but for" the final piece of financing that the state money would provide.

"There are commitments to a certain degree," Cope said. Actually, the proposal, which you can find in several attachments to a blog found here, includes numerous letters that offer "enthusiasm" and support but no money. 

El Paso County is riding to the rescue, with Commissioner Amy Lathen saying the county will pony up an undisclosed amount of incremental sales tax revenue from the area in which the attractions will be built in the downtown area.

Saying the county will help offer "seed money," Lathen likened the projects to the tunnel built through a mountain that  delivers water to Colorado Springs from Homestake Reservoir on the western slope. Here's the problem with that:  See "but for" definition above. The state expects all financing to be in place "but for" the final chunk that will make the projects doable. Seed money generally is seen as first-in contributions, not the final piece.

City Councilor Joel Miller, a vocal opponent of City for Champions, was in the back of the room during the presentation and later whipped out the letter Mayor Steve Bach wrote in support of the latest revised proposal offering $2.12 million from the city's parking enterprise.

"He can't commit that money," Miller said after the presentation. It's unclear whether Bach can, as the city's chief executive, spend the parking money on the City for Champions projects or not.

Bach, who didn't attend today's gathering, also noted in his letter that tax increment financing could be provide through the Urban Renewal Authority. The city's proposal quantifies that contribution at $104 million.

At the end of the 45-minute briefing, Price thanked everyone for coming and said he was happy to see so many supporters had shown up. It's worth noting that the room was tiny, with about 25 people there, excluding media. It's also worth noting that City for Champions backers have yet to host any public meetings specifically designed to obtain feedback on the proposal.

Here's how public involvement was characterized in one part of the revised application:

Since the initial application was submitted over five months ago, the enthusiastic engagement of our community about the City for Champions proposal has been incredibly valuable. The conversation has added detail and clarity to the 200-250 event days per year at the Colorado Sports and Event Center. This same conversation brought on El Paso County as an active partner and investor by "Olympicizing” the Downtown Stadium and Event Center into the Colorado Sports and Event Center.

The state Economic Development Commission will decide whether to fund the city's proposal in December.

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