Wednesday, March 19, 2014

C4C gets a new face; analyst hired to vet the plan

Posted By on Wed, Mar 19, 2014 at 4:18 PM

City for Champions has a new spokesperson. Mayor Steve Bach's former Chief of Staff Laura Neumann kicked off a public meeting yesterday, expressing her enthusiastic support of the tourism venture and saying she would volunteer. 

Neumann left the city March 1 after 25 months to spend time with her kids. She formerly was in the leisure business. She had previously said she wouldn't become involved in local politics but she probably would have a role in City for Champions. That's because, she says, she believes in the potential for $250 million spent to built the venues — most of it tax money — to trigger a rise in the city's sales tax revenues to fund much needed street repairs and storm water drainage projects.

Here are her comments: Laura_Neumann_3_18_14.pdf
In any event, Neumann on Tuesday kicked off the second public meeting about C4C, which will erect a new Air Force Academy visitors center, sports medicine center at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, downtown Olympic museum and sports and events center next door to the museum. (Bach himself didn't show up. More on that later.)

Like a month ago, about 150 people showed up.

click to enlarge It was a rainy day in July when Mayor Bach introduced the City for Champions project to the public. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • It was a rainy day in July when Mayor Bach introduced the City for Champions project to the public.
One of the handful who spoke was Nick Ragain of Ragain Sports LLC, which plans to put together a professional soccer team that would play its games at the sports events center. He told the crowd that he's looked at other locations in the state, notably in the Glendale area and northern Colorado, but likes what he sees in Colorado Springs. Prior to construction of the events center, Ragain plans to improve a city parks department field known as Sand Creek stadium adjacent to Security Service Field and that his company will pay to upgrade the facility.

His speech drew applause.

Several questions were raised about the city's property at 25 Cimino Drive that lies adjacent to the City for Champions area. It's a site that was home to a coal gasification plant for roughly 50 years until the 1930s and has lots of contamination problems. ("Chemical reactions," April 24, 2013)

But County Commission Chair Dennis Hisey pledged that the Environmental Protection Agency would participate. "When it's time for that site to be cleaned up, it will be cleaned up," he said. Odd that Hisey addressed this issue, considering the county has nothing to say about the site. It's owned by the city, which is being sued by local philanthropist Kat Tudor whose next door building was allegedly contaminated during demolition of a structure from the polluted site last year. Clean up of the site was once pegged at $1.5 million.
click to enlarge Neumann: Back in the public eye.
  • Neumann: Back in the public eye.
Hisey went on to say that "anybody who owned it is on the hook" for clean-up. Really? That's precisely the question now being litigated in the Tudor lawsuit, in which Tudor won a favorable ruling late last year.

Gary Casimir, a retired Navy man, raised an interesting question: What with all the talk of Army and Air Force downsizing, do the C4C tax revenue forecasts take into account possible losses at Fort Carson and the four Air Force bases?

Hisey: "Our third-party study will factor that in." BBC Research & Consulting of Denver has been hired for the study, at $45,500.

"BBC Research & Consulting is the largest independent economic consulting firm in the Rocky Mountain West and was chosen for their Colorado knowledge of the Regional Tourism Act (RTA) process, expertise in the resort and tourism industry, ability to meet a tight time schedule and provide public involvement and presentations," according to a memo from county purchasing officials to the Board of County Commissioners.

As a footnote, BBC was hired by Colorado Springs Downtown Partnership some years ago to study changing one-way traffic on Tejon Street to two-way. The Downtown Partnership is an avid supporter of C4C. The firm also has worked with Nor'Wood Development Group, a Springs development company, according to the BBC website, whose principals hold a significant portion of downtown land where C4C components would be built.

Bach, who unveiled publicly the C4C plan on a rainy day last summer, didn't show up for the public meeting on Tuesday. We've asked his communications department why he wasn't there, but haven't heard back. We'll circle back when we hear.

It's not surprising Bach wouldn't want to subject himself to further criticism, which was front and center at a Monday afternoon news conference called by Council President Keith King. King, four other council members and Hisey aren't too happy about a proposed resolution with the state Economic Development Commission that essentially gives the mayor ultimate and supreme power over all four venues' design, construction, ownership, operation and maintenance. They want voters to decide whether to allow any local tax dollars be used for C4C.

Instead, economic vitality official Bob Cope said, "The mayor certainly is looking forward to working collaboratively with the county and City Council. The mayor has always intended to work collaboratively."

The next chance to learn more about C4C is at Councilman Don Knight's town hall meeting from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Mesa Conservation & Environmental Center, 2855 Mesa Road.

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