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City Council balks at backing 'Champions' proposal 

Not on the bandwagon

The "City for Champions" proposal, Mayor Steve Bach's plan to build four tourist attractions including a U.S. Olympic Museum and baseball stadium downtown, failed to win endorsement from City Council during an impromptu discussion at the end of Monday's informal meeting.

Even while acknowledging "tremendous pressure" from backers of the proposal, Councilor Joel Miller said after the meeting that too many questions remain unanswered for him to endorse even the concept.

Discussion was triggered by Jill Gaebler's resolution for Council to support the concept of the Regional Tourism Act application without endorsing the specific projects, which also include a new Air Force Academy visitors center and a sports medicine facility at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

The projects, which the city says would attract 1 million new visitors and create 1,000 jobs, would cost roughly $217 million, with $82 million coming from state sales tax rebates, $74 million from other public sources, and $61 million from private sources.

Only Gaebler, Jan Martin, Val Snider and Merv Bennett voiced support of the resolution, prompting Gaebler to say she wouldn't pursue a vote on it.

Miller and others argued that it's impossible to support the proposal in concept but not the projects; the two are intertwined, they said. Added Miller later: "I support the concept of us doing something bold to lure tourists here, but I don't support these four projects."

Miller takes issue with the quartet being picked in a secret process involving only the community's influence-brokers; there was no public input. He also questioned why City Attorney Chris Melcher has kept results of a survey gauging support of the ballpark under wraps.

"If you want the public behind it, let's have a hearing," Miller says. "People want to know who stands to benefit."

Miller also expresses skepticism that the promised state sales tax money would actually be raised, and is unclear on who would pay the difference if it isn't.

"You wouldn't believe the pressure that's being put on the Council," Miller says, specifically naming Bob Cope from the city's economic vitality office, Broadmoor CEO Steve Bartolin and "some of the people involved in this."

"This is $156 million of public money and $40 million in municipal bonds," he adds. "That ought to be used to fix some of our problems." The city has an estimated a $700 million backlog of stormwater projects and $1.3 billion in other capital needs, such as street and building repairs.

Miller says he doesn't expect to see the resolution come back to Council anytime soon, despite Manitou Springs and Monument having given their blessings recently.

The city's proposal is being handled by the state Office of Economic Development and International Trade. Office representative Kathy Green says the deadline for community comments on the proposal expired Aug. 29 without a single comment being submitted.

"However," she says, "there is another opportunity for public feedback later in the process." That will come the week of Dec. 2; details will be released later. The state Economic Development Commission is expected to make a decision on the city's proposal in mid-December, following a financial analysis by an independent consultant now underway.

On Monday, City for Champions backers announced a website, at cityforchampions.com, that outlines the proposal but doesn't answer some of the questions Miller raises.

zubeck@csindy.com

  • Not on the bandwagon

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