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City for Champions backers take another run at state money 

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When Economic & Planning Systems, Inc., recommended how much in state sales tax rebates were warranted by revised tourism proposals from Pueblo and Aurora last year, the state Economic Development Commission approved exactly those figures. Neither proposal got the full amount sought.

So before they submitted their revised application earlier this week, Colorado Springs' City for Champions backers were likely seeking some really good reasons for the state-hired analyst to change its recommendation that they get only $31.4 million in state money — or a mere 18 percent of their original $174.4 million request. (That's the money to pay off $82 million in bonds, and associated interest.)

The city has proposed building a downtown baseball stadium, a downtown Olympic museum, a sports medicine facility at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, and a new visitors center at the Air Force Academy. EPS' review eliminated the sports medicine center as not developed enough to analyze, and said the three other buildings would attract dramatically fewer out-of-state tourists than the city has projected — thus qualifying it for dramatically fewer dollars.

The nine-member EDC followed the consultant's final recommendations to the letter last year, the first of the Regional Tourism Act program. Aurora asked for $153.4 million in state funds under the Tourism Act for a conference hotel; EPS recommended it receive only $81.4 million, and that's what it got.

Meanwhile, Pueblo sought $35.7 million for its Heritage of Heroes program to construct and renovate various attractions; EPS recommended it receive only $14.8 million, and that's what it got.

Colorado Springs has been seeking $174.4 million from the state, over 30 years, to fund its four projects. Visitors Bureau CEO Doug Price tells other media that advocates have reworked the proposal by replacing the downtown stadium with a facility for Olympic-related "sporting events," and by further addressing UCCS' sports medicine center.

He cites public sentiment as being behind the decision to keep the Triple A Sky Sox team in northeast Colorado Springs. It's also worth noting that more than two weeks ago, the Sky Sox announced an overhaul of Security Service Field's playing surface and drainage system, the first in a decade, which was reported by the Gazette Oct. 24.

Price tells other media he's been "spending a lot of time" with Chris Jenkins of Nor'Wood Development, owner of a big share of the downtown property eyed for the stadium and the Olympic museum. Little else has been released. Price won't discuss the revision with the Independent, and says "highlights" of the revamped proposal will be discussed at a briefing on Thursday.

Asked why he and others think the revision will make a difference, Price won't answer, saying in an email, "It speaks to the importance of ultimately convincing the State Commissioners during our presentation that our dynamic application meets the State statues [sic]."

City Councilor Joel Miller, a City for Champions critic, says he's not been briefed on any changes.

"I'm trying to get my hands on the revised application," he said Monday. "I would think they would have made it public. The first time around [when submitted to the state July 8], it was devoid of public process. Then, in 10 days' time, they're restructuring how this $218 million project will transform this community, and again, devoid of public process. Unbelievable."

zubeck@csindy.com

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