Monday, July 1, 2013

Bach unveils tourism projects

Posted By on Mon, Jul 1, 2013 at 12:59 PM

Mayor Steve Bach, downtown baseball stadium
  • Provided by city of Colorado Springs
  • Looking northeast from America the Beautiful Park lies the proposed baseball stadium and the Olympic Museum, the latter of which former Colorado College President Dick Celeste is helping to raise money to build.

Mayor Steve Bach
today announced the city will apply for money from state sales taxes to fund four projects he said would serve as a "catalytic spark" to ignite growth and new jobs.

Those projects are:

U.S. Olympic museum downtown
Downtown baseball stadium and event center (which sounds a bit like the convention center voters have refused to fund with taxes several times in the past)
University of Colorado at Colorado Springs sports medicine and performance center
Air Force Academy visitor center outside the base's gates

Mayor Steve Bach, City For Champions
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Bach, center, prepares to announce his vision to beef up the Springs' reputation as a tourist destination.

The program will seek approval from the state for the city to keep state sales tax money to fund the projects. That funding source will pay for 38 percent of the total cost. That figure wasn't released at today's news conference, but the Gazette reported a few days ago the city wants $82 million from the state, which would mean the four projects' total cost would be about $217 million. Of that, 28 percent, or $61 million, will come from undisclosed private sources, and 34 percent, or $74 million, from public funding.

Bach said he will ask the City Council members, none of whom attended today's news conference, to allow him to borrow money for at least part of the public funding portion. He said that debt would be made possible because the city soon will retire bonds issued roughly 20 years ago to fund various public works projects.

It's unclear whether that funding mechanism will require voter approval. Although the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights requires voters to approve debt, many government agencies have done an end run around that law by issuing certificates of participation, which do not require voter approval.

Dubbed the "City of Champions," the proposal will be submitted to the state for consideration this month. Doug Price, with the Convention and Visitors Bureau, said backers will make a presentation to state officials in November and will hear the verdict on funding in December.

Bach said if the four projects are built, they will attract nearly a half million out-of-state visitors to Colorado Springs and bring $6.9 billion in new state retail sales tax over a 30-year period. Local sales taxes would generate $312 million over 30 years, with the city getting about half that, he said. El Paso County and the Rural Transportation Authority would each get a quarter.

Bach also predicted the projects would create 750 permanent full-time jobs and 310 construction jobs, and boost spinoff development in housing, restaurant and hotel markets.

Bach released information on the state application to only one media outlet ahead of time, the Gazette, which is owned by holdings of billionaire Phil Anschutz. The Anschutz Foundation is a partner in the application.

(When the Independent and the Colorado Springs Business Journal asked city communications chief Cindy Aubrey why other media organizations weren't given the information ahead of time like the Gazette was, she said, "When has any one of you written something positive about the city?")

Other partners are the Convention and Visitors Bureau, Downtown Partnership, Downtown Development Authority (whose board includes Chris Jenkins, owner of Nor'Wood, which owns a significant amount of property in the southwest downtown area where the stadium and Olympic museum would be built), the El Pomar Foundation, Sky Sox baseball team, Air Force Academy, UCCS and El Paso County, among others.

"This is a very exciting time for Colorado Springs," said El Pomar's chief, Bill Hybl. "The whole community would win. You can count on the trustees of El Pomar to continue to be a partner while the city moves forward."

Other speakers were Price, Susan Edmondson of the Downtown Partnership, and UCCS chancellor Pam Shockley-Zalabak.

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