Between the Lines 

USOC deal will work out

Before we jump into analyzing the continuing effort to save the Olympic presence for Colorado Springs, let's begin with a simple request.

Everybody, please, calm down.

This is not Watergate. It's not some kind of morbid scandal with elected officials resorting to illegal shenanigans. Simply put, there's a lot of scrambling going on, thanks largely to the economic troubles that have struck us all.

Our city government is doing all it can to rework the year-old plan that gives the U.S. Olympic Committee better facilities for its athletes, a new downtown home for its headquarters and offices for its member sports next to America the Beautiful Park.

LandCo Equity Partners, the developer chosen by the USOC, appears to be fighting for its survival. Related or not, its Web site (landcoequity.com), which had included company information and proudly displayed its new USOC connection, has been shut down, with an "under construction" message on the home page.

Yet, despite LandCo's troubles and its own turmoil, the Olympic Committee has given no inclination of backing away from the agreement that includes the USOC committing to stay in Colorado Springs at least 25 more years.

Meanwhile, other media have been sensationalizing the story, as if they just know it's destined for some kind of shocking, disgraceful fate.

Guess what? That's wrong. So the purpose here is to add a voice of reason, after many contacts and conversations.

Sure, it has turned messy, to the point of LandCo and its chairman Ray Marshall filing suit against the city and the USOC. Look at the fine print, though, and you'll see LandCo's suit doesn't ask for a single dollar in damages. It simply asks the other parties to perform, and for the project to be completed.

Despite the potholes and now legal action, everybody involved with this saga still wants the same outcome. It's just more complicated now. Nobody could have predicted how much the economy would impact the local climate. In other words, this deal almost certainly would have required revisions, no matter which developer the USOC selected.

The main uncertainty now is whether LandCo will continue in some role moving forward, or perhaps Marshall will agree to some kind of graceful exit. That could go either way, depending on all kinds of factors and, to be honest, how well everyone behaves.

City Council hasn't given up, with a clear majority of its nine members still grimly determined to forge a positive solution, even in the face of loud criticism. Most likely, April will produce headlines on that front, as the city pursues new financing strategies public and private that send strong, upbeat signals to the USOC.

To those city leaders, the Olympic presence is priceless, and they prefer fighting to keep the USOC. They also are fully convinced most Colorado Springs residents believe it's vital to keep the Olympic Committee and the athletes here for decades to come.

Rest assured, that persistent resolve is not lost on the USOC.

As one person close to the city pulse was saying this week, even after the lawsuit was filed, wheels already were in motion to keep the project moving forward. People on the inside saw LandCo's suit as an opportunity, not a deal-killer. There will be no court battles. Just more discussions about the best ways to assemble sufficient funding, which always has been the big issue.

There are other heroes, some insisting on anonymity, working with selfless, honorable motives to get this done. One not among the anonymous who should be mentioned here is Jim Johnson, CEO of GE Johnson Construction Co., which is continuing its impressive work on the new Olympic House building downtown. Johnson cares about Colorado Springs, and that helps explain why he's pushing ahead on a project that soon will be a source of civic pride, despite not being paid yet for growing amounts of work and expense. That's admirable.

Because of Jim Johnson, and many others quietly doing all they can, the Olympic deal will work out. Perhaps with some further revisions, perhaps with new details, perhaps not as transparent as skeptics would like.

But it will happen. And it will be worth every bit of the trouble.



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