Colorado Springs stands to lose millions in state funding for tourist attractions.
What we think:
The city needs a downtown stadium for tourists, for local sports teams and to cement its reputation as an amateur sports mecca.
At the 11th hour, city leaders are finally considering proposals to build a downtown stadium as part of the City for Champions project.
And they should act quickly to retain state funding for tourism to jump-start the project and contribute to a vibrant, vital city center.
Under consideration: building a downtown stadium behind The Antlers hotel, in space that is now a neglected city park that attracts the homeless and vagrants. The idea, promoted by attorney and hotelier Perry Sanders, would take advantage of the $27.7 million in state money earmarked for a downtown stadium — the only one of four projects that hasn’t gained traction since the projects started nearly five years ago.
The others — the Air Force Academy’s visitors center, the William J. Hybl Sports Medicine and Performance Center at UCCS and the United States Olympic Museum and Hall of Fame — are either under construction or in the design phase. But support for a stadium has remained elusive and controversial — and the city stands to be poorer because of it. The state’s share of money for the projects stood at $120 million, but came with a deadline. The city is nearing that deadline and needs to move quickly to retain the $27.7 million for the stadium project. Developers need to finish the design work and break ground by mid-December 2018.
There is a strong economic case for a downtown stadium.
Southwest downtown needs a partner for the Olympic Museum — something to keep people in that area instead of visiting the museum and then leaving. A stadium would build on the dynamic, interactive vision of the museum and add to the city’s already rich sports heritage. It would also attract more attention to the Colorado Springs Conservatory, one of the few attractions currently on that edge of downtown. CEO Linda Weise has long said she didn’t want the conservatory to stand alone to the southwest. And with the museum, it won’t. But additional visitors drawn to the museum and the stadium could have a huge impact on the musical education and training Weise provides for regional students.
Dominated by rusty warehouses, the coal-fired Martin Drake Power Plant and empty buildings, that section of downtown needs a facelift — and it needs to match the economic vitality of the rest of downtown Colorado Springs.
While Sanders is holding town halls and meeting with leaders to push his proposal, there could be competing proposals by Nor’wood Development Group. But this much is clear: City council has weeks, not months, to decide or lose the state money and the opportunity to make substantial economic progress in the city’s core.
A stadium — no matter which proposal is selected — is a vital part of downtown’s economic development. It would be foolish to leave $27.7 million in initial funding untouched. City leaders need to act quickly to make sure tourism in Colorado Springs thrives.