Editor’s note: This story was last updated at 4:17 p.m. Thursday, July 19.
Conflicting reports surfaced Wednesday about whether the owner of the Orem Owlz, a Los Angeles Angels-affiliated farm team, has pulled out of a deal to move the team to Pueblo.
The Pueblo Chieftain reported Wednesday that it had obtained an email written by Jerry Pacheco, director of the Pueblo Urban Renewal Authority, stating that Jeff Katofsky had decided not to go forward with the move.
Other media, including KOAA-TV, reported that Katofsky had not reneged but was unhappy about some roadblocks the city of Pueblo and Historic Arkansas Riverwalk Pueblo had placed in his way.
But Pueblo County has issued a press release quoting Commissioner Sal Pace stating that “no formal position has been taken.”
Under the terms of an agreement announced last month, Katofsky planned to develop a youth baseball tournament program at Pueblo’s Runyon Youth Sports Complex and build three hotels to serve players, families and other tourists.
Pueblo County, which would expand the sports complex, would also build a $25 million stadium. These projects would be funded through retained tax revenues approved in 2016 by Pueblo voters, and tax increment financing, respectively.
The latest developments took place after the Business Journal’s press time. The July 20 issue contains a story describing the project in detail and quoting Katofsky and Pueblo officials’ hopes that the project would be a powerful economic stimulus for the city.
When the Business Journal interviewed Katofsky for that story on Tuesday, he gave no indication that there were any issues, although he said some details remained to be worked out.
But on Wednesday, the Chieftain reported Katofsky was displeased that the city of Pueblo was requiring a competitive bidding process on the city-owned lot where he’d planned to build one of the hotels.
Below is the text of the Pueblo County press release:
PUEBLO – Owner of Owlz, Jeff Katofsky, has not formally announced that he’s pulled out of the YES project. In an email to project participants this morning (Wednesday, July 19), Katofsky wrote:
“Thanks for all your help and effort in this matter. Based upon the new developments on your end, however, looks like Pueblo has killed the deal.”
Commissioner Sal Pace has spoken with Mr. Katofsky several times since that email. Since that email was sent Pace says that Katofsky’s position remains the same.
“I never read that email to mean that the project is done. If Pueblo wants him to develop $50-million worth of downtown projects at his own expense, have a [Minor League Baseball] team relocate to Pueblo, traveling youth tournament, and last but not least a stadium built with Katofsky’s own tax payments then he wants in on the project,” said Pace. “If Pueblo doesn’t want this economic boost then he’s not going to bring us his millions of dollars towards downtown development, jobs, and a minor league baseball team. As of today, no formal position has been taken.”
The Thursday release stated:
PUEBLO – The private developer and owner of the Orem Owlz, Jeff Katofsky, is still negotiating with Pueblo County to develop hotels in downtown Pueblo. The hotels are critical to the proposal to build a multi-use stadium that would also host a Minor League Baseball team. The County proposes to repay financing on the proposed $25-million downtown stadium through tax increment financing.
Katofsky has not formally announced he’s out of the deal, as the Pueblo Chieftain reported Wednesday. Pueblo County is continuing to pursue several alternative options for the hotel sites, after last-minute roadblocks emerged. At present, the County is not at liberty to share details about those options until the various options are thoroughly vetted.
Members of the YES Project expressed disappointment that individuals critical to the project’s success continue to undermine the County’s efforts to improve the community’s economy and quality of life. Late Wednesday afternoon, some project partners announced to media that the developer had pulled out of the deal. However he has not formally made that announcement to Pueblo County, and is still working with the YES team to clear the latest hurdles.
Note: This is a developing story. It will be updated as more information becomes available.