While the U.S. Olympic Museum and UCCS William J. Hybl Sports Medicine and Performance Center are well under way, the construction of two downtown sports facilities and a new visitor center at the U.S. Air Force Academy — remaining components of the City for Champions suite of projects — has yet to begin.
But although it isn’t yet visible, there has been progress on the outdoor downtown stadium, which will be the home of the Colorado Switchbacks soccer team; the Edward J. Robson Arena at Colorado College; and the Gateway Visitor Center at the U.S. Air Force Academy.
Colorado Springs Utilities has started utility work at the downtown stadium site that was planned before the announcement of the City for Champions projects but is being coordinated with the stadium, Cope said.
“It has to do with upgrading Southwest downtown infrastructure — old water and sewer lines and things like that,” Cope said.
“We plan to be delivering plans to the city at the end of this month, and then, as everything meets and receives approvals, shovels in the ground by November,” said Nick Ragain, president of the Colorado Springs Switchbacks and of the partnership with Weidner Apartment Homes that’s bringing the stadium to life.
Conceptual design of the stadium is complete; “we are working on schematic design right now,” Ragain said.
“We actually had a full schematic design package a number of months ago,” he said. “From initial feedback, we needed to find some more dollars to make the project bigger and better.”
The Ragain and Weidner families provided the extra funds for a sky club, a third level on the west side of the stadium, which didn’t fit into the project’s original budget.
“What we’re still processing is just presence — how do we ensure that we have a substantial presence in the area so that it can be seen, it’s welcoming, it establishes the facility well?” Ragain said.
“As people drive over the bridge on Cimarron [Street] and are dropping down into the new entrance to downtown Colorado Springs, what is that experience like as they look over and see the venue … and then pass the main entrance? What is that experience like and are we doing enough? Those are the conversations we’re focused on,” he said. “We’re still working out some of those details, but ultimately it’s a bigger and better project than it was in April.”
The public will be able to view the results of those conversations at a meeting from 5:30-7 p.m. July 17 at Centennial Hall auditorium, 200 S. Cascade Ave.
The stadium will seat about 10,000 people for sports events and could hold twice that many for concerts.
What’s now being called the Downtown Stadium, located at the CityGate property bounded by Cimarron Street, Moreno Avenue, Sierra Madre Street and Sawatch Street, will get a formal name in a few weeks, said Laura Neumann, spokesperson for the project.
“It will not be called Switchbacks Stadium,” she said.
Plans also are proceeding for development adjacent to the stadium that’s being built by Weidner.
A public plaza will connect the stadium to a mixed-use development on Moreno Avenue.
When complete, the development will have about 250 apartments, with retail stores and possibly a grocery store or restaurant, on the first floor. The first phase could be 190-250 apartments.
“I anticipate that would open about a year following the opening of the stadium in spring 2021,” Neumann said, adding another 750 apartments with mixed-use retail components could be added in coming years.
The public plaza is in the design stage; its initial design will be shared at the July 17 meeting along with designs for the stadium.
Neumann said she anticipates a development plan for the project will be filed at the end of this month, and more public process will follow.
The $39 million Robson Arena has been the subject of four community meetings. About 100 people attended the fourth meeting on June 29.
“That was the last public meeting put on by the college … as part of its volunteer public input process that started in December 2018,” Lisa Bachman of Bachman pr said in an email.
The public meetings included one focused on neighborhood concerns about traffic and parking. Numerous small-group meetings with neighbors and organizations in the vicinity were held as well.
The plan has been revised several times as a result of feedback from the public meetings.
“Next, the project team will submit its application to the city for review and comment; then the city will hold a public meeting,” Bachman said. The date of submission has yet to be determined.
Construction of the 3,000-seat arena, which will be the new home of the CC Tigers, is expected to begin in early 2020, with opening projected for 2021.
AFA VISITOR CENTER
The El Paso County commissioners voted unanimously July 2 to enter into a revenue-sharing agreement to provide an estimated $5.1 million in county funding for the $58 million visitor center. The funds would be provided from sales and property tax revenues over the next 25 years.
“That was a big hurdle,” Colorado Springs Economic Development Manager Bob Cope said.
The final piece of funding for the visitor center fell into place July 9, when Colorado Springs City Council voted 5-3 to create an urban renewal area consisting of land the city recently annexed along North Gate Boulevard.
Council also approved a revenue-sharing cooperation agreement for the visitor center, Cope said.
It remains to finalize agreements with the subdevelopers and property users involved in this large, complex project, Cope said.
The 32,000-square-foot visitor center, which will sit on about 57 acres, will showcase the honor and contributions of the Air Force Academy and serve as a welcome center for visitors to the Pikes Peak region.
The development proposal also includes hotels, office and retail space, an indoor skydiving facility and a Santa Fe Trailhead Center.
Cope said the visitor center, which is in the design process, will create about 3,000 new jobs, yield $50 million in net new city tax revenue and represent $2.6 billion in economic growth over the next 25 years.
The urban renewal plan and cooperation agreement had to be put in place before bonds could be issued for the project. Cope said bond issuance, scheduled for August or September, satisfies the state’s requirement for commencement of substantial work by the end of this year. The city must meet that deadline in order to spend $120.5 million in state sales tax increment financing provided through the state Regional Tourism Act.
“Essentially they are looking at starting utility work and other infrastructure by the end of this year and starting private development at the end of 2020, and the visitor center itself in 2021,” Cope said.