The City for Champions proposal for Colorado Springs that was recently announced by Mayor Steve Bach has the potential to dramatically reshape the city government’s stringently disconnected policies that have come to define it, the mayor says.
With an estimated $218.6 million to be spent on four groundbreaking new projects, the proposal is being touted as the blueprint for the future of Colorado Springs.
The two most publicized projects included in the proposal are the construction of a new minor league baseball stadium close to the downtown area and the creation of a United States Olympic Museum to commemorate past achievements and solidify the Olympic connection with the Colorado Springs area.
Colorado College Professor Bob Loevy sees the proposal as the first “major payoff for those looking to a strong mayor for a more dynamic city government and local economy.”
The projects are aimed at revitalizing tourism in a city that has been desperate to recreate its image, as well as attract a larger consumer base to the city center.
Official statements say the proposal, “builds upon Colorado Spring’s history as a health destination, a training ground for service men and women, and a sports and fitness hub by advancing a collection of new attractions unique in Colorado—and in some cases, the country.”
The City for Champion’s proposal was submitted last month to the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade. The proposal is asking for $82.1 million in state-sponsored tourism money to cover about one-third of the estimated $218.6 million cost.
A state-hired, independent economic will review the city’s application.
The analyst will report back next month and the Colorado Economic Development Commission will decide in December whether or not to grant Colorado Springs the $82.1 million.
Though the remaining two-thirds of the proposal is going to come from separate private and public coffers, receiving the state-financed portion is critical in the mayor’s plans to revamp the image of Colorado Springs.
To help pull together public support for the plan, the City of Colorado Springs has unveiled a website dedicated to the City for Champions proposal and the desired effect Mayor Steve Bach hopes it has on the city.
Both projects were chosen because of the numerous successes both museums and sporting venues have proven to be in revitalizing tourism in cities across the United States. Sports Authority Field and Coors Field, both in Denver, provide examples of successful new visitor attactions.
The current plans including moving Colorado Springs’ Sky Sox away from the distant Security Service Field to a new location southeast of downtown. City officials say that the new venue would also be used for large concerts, cultural gatherings, and many other citywide festivities.
Colorado officials also hope the museum will both solidify the long-held relationship between the US Olympic Committee and the City of Colorado Springs, while making Colorado Springs as synonymous with the Olympic body as the comparatively small cities of Cooperstown and Canton are with their respective sporting museums.
The two other major projects included in the City for Champions proposal involve both local universities: the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and the Air Force Academy.
USSS would receive funding to build a new sports medicine and performance center on campus while AFA would be able to finance plans to add a new visitors center.
As the proposal is currently written, estimates suggest that the projects could attract up to one million visitors to the state each year.
According to the City of Champions website, this growth would result in an additional $300 million in revenue from sales taxes in the 30 years following the implementation, and nearly seven billion dollars in net retail sales
For a city that has been predominately passive in the pursuit of state funding, the Mayor’s initiative represents a dramatic shift away from the isolationist tendencies that have characterized Colorado Springs in the past.
Along these lines, Bach released a statement on the projects, hoping, “These attractions will draw new out-of-state visitors, extend visitor trips, and enhance the quality of life for residents.”
In the past, Loevy believes the outwardly conservative nature of Colorado Springs City Council has been detrimental to the city’s ability to locate both state and national funding for local projects.
“It has been a long running problem in Colorado Springs because it is such a conservative city,” Loevy said. “Talks about reducing government and reducing taxes have led to missed opportunities in state funding.”
Since voters approved the city’s transition from the old councilor manager form of government to the strong-mayor format in 2010, the city government has been more active in applying for state-sponsored funding to finance city expenditures.
Though no one is outwardly opposed to the proposal’s path for the city’s future, City Council members have revealed that they played little part in formulating the City for Champions proposal.
Loevy believes that this is simply a part of the new government layout.
“This would never happened under the old government,” he said. “That’s the way mayors operate. If the rumors had gotten out ahead of time it wouldn’t have made the public relations hit it has.”
Whether or not the state agrees to fund a portion of the city’s project, the proposal represents a drastic transition in the governing style of Colorado Springs and lays out a comprehensible blueprint for the city’s future under Bach.