Council talks role in City for Champions project

Dana Molina, Multimedia Journalist/Telemundo Anchor, dana.molina@krdo.com
POSTED: 07:47 PM MST Feb 03, 2014 
City council discusses role in City for Champions project
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -

The Colorado Springs City Council discussed its role in the City for Champions project Monday.

The $250 million project includes a downtown Olympic museum, a downtown sports and events center, a sports medicine and performance center at UCCS and a renovated Air Force Academy visitors center. The state's Economic Development Commission approved $120.5 million in state incentives over the next 30 years for the project. Project supporters must come up with the rest.

At Tuesday's meeting, council members went over an 11-part resolution that detailed council's involvement in the project, including citizen participation, governance and finance.

Council members said they wanted input from the community, and they plan on hosting town hall meetings to get feedback on the project. Some council members asked for more. Council members Joel Miller, Merv Bennett and Andy Pico were among those who said they would support placing an item on the ballot asking for voters' input on public funding for City for Champions.

"I will never support actually committing city funds without that vote," Pico said.

Council member Jill Gaebler said they were elected as officials to understand these types of projects and with some advisement, make those types of decisions.

"I'm not saying we shouldn't do this, as far as go to the people, but I think if we are going to be consistent as representative government, we need to be very thoughtful about how we move forward," she said.

City Council members had a lot of questions for Bob Cope, senior business climate specialist for Colorado Springs. Miller wondered about who would operate and own the downtown sports and events center. He also questions the project's finance plan.

"To date, we don't have any hard commitments from any philanthropy or any private interest," he said. "So who else is on the hook? The state and the local, public money, local taxpayers."

Miller proposed a different resolution that would seek voters' input. It also calls for the council not to commit to public funding until voters voice that input.

Cope said parts of City for Champions have enough private and state funds to be constructed. As for those that will need public money, he said the projects would help.

"That is city, county, state sales tax revenue that is generated from new out of state tourists, tourists that would not come to the community without these projects and it is revenue that the city county and state would not have otherwise," he said.

The resolution isn't final. Council members said they would make changes as they get answers to their questions. They also hope to work together with the El Paso County Board of Commissioners.