COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - One of four projects designed by the city's previous mayor to increase tourism is close to being canceled, the city's current mayor says.
Mayor John Suthers said the concept of a downtown sports and events center likely won't happen because the project has a $28 million funding shortfall and he doesn't want to use taxpayer money to help finance the project.
However, three of four people who spoke with KRDO NewsChannel 13 about the situation said they'd be willing to spend their tax money on a downtown stadium.
The project would have cost two to three times more than the shortfall, depending on its size, seating capacity and variety of uses.
Another complication is that no site has been chosen for the project.
"At this point in our history, I don't think the taxpayers are inclined to invest in a downtown stadium and arena," he said. "It could happen in the future as part of some major commercial development.
The center concept is one of four projects in the City for Champions initiative created by previous Mayor Steve Bach.
Included in that initiative are an Olympic Museum and Hall of Fame...
a visitors center at the Air Force Academy...
and a sports medicine facility near the campus of the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs.
Each project can qualify for state funding by receiving a required amount of local contributions, and by showing the projects will increase tourism in the area.
"The museum is $85 million or something like that," Suthers said. "As you know, we've got a March 31 deadline on the museum to get all the funding. It's working out. We hope to have that out of the ground this spring."
However, the end of the downtown stadium project has created an opportunity for the National Museum of World War II Aviation at the Colorado Springs Airport.
The museum is planning a two-part expansion and wants to be included in the City for Champions initiative by placing one of the expansion projects downtown.
"I'm excited about it," museum President and CEO Bill Klaers said.
The museum wants to build an aviation hall at the intersection of Cimarron and Sierra Madre streets in the southwest corner of downtown, across from the proposed Olympic museum.
"It would be a state-of-the-art facility with a national designation," Klaers said. "It would bring visitors there and to the airport location where the 28 flying aircraft are located. And we could feed off the activity at the Olympic museum."
Klaers said the expansion plan already has around $10 million in local donations, and could open in two to three years.
The city now must wait for state officials to decide whether funding intended for the stadium project can be shifted to the museum expansion.