Colorado Springs City Council not yet privy to City for Champions details

February 3, 2014 Updated: February 4, 2014 at 5:52 pm
photo - City for Champions United States Olympic Museum rendering December 18, 2013
City for Champions United States Olympic Museum rendering December 18, 2013 

The Colorado Springs City Council learned Monday that there are detailed financial and operational plans for each of the four City for Champions projects, but those plans are secret - at least for now.

Organizers of each of the four proposed venues - an Air Force Academy visitors center, a university sports medicine complex, an Olympic museum and a downtown events center - provided operational details in pro forma statements to the state, said Bob Cope, a principal analyst with the city's Economic Vitality Division.

But the City Council has not seen one of them.

The existence of confidential operational plans was revealed Monday during a special City Council meeting when council members were set to discuss their role in the City for Champions projects.

The City Council would need to approve a city Tax Increment Finance district and an Intergovernmental Agreement with El Paso County to participate in the TIF, which would collect a certain amount of sales tax specifically to finance debt to pay for the City for Champions projects.

Some council members said Monday they won't vote to create a TIF without first asking residents if they approve of the projects. And that means all of the financial and operational numbers must be released in order for voters and the City Council to make an informed decision, said Councilman Joel Miller.

"How do we get information to the public to show it's viable if the information is classified," Miller said. "Are we supposed to take everyone's word on this?"

The organizers of the four venues have signed non-disclosure agreements, Cope said. The pro formas contain proprietary information that could be damaging to the developers and businesses involved if their competition were tipped off, he said.

Cope said it might be possible to "sterilize" the pro formas so that the plans could be released to the City Council and the public.

In the meantime, the city would like to set up some type of authority to oversee the proposed $92 million downtown events center project, Cope said. That entity would be responsible for operating the center, he said. The other venues already have leadership to oversee the projects. For example, the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs answers to its Board of Regents. The downtown events center is the only project without an organizing body. Miller noted it also is the only one that would be fully publicly funded.

City for Champions organizers recently said that they are confident they can raise enough private money to pay for the construction of the Air Force Academy visitors center, the UCCS sports medicine facility and Olympic museum so that not a dime of public money will be needed.

But the proposed events center would require city and county tax dollars. It would be built in downtown, in an area designated for urban renewal. Those areas, including the bonding and financing of projects, are overseen by the Urban Renewal Authority, said council member Jill Gaebler. Under the city's current process, the Urban Renewal Authority projects don't need a public vote.

"I am not saying we should not go to the people - but we should be thoughtful, create subcommittees, do a deep dive into finances, follow the URA process and not rush to conclusions and throw a bunch of numbers out and provocative language to frighten the public," Gaebler said.

Council president Keith King said the council will set up a series of town hall meetings to let residents speak about the proposed projects. He still is hopeful the City Council will approve a resolution that outlines its role in the projects.

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