February 5, 2014 Updated: February 5, 2014 at 2:10 pm
Colorado Springs residents who attended a recent forum on economic development want more information and discussion about the City for Champions tourism initiative, according to results of a survey taken at the event.
Many of the comments written by those who responded to the survey centered on the need for more detailed financial information about the four projects included in the initiative, greater transparency about the initiative and more community participation in the process.
Several people wrote in their responses that those backing the initiative need to do a better job of selling it to the public.
"There are too many questions and too few answers on this project," one person wrote.
Another noted that "Opposition flourishes in the dark. Shine a light on the issues and don't give them fuel."
Nearly 40 of the 150 people who attended the "Community Conversation on Economic Development in the 21st Century and City for Champions" responded to the survey. The Jan. 23 event at Colorado College was co-sponsored by the college, The Gazette, UMB Bank and the nonprofit Food for Thought, a program of the Colorado Springs Diversity Forum.
About three-fourths of those who responded to the survey found the forum useful, with the rest calling it a sales pitch for the initiative that failed to address financial issues.
City for Champions is a $250 million package of four tourism venues: a downtown U.S. Olympic museum; a 10,000-seat downtown stadium and 3,000-seat arena; a new Air Force Academy visitors center; and a sports medicine and performance center at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.
The survey comments reflected more support for the project than the public comments at the forum, which was dominated by opponents who stepped to the microphone to criticize the initiative. One survey comment came from a person shocked by "what appeared to be a large percentage of people opposed who don't consider the benefits." Another person commented that it "seems the process is more the dispute than the City for Champions plan. If the process were different, how many of our community would support City for Champions?"
Ideas for helping the local economy grow and prosper ranged from "focusing on the scarcity of what Colorado Springs has that others don't" to "creating a center for business development and innovation that will grow business and create real jobs."
Survey respondents also were asked about roadblocks that could impede economic growth. They mentioned a lack of good-paying jobs, too much reliance on large multinational corporations for jobs and "resistance to investing 'public funds' in local growth."
Many of those responding to the survey said economic development should be driven by the private and public sectors working together.
Similar comments also were made by those attending the small-group discussions held as part of the forum and moderated by Food for Thought.
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