Saying they wanted to invest back in Colorado Springs, the U.S. Olympic Committee and national governing bodies gave the city a $125,000 check Monday – and a promise of $125,000 more next year – to fund various youth sports and recreation programs.
The grant is one less worry for the cash-strapped city, which still plans to dip into reserves to keep three community centers, which offer some of the programs, open this year.
It’s also a goodwill gesture by the USOC and its Olympic family, which have been harshly criticized over a City Council-approved deal that cost taxpayers $1.65 million this year and millions more in the future to keep the sports organization in Colorado Springs.
“This is basically the renewal of the partnership we’ve had with the U.S. Olympic Committee since 1978, the renewal and re-strengthening of something that, I think, will continue for decades to come and become even stronger,” Mayor Lionel Rivera said as he announced the grant during a news conference at Hillside Community Center.
The grant will pay for boxing, basketball, swimming, judo and hockey programs and summer camps at Hillside, Deerfield Hills and Meadows Park community centers.
The city must spend $25,000 each year on a program offering various activities to injured soldiers and youngsters with physical disabilities.
Some programs, such as boxing and judo, will be expanded to bring more children in, while the Learn-to-Swim program, which will bus youths from the city’s four community centers to the downtown YMCA, will be new, Rivera said.
The Olympic movement wanted to demonstrate to the community “that we’re willing to invest side by side with them in our future,” said USOC Chief Executive Officer Scott Blackmun, who presented the mayor with the $125,000 check during the news conference.
“In times like this, it’s important for us to make sure that we’re investing in our future,” he said.
“You made a big investment in the USOC when you put together the downtown project and agreed to assist us with improvements at the training center, and for that, we are very grateful,” Blackmun said, referring to a $42.3 million incentives package to provide the sports organization with new facilities, including a headquarters building on North Tejon Street, in exchange for the USOC’s commitment to stay in the city for at least 30 years.
Dave Ogrean, USA Hockey’s executive director, said Colorado Springs has been a “great place” for the national governing bodies to develop and for athletes to be trained.
Ogrean, who has lived in Colorado Springs off and on for more than 20 years, said he’s talked to Paul Butcher, director of city Parks, Recreation & Cultural Services, about the city’s budget challenges. The two serve on the board for Colorado Springs World Arena.
“We all live here. We know what we’re dealing with,” he said.
“City Council members, we really appreciate your work, and Mr. Mayor, we know it’s tough,” Ogrean said during the news conference. “But we want to keep the dreams alive of the kids of the Pikes Peak region, and I think this is a great way to help.”
Blackmun said the USOC will continue to partner with Colorado Springs.
A partnership “is about a lot more than just money,” he said.
“I think you’ll see the USOC much more engaged in the community, both in terms of our leadership group being engaged in various nonprofits in the city, but I think also in terms of the commitment that we’ve made to bring more events to Colorado Springs.”