City for Champions initiative is a win for both jobs and taxpayers

By: Bob Cope
January 5, 2014
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Kanda Calef's recent Op Ed: "Taxpayers will be tapped for City for Champions" is misleading and inaccurate. City for Champions (C4C) represents an historic opportunity, for our community and it is crucial that citizens have honest and accurate information upon which to decide their support.

Let's start with the suggestion that City for Champions will be a burden on local taxpayers. To be clear, Mayor Steve Bach will not support new taxes associated with C4C and will ask City Council to have the voters approve any new bonds to be issued by the city to be repaid out of General Fund cash flow.

He looks forward to a community-wide conversation over the coming months to fully evaluate and verify the financial plan's sustainability without any risk to taxpayers.

The state's Regional Tourism Act (RTA), under which the C4C application was recently approved in full by the Colorado Economic Development Commission (EDC), was based on the importance of tourism to Colorado's economy. The RTA $120.5 million grant, which has been offered to us is available only for building tourist attractions, which will bring more out-of-state visitors to Colorado and our region.

The state will be rebating to Colorado Springs 13 percent of new state sales taxes collected above the current level within the C4C zone. The city upon City Council approval and El Paso County upon the commissioners' approval will use 13 percent (not 100 percent as Calef stated) of their new sales taxes collected above the current level within the zone to help pay for the C4C development and construction cost.

Private donations and federal new market tax credits will also contribute importantly to the cost. The state, Colorado Springs and the county will each retain 87 percent of their new sales taxes above the current level. For our city and county, that means millions of new dollars annually which can be deployed for high priority storm water and roads and bridges new improvements.

Calef claims that "using a TIF in this manner could stagnate our local economy, while maintenance of roads, storm water issues and other infrastructure needs are neglected." Not true - C4C will be a major economic driver with positive catalytic impact and the tax increment financing described above captures only 13 percent of the total sales tax increase over the existing base.

The state, city and county will continue to receive the existing base revenue plus new sales tax attributable to inflation of the base plus growth in the base from existing businesses and new businesses.

In addition, C4C will create 4,500-plus local jobs. Mayor Bach will ask that the development and construction work be outsourced with local vendors receiving preference where practical. The economic impact to the state from job growth alone is estimated to be an additional $125 million in tax revenue over 30 years and $5.2 billion added to the state GDP over the same period. C4C does not divert tax revenue from roads, storm water and other infrastructure needs.

In fact, C4C actually generates millions in new local tax revenue to be used for infrastructure needs and core city services.

City for Champions is an extraordinary economic development initiative. It grows the economy by expanding the tax base, which is essential for long-term, stable, well paying jobs creation and a fiscally sustainable city government. The state will be returning to our region $120.5 million of the new state sales tax paid here.

Mayor Bach continues to support C4C in concept, subject to making sure that the financial plan is sustainable without any risk to city or county taxpayers. He will work with City Council President Keith King and El Paso County Commission Chair Dennis Hisey in leading a robust community conversation over the coming months and looks forward to questions and ideas from fellow citizens throughout the region. In the end, it will be the buyers of the C4C bonds who will decide on the financial plan and long-term sustainability of the venues without risk to taxpayers.


Bob Cope is Senior Specialist, Economic Vitality, and C4C Manager, for the City of Colorado Springs.

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