November 8, 2013 Updated: November 9, 2013 at 7:50 am
A downtown stadium that's a critical component of Colorado Springs' City for Champions tourism proposal has been redesigned into a multi-sport venue - a major revision by the plan's backers as they vie for state funding.
The downtown facility still could be a home for the Colorado Springs Sky Sox baseball team, as was envisioned in the original City for Champions proposal, said project spokesman Doug Price, president and CEO of the Colorado Springs Convention Visitors Bureau..
But under the reworked proposal, baseball would be optional and not the facility's primary purpose, Price said. That means the minor-league Sky Sox could remain in their longtime home at Security Service Field on the Springs' northeast side - appeasing residents in that part of town who objected to the team's possible move.
"It (the redesigned sports venue) could host lots of different types of sporting events that could really suit a lot of the national governing bodies here locally and from around the country," Price said.
The Springs is home to about two dozen amateur sports groups that govern Olympic sports.
The downtown venue also could host concerts, graduations and other non-sporting events, as was proposed in the original City for Champions plan, Price said.
Changes also are being made to the other three projects in the City for Champions proposal, but Price said he wouldn't discuss them - and how significant the changes might be - until next week.
The change in City for Champions was made as backers worked Friday to complete responses to an economic analysis of their proposal by a state-hired consultant. The consultant's report, released last week, criticized City for Champions in several areas and questioned the number of tourists that proponents said would visit the four projects.
The responses were originally due to the state Office of Economic Development and International Trade by the end of the day Friday, but Kathy Green, an Economic Development spokeswoman, said City for Champions backers were given an extension to the end of the day Sunday.
City for Champion backers won't make their responses public until late next week, after they've been sent to the state and the consultant for review, Price said. He declined to disclose additional details about the revamped sports venue until next week, and wouldn't release a rendering.
City for Champions is a $218.6 million package of attractions proposed by the city of Colorado Springs, along with civic and business leaders. The venues include a downtown U.S. Olympic Museum, a new Air Force Academy visitors center, a sports medicine and performance center at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and the downtown stadium.
To help pay for the projects, city officials applied in July to the Office of Economic Development for $82.1 million in state sales tax funds. Colorado's Regional Tourism Act makes money available for tourism projects that demonstrate they will draw new visitors to the state.
As part of the decision-making process required under the act, the state hired a consultant to examine the proposal and whether it qualifies for funding.
The consultant's report downgraded City for Champions' projections - suggesting the tourism venues would draw only about 214,000 new visitors to Colorado, down about 60 percent from the nearly 522,000 out-of-state tourists estimated by proponents.
As a result, the consultant said the city should be eligible for $31.4 million in state sales tax funds, down from the $82.1 million that was requested.
The consultant skipped a review of the UCCS facility, saying City for Champions proponents didn't provide enough information on the project. One of the biggest priorities, Price said, is for supporters to beef up the UCCS sports medicine proposal and ensure it receives consideration from the state.
The consultant also questioned parts of the stadium plan, saying there was no deal in place for the Sky Sox to use the venue and the city didn't own the land where it might be built. In addition, the consultant criticized the proposal because backers didn't have firm financial commitments from other sources - a requirement to receive state funds that are supposed to put a tourism project's completion over the finish line, not serve as start-up money.
City for Champions backers hope the change in the stadium plan will persuade the state that it can draw more new visitors, helping ensure they'll receive the full $82.1 million.
Price also acknowledged many northeast side residents were upset about the Sky Sox's possible move to downtown from Security Service Field, which opened in 1988 as Sky Sox Stadium.
"The east side of town really rallied for the Sky Sox," Price said. "If the Sky Sox decide they're going to stay out there, it's their call to make."
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