Colorado Springs makes its case for economic development aid

By Megan Schrader Updated: December 5, 2013 at 7:16 am • Published: December 4, 2013 | 1:50 pm 0

DENVER - There was song and dance, booing and cheering, criticism and support Wednesday as City for Champions, a $250 million Colorado Springs development, was pitched to the Economic Development Commission.

The commission will decide later this month whether to award the proposal $125.1 million in economic development incentives to facilitate the construction of an Olympic museum, a sporting events arena, a sports medicine clinic and an Air Force Academy visitors center.

The proposal is seeking funding through the Regional Tourism Act - a relatively new law that gives large-scale and unique projects a percentage of the sales tax generated by a regional tourism zone during the next 30 years.

It's up to the Economic Development Commission - a board of nine appointed members - to determine if City for Champions qualifies under the Regional Tourism Act, and if so, what percentage of sales tax revenue coming from the region should the project receive.

The City of Colorado Springs - applicant for the RTA funding - says it should receive $125.1 million, or 14.2 percent of the sales tax increment generated in the regional tourism zone during the next 30 years.

Dan Guimond, principal of Economic and Planning Systems, Inc., conducted a third-party review of the project and found the city should receive $53.1 million over the next 30 years, or 6.13 percent of the sales tax increment.

The tax increment is only the growth in sales tax revenue in a geographically defined area. It does not include base sales tax revenue that would have occurred without the proposed project, based on natural economic growth.

According to Guimond, the anticipated sales tax increment in the area over 30 years is $800 million while the overall sales tax revenue is much higher - $3.8 billion.

If RTA funding is not approved all of the sales tax revenue - with or without the project - would go to state coffers.

But proponents of the project argue without RTA funding City for Champions will never be constructed, so the state wouldn't realize any of the other economic benefits associated with it, including sales tax increases.

New details

The new details that emerged from the presentation Wednesday were largely centered around how the city proposes to finance the project.

Colorado Springs City Councilmember Joel Miller testified against the project largely because financing is uncertain and requires a commitment from taxpayers.

"I have a great number of concerns over this proposal," Miller said. "There is no base financing and four councilmembers have signed a letter to reject any public financing."

Bob Cope, head of the city's Economic Development Division, said the project's finances are still estimates. Cope said if the state grants the money the city is requesting - roughly $125.1 million - the city could issue $47.5 million in bonds and use the Regional Tourism Act dollars as a steady income to pay off the debt.

According to documents given to the board in advance of the hearing, the rest of the $250 million project would be financed as follows:

Philanthropic private donations: $48.2 million

Clinic revenues from UCCS sports medicine facility: $13.9 million

City of Colorado Springs sales tax increment financing: $32.5 million

EL Paso County sales tax increment financing: $16.8 million

Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority funding for a pedestrian bridge: $2.1 million

City of Colorado Springs parking revenue from a proposed garage: $29.5 million

Colorado Springs Urban Renewal Authority: $46.8 million

New Market Tax Credits or Municipal Bonds: $10 million

CU/Higher Education Capitol Construction: $1.4 million

Regional Tourism Act $47.5 million

Bill Hybl, chairman of the El Pomar Foundation, said his board is committed to making a substantial private donation to City for Champions, but said he is unable to give a specific dollar amount.

Hybl used examples of other donations, such as $3.5 million to the Denver Art Museum and a record-setting contribution of $32 million to the World Arena in Colorado Springs.

Contact Megan Schrader

719-286-0644

Twitter: @CapitolSchrader

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