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Controversial downtown Colorado Springs sports center tabled, new site eyed

January 22, 2018 Updated: January 23, 2018 at 2:10 pm
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Caption +
Artist rendering of the proposed sports and event center in Antlers Park

The controversial proposal to build a downtown sports and event center in Colorado Springs' Antlers Park is off the table.

The project might be moved to a different downtown site, though, businessman and lawyer Perry Sanders Jr. announced Monday at the Mining Exchange hotel, which he owns.

Sanders and the Ragain family, which owns the Colorado Springs Switchbacks minor league soccer team, had proposed building an 8,000-seat stadium for the team and a 2,000-seat indoor center for volleyball, basketball and other sports at Antlers Park.

But opposition was fierce, and the project faces a tight deadline to cash in on tax-increment financing promised by the state.

So, Sanders said, he and his partners were "blessed" last weekend when City Council President Richard Skorman called with an alternative site.

"We think they have a better location," Sanders said. "One that won't cause anybody noise issues, and it'll have more room, et cetera, et cetera."

Neither Sanders, Skorman nor Nick Ragain would identify the alternative site, but Skorman said it will be announced in about a month.

Antlers Park was dedicated to the city in 1882 by Gen. William Jackson Palmer, the city's founder.

City Attorney Wynetta Massey has said a stadium there would violate restrictions protecting public use of the park.

Detractors also cited insufficient parking and heavy traffic as problems, though proponents of the idea said it could clean up the park, which long has served as a haven for the homeless.

Antlers Park opponents had "zero" bearing on the decision to table that site, Sanders said.

But Councilman Bill Murray said the council would have voted Tuesday against studying that site, so the proposal was withdrawn.

Mayor John Suthers has said the 3.3-acre park is too small for a stadium.

The council next month will discuss how to reinvigorate Antlers, Acacia and Alamo Square parks, which homeless people frequent, Skorman said.

"There may be improvements that can be made on all three," he said.

Meanwhile, "substantial work" must begin on the stadium by Dec. 13 if the project is to retain the nearly $28 million in promised state funds.

The Colorado Economic Development Commission approved up to $120.5 million for City for Champions' four projects in 2013, including the sports and event center.

But with that approval came a five-year deadline for work to start.

Although Sanders urged the council earlier this month to move quickly, he said Monday he's confident the deadline still can be met at the new site.

Work might even move more quickly there, Sanders and Skorman agreed.

While Antlers Park must remain accessible to the public, the mystery site faces no such restriction, they said.

A stadium at the new location could more than double attendance for the Switchbacks' 20-game season, Sanders said.

That boost "should conservatively put 150,000 new people doing business downtown each season," he said. "At just $20 per person on average, eating and drinking at local establishments downtown, that is conservatively $3 million in added revenue to downtown eateries in walking distance to the Switchbacks' new stadium."

Those estimates equate to about $270,000 in new sales tax revenue downtown and could boost the city's hotels, said Sanders, who also owns the Antlers hotel and The Famous steakhouse.

Murray said he won't support a stadium at any location unless he is sure that no taxpayer money will be spent on it and that the Switchbacks are proven to be a financially viable business.

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