Colorado Springs is on the verge of becoming a hotspot for national and even international tourism - thanks to a proposal that is gaining momentum day by day.
When I first heard about City for Champions, I thought this visionary project was just what Colorado Springs needed. I saw its potential to leverage the attractiveness of our most revered institutions - the U.S. Olympic Committee, the U.S. Air Force Academy and the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs - in a way that helps celebrate our community culturally and reinvigorate it economically. I realized this effort could raise our city's profile on the national and even world map.
I shared my enthusiasm with some of our local political and civic leadership, only I was looking at it from a slightly different lens.
I'm a two-time, two sport Paralympian and, before that, an aspiring Olympian who has spent years involved in, and committed to, the Olympic movement. I'm also a Gulf War veteran who understands the devoted patriotism of our nation's armed forces. I have an appreciation for what the Olympics, the Paralympics and the military mean to our community, and as a "connector," I realize how much more our city could benefit with an endeavor like City for Champions.
Growing communities grow best by investing in themselves. That's exactly what this proposal does. The Colorado Economic Development Commission will consider a request by representatives of our region to rebate some of the state tax revenue that City for Champions will generate so the money can stay in the Pikes Peak region to help the project develop.
The proposal is exciting. Plans include a first-ever U.S. Olympic Museum as well as a multiuse, sports and events center in the southwestern part of downtown Colorado Springs. The Air Force Academy, which is almost as much a part of our region's signature as is Pikes Peak itself, will get a new visitors center. And the proposal will develop a leading-edge sports medicine and performance center at UCCS.
I believe City for Champions will contribute tremendously to the Pikes Peak region's traditional tourism economy. There's already plenty of data reinforcing that point. What's so compelling from my perspective is the different kinds of visitors the proposal could draw and the new markets it could tap into, particularly in the Olympic world.
When I moved to Colorado Springs 10 years ago, my 15-year-old son asked me, "Dad, where are all the sports complexes like back in Virginia and Maryland?" I had no answer for him. We generally went to Fort Carson to shoot hoops or lift weights. I'm excited to hear about new facilities in Colorado Springs that can host youth sports like basketball, volleyball and indoor soccer. The facilities will also attract more national tournaments, which will mean investments by those visiting teams as they purchase hotel rooms, meals, and go shopping.
Now, picture the same dynamic at work on a far bigger scale, with both an Olympic museum and a new sports venue in a city like Colorado Springs. The Olympic and Paralympic games are two of the most recognized brands in the world and our city already is home not only to the headquarters of the USOC but also to the U.S. Olympic Training Center and 23 national governing bodies for sports like wrestling, swimming and cycling. With a new sporting venue, these NGBs would have the option to plan and stage competitive events in their own backyard instead of taking them to other cities.
Then, think of those same visitors taking in the planned museum - not just a static collection of pictures and plaques but an interactive, educational and captivating Olympic and Paralympic tribute that could give visitors a firsthand feel for competition. I'd like to see latest-generation, high-performance technology allowing visitors to virtually run a bobsled or luge course, race an Olympic cyclist or try your luck simulating competition in a wheelchair 800 meters or long-jumping as an amputee.
The time is right to leverage all the great attractions that make Colorado Springs a travel destination. It's a mission I believe in and a vision with tremendous potential-for a community I love.
Register is president of Inspired Communications International in Colorado Springs.