Revised Colorado Springs application accepted by state commission

July 26, 2013 Updated: July 26, 2013 at 12:35 am
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Denver - While hoteliers battled over the Regional Tourism Act incentives awarded in 2012, the Colorado Springs application for about $82 million in sales tax subsidies was accepted as the only application for 2013.

The city revised some numbers from its initial application indicating the $218.6 million project might not generate as much revenue as originally projected, but Jason Dunn, attorney with Brownstein Hyatt Farber and Schreck, said the new estimates won't hurt the project or its chance of getting financing.

"The key for us was to be as honest and as thorough as we could be," said Dunn, who was hired by the parties interested in the project - but not the city. "There's no reason to cook the numbers."

Titled the City for Champions, the application proposes redevelopment of a swath of mostly light industrial properties in downtown Colorado Springs. It cost $30,000 to submit the application to the state Economic Development Commission.

The project proposes construction of a U.S. Olympic museum and a baseball stadium for the Sky Sox downtown. The proposal also includes a University of Colorado at Colorado Springs sports performance center on North Nevada Avenue and an Air Force Academy visitors center near Falcon Stadium.

Dunn said the project wouldn't be possible without the state promising to return some of the future sales taxes from the development.

Originally, the city estimated the project would generate $201.7 million in new economic development activity to the state, which is revenue that it argued would not come to Colorado without the development.

But revised estimates on Thursday reduced that to $173.2 million.

That could make investment less attractive for the state, but no other applications for Regional Tourism Act dollars were submitted by the July deadline.

The new responses submitted Thursday also included details about how the project would be funded. Partners such as the Air Force Academy and the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs would be expected to bring about $61 million to the project raised mostly from private donors.

Public money would account for about $74 million in costs - $24 million from the Colorado Springs Urban Renewal Authority, $10 million from New Market Tax Credits and $40 million in local bonds.

The state sales tax incentive would fill the gap of about $83 million.

"It is well known that these projects have been 'on the shelf' for many years, if not decades, but have languished due to a viable capital funding plan," the applicant wrote.

Now the application must go through a lengthy review. First, the application will be sent to various local entities with a vested interest, such as El Paso County and area businesses. After the third-party review and report, the applicant will present the full project to the Economic Development Commission in early December. Public hearings will follow, and at a late-December board meeting, the commission will vote on the project funding.

Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan was at the meeting Thursday defending his city's application last year for $81 million in incentives for a hotel. It could be reconsidered or revoked because of several changes in the proposal since it was approved.

Hogan said he wishes Colorado Springs the best with its project but offered a word of caution.

"If they're approved, they better not make any changes," Hogan said.

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