Updated: November 27, 2013 at 10:27 am
The part of the City for Champions application deemed too incomplete to even be analyzed - a sports medicine complex at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs - is actually the project closest to fruition.
UCCS Chancellor Pam Shockley-Zalabak said Monday during a Gazette Editorial Board meeting that she has had to keep details of the planned medical center close to the chest because the campus was actively talking with potential developers.
"I think the consultants were right and it was a matter of timing," Shockley-Zalabak said of a critical report released earlier this month that called out the UCCS project as incomplete.
The proposed sports medicine and performance center is one of four projects proposed in Colorado Springs' City for Champions application for $120.5 million in state economic development aid. Additional funding will be required for the $251 million project.
The sports medicine complex would go well beyond serving the Olympic athletes already living and training in Colorado Springs and draw athletes from across the country looking for world-class treatment, Shockley-Zalabak said.
She hinted that such a facility would be attractive to professional athletes and that informal conversations have occurred with the NFL and NHL.
"Do I think we will be one of those elite clinics in the future? Absolutely, that's the reason to do it," she said. "We'll be training students in a way they can't be trained anyplace else, and then, that attracts better students."
A consultant hired by the state to review the City for Champions application said the overall proposal likely would draw fewer tourists than projected by proponents, and also called out the UCCS project as not being "defined clearly enough or far enough along in the development process."
The city responded to those criticisms, and a final report from the consultant - Economic & Planning Systems - is due any day.
The City for Champions application was submitted by the city of Colorado Springs with a number of partners as part of the Regional Tourism Act, which allows the state to dedicate future sales-tax revenues to projects that promise to generate enough tourism and economic activity to repay the debt.
In addition to a sports medicine clinic located off North Nevada Avenue near Pulpit Rock, the City for Champions proposes a new Air Force Academy visitors center and a downtown U.S. Olympic museum combined with an events center that could hold Olympic sporting events.
Supporters of the project will make a presentation to the Colorado Economic Development Commission next week, and the commission is expected to make a decision Dec. 16 whether to approve the project.
Shockley-Zalabak emphasized that the 72,000-square-foot sports medicine complex has long been a part of the UCCS master plan, and additional money from the state would only jump-start the program with an aggressive opening date in 2015.
The building is part of the Health and Wellness Village that began with construction of the Lane Center for Academic Health Sciences. That building is set to open in January and Shockley-Zalabak said practitioners are already lined up.
She said the $8 million requested from the state in the Regional Tourism Act application would be a small slice of the $27 million project. A portion of the remaining funding would come from user fees paid by the medical clinics that rent space in the building.
"We will not be requiring any additional funds from the citizens, which would be inappropriate," she said.
The sports medicine complex is expected to draw thousands of people from out of state for world-class medical treatment similar to the draw of a Mayo Clinic.
"We can have a major set of clinics that will put very great emphasis on United States Olympic athletes, wounded warriors, paralympians and then draw people from out of state, simultaneously becoming a destination," Shockley-Zalabak said. "The numbers we're presenting to the consultants to look at are very realistic."
In August, the University of Colorado Board of Regents voted to support the project in conjunction with City for Champions.
CITY FOR CHAMPIONS POLL
WPA Opinion Research conducted a poll of 400 Colorado Springs registered voters in October, asking them how they would support various elements of the City for Champions project. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percent.
• 82 percent support “a new sports medicine and performance center at UCCS that will be a leading center for sports medicine research and serve the needs of high-performing athletes as well as an active population of wounded warriors returning to area bases.”
• 65 percent support “a United States Olympic Museum, the only museum in the U.S. dedicated to the stories of American Olympians ...”
• 59 percent support “a new visitors center at the U.S. Air Force Academy that will create a more engaging visitor experience ...”
• 59 percent support “a downtown Olympic sports complex and events center that would host as many as 200 or more annual events including Olympic sports like wrestling and volleyball, baseball games ...”
Source: WPA Opinion Research polling memo
CITY FOR CHAMPIONS: AT A GLANCE
The program: Colorado’s Regional Tourism Act created a program by which communities could compete for state sales tax funds for projects that draw new visitors to the state. Local governments applying for funding must provide economic data that show how their projects would attract out-of-state tourism. The Colorado Economic Development Commission can approve up to two such projects in fiscal year 2014.
For this fiscal year, Colorado Springs’ City for Champions proposal was the lone applicant for state tourism funds.
City for Champions proposes four tourism projects and related improvements, totaling $251 million: a downtown U.S. Olympic museum dedicated to the Olympic and Paralympic movements; a downtown stadium and multipurpose events center geared toward attracting Olympic and amateur sporting events; a sports medicine and performance center on the campus of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs; and an Air Force Academy visitors center. The $251 million total cost includes $51 million for a series of downtown public improvements.
Supporters applied in July to the state Office of Economic Development and International Trade for $82.1 million in state tourism money to help fund the projects. That was increased to $120.5 million following changes made to the plan.
Dec. 4: City for Champions backers present their proposal to the Colorado Economic Development Commission during a public hearing at 9 a.m. in the Hershner Room at 1700 Lincoln St. in Denver.
Dec. 13: Ken Lund, executive director of the Office of Economic Development and International Trade makes a recommendation on City for Champions to the Economic Development Commission
Dec. 16: The Economic Development Commission decides whether to award state sales tax funds.