A plan to build an 8,000-seat outdoor stadium in downtown for the Colorado Springs Switchbacks soccer team has taken another major step forward.
The Colorado Springs Urban Renewal Authority on Wednesday agreed to issue $14 million in bonds that will finance half of the stadium’s approximate $28 million cost. The Switchbacks and partner Weidner Apartment Homes of suburban Seattle will fund the rest of the project.
The stadium, along with an indoor arena planned for the Colorado College campus, make up a sports and event center component of the 6-year-old City for Champions initiative — a series of projects designed to promote local tourism that are being partially funded by the state.
The other projects are a downtown U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Museum; the William J. Hybl Sports Medicine and Performance Center at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs; and a new Air Force Academy visitors center.
“It continues to move steps forward in a positive way for the community,” Randy Case, the Urban Renewal Authority’s board chairman, said of the stadium’s bond issue.
“Those (City for Champions) projects have been in conversation for over five years, so it’s exciting to get another piece of the puzzle moved along.”
Downtown advocates expect the stadium, which will be built on a vacant parcel southwest of Cimarron and Sahwatch streets, to become another key element in efforts to make over southwest downtown.
Attempts to revamp the mostly light industrial area — southwest of Colorado and Cascade avenues — have languished, for the most part, since city officials and community leaders targeted southwest downtown for redevelopment in 2001.
The stadium, which also would host concerts and other events, is expected to draw visitors and local residents to the area. Weidner Apartment Homes, meanwhile, has purchased land near the stadium site where it plans hundreds of apartments and a mixed-use project.
An 82-acre area north of the stadium also is being targeted for apartments, offices, retail and a hotel, among other uses. The Olympic and Paralympic Museum and America the Beautiful Park are a few minutes from the stadium.
The stadium bond issue, however, isn’t a done deal. The Colorado Economic Development Commission must sign off on the financing, which could come at the panel’s Oct. 9 meeting, said Jariah Walker, the authority’s executive director.
The City for Champions projects, which were proposed in 2013, are receiving $120.5 million in state sales tax funds over 30 years — financial assistance approved by the state Economic Development Commission.
In the stadium’s case, a portion of state sales tax revenues collected in Colorado Springs and being rebated to the city will be used to pay off the $14 million bond issue.
As part of the Economic Development Commission’s approval of City for Champions in 2013, “substantial work” was required to begin on the projects by last December.
The museum and sports performance and medicine center met the “substantial work” requirement; both projects are under construction and expected to open in 2020.
But the stadium and arena, along with the visitors center, lagged behind the other two projects. The Economic Development Commission agreed last year to give those projects until December to meet the substantial work test.
Bob Cope, Colorado Springs’ economic development officer, said Wednesday that he hopes the Urban Renewal Authority’s approval of the bond issue will help persuade the Economic Development Commission to stamp the stadium as having met the substantial work requirement.
Planning and design work are taking place on the stadium. Assuming the Economic Development Commission gives its OK, construction could start this year with an opening in spring 2021.
The Edward J. Robson Arena, as the Colorado College venue will be known, won’t need a bond issue, Urban Renewal Authority representatives said Wednesday; most of the arena’s estimated $39 million cost is being funded by the college, with state sales tax revenue covering about $9 million.
The arena — to be built on a block bounded by Nevada Avenue and Cache La Poudre, Dale and Tejon streets — is expected to seat about 3,000 to 3,600 people for the school’s hockey games and other events.
The college expects to break ground early next year and complete the building and an on-site parking garage in 2021.
“Those (City for Champions) projects have been in conversation for over five years, so it’s exciting to get another piece of the puzzle moved along.” Randy Case, Urban Renewal Authority board chairman