City for Champions: UCCS' sports medicine and performance center
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Sports Medicine and Performance Center. North Nevada Avenue Campus of the University of Colorado Colorado Springs. (Courtesy of City for Champions, 2016)

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The coming year should bring some long-awaited clarity to the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs' City for Champions initiative.

While other projects have hurdles to clear, UCCS' sports medicine and performance center is expected to gain form in 2017, said Charles Sweet, the university's vice chancellor for strategic initiatives. The goal: Create a national hub for elite athletes, first responders, military personnel and exercise buffs.

Two reports - one in March, the other in May - are expected to shed light on the types of medicine, research and instruction that will take place at the yet-to-be-designed facility, Sweet said.

The first will detail programs housed at the building, he said. The second will focus on the building's location and space requirements.

Only then can project leaders design the facility, which is tentatively planned for 72,000 square feet.

Groundbreaking is set for June 2018, likely along North Nevada Avenue near the university's Lane Center for Academic Health Sciences. Crews are expected to wrap up construction in December 2019.

The center aims to help people "who want to improve performance for whatever reasons, whether it's for competition, recreation or just having an active lifestyle," Sweet said.

"We hope to have the array of services that these populations would expect to see in a building like this," he added.

Project leaders took a major step forward in June, when UCCS announced plans to partner with Penrose-St. Francis Health Services on developing the facility.

Twenty-five UCCS faculty members have since worked with Penrose-St. Francis leaders to brainstorm programs for the center, Sweet said.

They hail from many specialties, including high-altitude performance, biomechanics, tactical performance, athletic training and sports dietetics and nutrition.

"The partnership has been enormously productive," Sweet said. "And that has been what's propelled us forward."

Sweet and his colleagues also visited other high-end sports programs across the nation, including the Mayo Clinic and sports and orthopedic specialty institutes in Ohio, Florida and Utah.

The goal is to make UCCS' program a unique draw for athletes across the nation.

"While we intend to serve populations in the Pikes Peak region, we are intentionally developing programs that will attract people nationally," Sweet said. "Because otherwise, we aren't serving the purpose of the Regional Tourism Act."

The act paved the way for the university to issue bonds that will be repaid by $16.8 million in sales tax rebates. The university also will help finance the project, along with private donations and rent paid by Penrose-St. Francis to use the space.

The center could cost nearly $40 million. University officials have previously said the facility could cost $25 million to $29 million, with road, utility and other related work costing $10 million.

Those costs could change, however, as project leaders settle on the types of programs offered at the center.

"We want to get this right," Sweet said.

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Contact Jakob Rodgers: 476-1654

Twitter: @jakobrodgers

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