(WOODMEN) Air Force Academy Gateway Visitor Center (copy)

The Colorado Springs City Council has agreed to annex nearly 200 acres, making the Air Force Academy’s visitor center part of a 60-acre development along North Gate Boulevard.

El Paso County commissioners moved the proposed Air Force Academy visitors center another step forward Tuesday (July 2), pledging millions in future new tax dollars to help pay for it.

Commissioners approved a revenue sharing proposal with the city’s Urban Renewal Authority. It authorizes the county to contribute about $10 million in sales and property tax revenue to the project for over 25 years.

The development will generate the anticipated tax revenues through future sales transactions, meaning the plan demands nothing new from taxpayers.

The proposed development originated as part of the multifaceted City for Champions plan to enhance regional tourism revenues, making it eligible for $13 million in state sales tax rebates through the Regional Tourism Act.

The plan includes mixed commercial, retail and hospitality businesses. Along with hotels, restaurants, and office space, the proposal includes a possible indoor skydiving center for the general public and academy personnel.

Moving this project along makes common sense for Colorado Springs, the Air Force Academy, and the economies of Colorado and the Pikes Peak region.

The Air Force Academy is a major primary employer and a key element of the Colorado Springs economy. The visitors center and associated development will leverage the academy by giving tourists more reasons to stay in the area and spend.

New businesses will create jobs. Hotels will generate public revenue collected under the Lodgers and Automobile Rental Tax.

“I see an enormous amount of value with regard to this project,” Commissioner Stan VanderWerf said before voting.

“Jobs and tourism are two examples of that with regard to economic development. The fact that we have an opportunity here to create a nationally recognized and iconic structure, I think, is of value to our community.”

Commissioner Longinos Gonzalez Jr. said the deal “makes sense for our county residents from a financial perspective.”

The project heads to the City Council on Tuesday, where it has the support of businessman and council President Richard Skorman and most of his colleagues.

“This certainly fits with what has been done across the state for well over a decade,” Skorman said.

Although local politicians and regulators take seriously all development proposals, scrutinizing details, this one should not be too difficult going forward. Nearly everyone will win.

Planners anticipate the project will create 1,200 permanent jobs, 1,700 construction jobs and $2.6 billion in economic growth over 25 years.

City and county officials have done a good job ensuring developers get this project right. It needs to be world class.

Whether to approve this plan should not be in question — unless new jobs and $2.6 billion in growth are somehow a bad thing for the people of Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak region. It is time get this done, to the benefit of all.

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