Bob Cope, manager of economic development for Colorado Springs, opened a public meeting to discuss the new downtown stadium Wednesday night at Centennial Hall by calling the Switchbacks’ new home the most difficult part of the City for Champions initiative.
Cope added that the multiuse venue has the chance to have the biggest impact among the projects.
“It’s going to do great things for our community beyond the venue itself,” Cope said.
Pulling off an 8,000-seat stadium without public funds required Switchbacks FC brass to cede some ownership of the team and its new home and join forces with Weidner Apartment Homes, a club sponsor since 2016 that owns the current stadium’s naming rights. The partnership, titled Switchbacks FC Holdings Co., is picking up more than half of the stadium’s costs, according to Laura Neumann of Weidner Apartment Homes.
“In today’s dollars, we are receiving about $13.5 million for the stadium, specifically. The remainder of that will be financed through private entity with the stadium partnership,” Neumann said.
“That’s over half of the cost that will be privately funded.”
Plans for the stadium include a restaurant on the corner of Cimarron and Sierra Madre. That will be the first sight for those using the Cimarron Street exit off Interstate 25 to get to the stadium.
“This is the critical corner that we think needs to be really stellar in terms of how people come into the city and the experience they get from the stadium,” said Andy Barnard, the principal architect for Perkins and Will Architects, which is handling design.
The main entrance will be positioned a bit to the east on Sahwatch Street where there are plans for one of two plazas.
“The nature of Sahwatch Street will be very pedestrian and festival-like on a game night, but the rest of the time it’s going to operate like a normal street,” Barnard said.
The other plaza will be more lasting as Moreno Street will close between Sahwatch and Sierra Madre with a 200-unit apartment building and retail space going up on the south side of the street. Other planned features include a dining space inside a cog car that was purchased from the Pikes Peak railway, a 7,000-foot, 240-seat sky club that could be used as a banquet room even when sporting events are not taking place and a section for fans seeking a more intense experience just behind the south goal.
When the presentations were finished, the floor was opened for questions with the most popular topic being parking. The plans do not include any additional parking other than what’s required by code.
While a few residents of the nearby Mill Street neighborhood voiced parking concerns — one asking if the plans were a little “short-sighted” — Chris Lieber, a principal at N.E.S. Landscape Architects, cited a study that found 750-900 available, meaning vacant at the time, parking spots within a five-minute walk and 1,850-2,300 within 10 minutes. A Switchbacks sellout would require 2,350 spots, the study found. Lieber added that some of the larger downtown parking garages exist just beyond the 10-minute radius. Those structures have helped accommodate crowds more than double the new stadium’s 15,000-seat capacity for larger events like concerts.
“Currently, there are a number of big events that happen downtown that are much, much larger than this venue could certainly hold,” Lieber said, naming the Parade of Lights and other events.
Club president Nick Ragain added that the club is open to suggestions to lighten the parking burden, noting the possibility of a shuttle or nearby businesses renting out existing lots. The Switchbacks estimated playing 22 home games per season at the new stadium with other sporting events and concerts sharing the rest of the calendar.
Another question raised concerns about gentrification and what might happen to those who rely on the services of the Salvation Army on Sierra Madre and Rio Grande, just a block south of the stadium.
“It’s a communitywide issue,” Neumann responded before making a commitment to contribute to a potential solution.
There was no discussion or questions on the future of the coal-fired Martin Drake power plant, just to the west, but Ragain later said there was no substantial update.
Most of the presenters mentioned the hope that the stadium being built on what is a vacant lot would expedite the revitalization of the area.
“Currently, we’re all very well familiar with what it is. During the day, it’s an eyesore. In the evening, it’s unsafe,” Ragain said. “We’re very excited to be part of bringing a great project to Colorado Springs to really change the life and energy of this part of downtown.”