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The ever-changing saga in the City of Colorado Springs’ City for Champions proposal has taken a number of blows in recent weeks.

The City for Champions proposal, first released by the City of Colorado Springs this past summer, has been touted as a blueprint for the future of Colorado Springs, both economically and socially.

Earlier this fall, The Catalyst reported that Mayor Steve Bach had announced the city’s intention to apply for $82.1 million in state funding over the next 30 years to cover a portion of the costs associated with a construction initiative — the City for Champions proposal — that would fundamentally alter the appearance of the city.

That funding request was reworked after third party consultants helped revise the city’s plan, citing potential flaws in the proposal. The most recent proposal released changed the plans to build a baseball stadium to house the city’s minor league baseball team, the Sky Sox, into a 10,000-seat multipurpose outdoor arena with an adjacent 3,000-seat indoor arena built in association with the U.S. Olympic Committee.

The new arena, estimated to cost over $92 million alone, would be a hub for Olympic events and local amateur sports. These recommended changes coincided with a boost in the estimated costs of the project and consequently a rise in the amount of money asked for by the city, from $82.1 million to $125.1 million over the next 30 years.

The revised proposal, which as of Dec. 4 has been under review by the state-run Colorado Economic Development Commission, also maps out the long-term costs and benefits brought to the state of Colorado through other projects such as an Olympic commemorative museum, an Air Force visitor’s center, and a sports medicine facility at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs.

The proposal has been heavily overshadowed by controversy and perpetual uncertainty, with many in the city disagreeing with the mayor’s decision to seek so much funding for a project that doesn’t guarantee economic success.

The recently released draft of the proposal estimated that the city could cover nearly half the cost of these large-scale projects through the state-sponsored Regional Tourism Act.

This document, which was first drafted in 2009, has seen $14.8 million given to the city of Pueblo and another $81.4 million given to the city of Aurora since its inception.

Up until last week, Colorado Springs officials seemed confident that they would also be able to tap this seemingly inexhaustible fund in order to generate enough money to jump-start the city lead projects. Mayor Bach even described the project on the City for Champions official website as “a game-changing opportunity.”

To the dismay of Colorado Springs officials, the success of the City for Champions proposal has been doubted after a state-commissioned third party evaluating firm released a report suggesting the tourist-driven additions would bring in drastically less money into the state than estimated by the City’s economic advisors and independent analysts.

The consultant, Economic & Planning Systems, Inc., has been working for the State of Colorado’s Governor’s Office of State Planning and Budgeting as an independent third-party consulting firm to determine the value city proposals will bring to the state.

The analysis conducted by Economic & Planning Systems, Inc. proposed that Colorado Springs only qualifies for $53.1 million in state funding, an astonishing $72 million less than the revised Colorado Springs proposal estimated.

Brian Duffany, the Vice President of Economic & Planning Systems, Inc., said that as a consultant it was their job to “review the applications and their estimates of new out-of-state visitors and the associated spending and revenue projections, on behalf of the State of Colorado.”

Since the release of this report, officials from Colorado Springs have been scrambling to revise their report in order to raise the eventual budget allocation deemed appropriate by the Colorado Economic Development Commission.

In a rare interview before the city shut down communications regarding the proposal, Bob Cope, the city’s head of Economic Vitality, told The Gazette that the “the EPS report gave us the opportunity to make a great application even better by adding context and detail.”

With the application currently under review and a decision due by December 16, both city officials and analysts from the Economic & Planning Systems, Inc. have been tight-lipped regarding the potentially ruinous consequences of the decision.

With the project total estimated at over $251 million by the city, the loss of over $72 million in expected funds could derail the city’s plan that has been described as the blueprint for the future of Colorado Springs.

With the future of Colorado Springs’ downtown hub at stake, the mayor, his associates in the city council, the analysts at EPS, and the tax-paying citizens of the city will all have to wait with bated breath to find out just how much more revenue the city will need to raise to fund these groundbreaking projects.

Morgan Wack

City Editor

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