Today, a group of business, tourism, and political leaders will present the controversial “City for Champions” proposal to the state’s Economic Development Commission hoping to secure $125 million. The funds would come from Colorado’s Regional Tourism Act, a law that helps finance large-scale development of tourism zones with the hope that, in the future, tourism would generate enough sales tax dollars to cover the costs of the project.
In Colorado Springs, the “City for Champions” proposal consists of a visitors’ center at the U.S. Air Force Academy (calling all alumni….); a sports medicine facility at UCCS, built to draw out-of-town injured athletes for treatment; a downtown stadium complex; and an interactive U.S. Olympic museum.
The proposal, spearheaded by Mayor Steve Bach has generated concerns from a number of corners. The greatest – the Regional Tourism Act only funds about half of the proposed costs of this project. Citizens are rightfully questioning where the balance of the project costs would come from. This money would have to be raised through taxes, new debt issuance, or donations.
To keep everyone honest, the RTA requires an independent, third party analysis of the economic impact of proposed projects (the applicant for RTA funding is required to furnish its own analysis). The independent report for this project estimated just $53 million in incremental tax revenues for the thirty year period of proposed funding. That would be a nearly $200 million shortfall.
We get it – Colorado Springs could use an economic boost. Is putting the residents of Colorado Springs on the hook for millions of dollars the best way to rev up the Springs’ economy?