Initially, the City for Champions idea was a good one: Let’s do something big, by building big things (like an Air Force Academy Visitors Center, U.S. Olympic Museum and Hall of Fame, UCCS Sports Medicine and Performance Center, and a downtown sports and events center) to attract tourists and positive attention to Colorado Springs, and grow our economy. Who could object to such a noble goal?
They had the right idea, but went about it the wrong way. Public input was not sought about which projects should be built. Public input was not sought about how these projects should be paid for. And all four projects have been pushed as one inseparable package deal, take it or leave it; which is undesirable, considering the growing controversy surrounding the downtown stadium.
The idea for a sports stadium downtown is nothing new, going back to the early 1900s. The Gazette wrote a great article about it, here. But times have changed, and so too have people’s attitudes about downtown. And from what little information we know about how this stadium project was developed, no one seems to have seriously considered how these important factors had changed.
For only after the stadium project was announced and people began mumbling their dissatisfaction with it, only then was a survey taken to see whether or not people actually wanted a stadium downtown. And the results from that survey were not made public for a very long time (another mistake)—we now know why: because the results were unfavorable to the project.
And finding financing for this final project has been a nightmare. At first it was hoped the Sky Sox would move into the new stadium, abandoning their home at Security Service Field, and they’d therefore help cover some of the construction costs. But the Sky Sox said no—which then left the whole project in limbo. Then someone thought of changing the stadium into an all-purpose sports complex, hoping some other team would partner with the project and help pay for it. But no team wanted to do so. Only recently, however, has the newly formed Switchbacks pro soccer team said they’ll consider using the stadium, so long as it meets their needs. Who knows how that’ll end.
As it stands, in the final analysis, I have no serious objections to the Air Force Academy Visitors Center, or the U.S. Olympic Museum and Hall of Fame, or the UCCS Sports Medicine and Performance Center. In fact, I hope all three of these projects do get built and help put Colorado Springs back on the tourism map. And I look forward to visiting them someday.
But I do object to the downtown sports and events center, because the people of Colorado Springs object to the stadium. And I object to how this whole process was handled: with secrecy, not transparency; and private negotiations, not a community conversation.