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Colorado Springs is only applicant for Regional Tourism Act tax incentive this year

Last year, the competition was steep for hefty sales-tax rebates through the statewide Regional Tourism Act. Six municipalities were vying for the incentives, and the Colorado Economic Development Commission could only pick two. It wound up choosing projects proposed by Pueblo and Aurora, whose plan to build a massive hotel was among the most controversial.

This year, the decision may be easier: As of yesterday's deadline, only one city -- Colorado Springs -- had applied. Its application includes plans to build an Olympic museum, a baseball stadium and more.

The Colorado Springs project is called "City for Champions" and includes four components for which the city is seeking a total of $201 million in tax rebates over thirty years, according to the city's eighty-page application:

  • A United States Olympic Museum, to be "dedicated to the Olympic and Paralympic Movement." (Colorado Springs is home to the United States Olympic Committee.) Estimated cost: $59.4 million.
  • A downtown stadium and event center that will host games for the Colorado Sky Sox, "the top AAA affiliate of the Colorado Rockies." Estimated cost: $60.7 million.
  • The University of Colorado-Colorado Springs Sports Medicine and Performance Center, "a destination clinic for training and healing elite athletes and wounded warriors." Estimated cost: $27 million.
  • A new visitors center at the U.S. Air Force Academy that will "recapture visitors interested in the history of the Air Force." Estimated cost: $20.5 million.

"Together, those really start what we call a downtown renaissance," says Bob Cope, the principal analyst in Colorado Springs's economic vitality division. "We think they'll be catalytic projects for significant future development."

And he thinks the projects will be a draw for out-of-state tourists, which is crucial if Colorado Springs is going to get the RTA tax rebates. The city's application estimates that the four projects will draw an additional 1.1 million visitors to the Pikes Peak region each year. Of those, it says, an estimated 449,000 will be new out-of-state visitors.

The recent wildfires have had a negative impact on tourism, Cope adds, and the RTA incentives would help restore Colorado Springs's ability to attract visitors.

"Having major fires here really are a concern to out-of-state tourists," he says. "They look at the national media and as devastating as (the fires) were, they didn't have a direct effect on our tourist venues. But tourists weren't sure and some stayed away.

"With or without the fires, this would be a great project," Cope continues. "But with the impact that the fires had on tourism, it's just another justification. It's not the driver."

Even though there's only one applicant, the RTA selection process will be the same as last year, says Kathy Green, spokeswoman for the state Office of Economic Development and International Trade. To be approved, the project must be of "an extraordinary and unique nature" and "result in a substantial increase in out-of-state tourism."

The next step is for OEDIT to review the application for completeness and give Colorado Springs an opportunity to submit any missing components. From there, OEDIT will decide if the proposal meets the guidelines and, if so, submit it to be reviewed by a third-party analyst. Eventually, the applicant will make a presentation to the Economic Development Commission, which will hold public hearings and then take a vote.

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Continue reading for more renderings of Colorado Springs's proposed project.

More from our Follow That Story archive: "Hentzell Park: City's rejection of petition spurs new challenge."

Follow me on Twitter @MelanieAsmar or e-mail me at melanie.asmar@westword.com

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