Construction Watch

Northern Colorado's Tourism Projects Still Waiting for Promised State Funding

In our current cover story about the Stanley Hotel, “Shine On,” we report that the historic landmark, which inspired Stephen King's The Shining, was awarded $11.5 million in state funding for its vision of constructing a film center that would make it the epicenter of the worldwide horror-film industry.

But since the state funding grant was announced in October 2015, construction of the Stanley Hotel's film center has been delayed by myriad esoteric requirements set forth in the state's Regional Tourism Act, which is overseen by Colorado's Economic Development Commission.

As Frederic Lahey, who will direct the film center at the Stanley, notes, “The hand with the cash is there, and the [state EDC] has said, ‘We are your partners.' But we still have to liberate the cash from the fingers, so that is an ongoing process.”

How soon might that cash be liberated?

Probably not until next year, according to Alan Krcmarik, executive fiscal adviser at the City of Loveland. Krcmarik is in a position to know, because Loveland also has a vested interest in the RTA money. To win the award last year, the Stanley Hotel teamed up with three other projects – two recreational parks in Loveland and a resort in Windsor — as part of the “Go Northern Colorado” application.

All four of the Go NoCo projects have their own requirements to meet before they can begin construction at their respective sites. But they will all receive state money through a single board, called the Northern Colorado Regional Tourism Authority.

Fortunately for the Go NoCo projects, that board recently seated its final members, when the names were approved at an EDC meeting on October 20. “So the mechanism for distributing funds is now in place,” says Jeff Kraft at the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade.

And the way that state money will be raised, Kraft explains, is through sales taxes collected inside the Go NoCo regions.

Ever since the RTA grants were  announced last fall (the National Western Complex in Denver also qualified), Colorado's Department of Revenue has been calculating what the Northern Colorado regions collect in sales taxes during a year. It will release that calculation next month as the “base rate” going forward. After that, any sales tax collected above the “base rate” will be distributed to the four Go NoCo projects.

"So over a thirty-year period, a percentage of the sales-tax revenue — above the base revenue of what those four projects are estimated to deliver over thirty years — gets delivered to the Northern Colorado Regional Tourism Authority," says Kraft. In theory, he adds, the money could start flowing as early as November or December.

But while there's a chance of that happening, Loveland's Krcmarik warns that it's unlikely sales-tax revenue during the past twelve months exceeds the base-rate calculation the Department of Revenue is about to release.

"Just looking at the sales-tax collection in the Loveland portion – and that's probably the most developed area – it would be difficult to achieve the 4.5 percent increase that the state wrote into our agreement for the reward for the Go NoCo projects," Krcmarik says. “So I think it would be unlikely that we would see much, if any, sales-tax increment from the state this fall."

In other words, while the Go NoCo projects are set to receive funding, they will probably have to wait until sometime next year – or longer – to meet the RTA's sales-tax requirements.

That doesn't mean work can't begin on the projects, though. As long as they meet the dozens of technical requirements spelled out in their RTA agreements (the Stanley, for instance, has to host various educational programs), they can begin construction using private funds or bonds that will be later reimbursed.

The Stanley Hotel hopes to break ground on its film center by next April, when it will again host the Stanley Film Festival.

But the balance sheet for that project might be in the red for a while.

Check back later this week for a broader overview of Colorado's RTA program and a look at some of the more controversial projects, including the Gaylord Rockies Hotel.
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Chris Walker is a freelancer and former staff writer at Westword. Before moving to the Mile High City he spent two years bicycling across Eurasia, during which he wrote feature stories for VICE, NPR, Forbes, and The Atlantic. Read more of Chris's feature work and view his portfolio here.
Contact: Chris Walker