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Copyright 2018 Freedom Newspapers, Inc. Jun 5, 2018

The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colorado)


Yet again, Colorado Springs leaders have missed their self-imposed May 31 deadline to release new details on a proposed downtown sports and event center.

But Mayor John Suthers says he remains optimistic that the city can meet a December deadline to retain nearly $28 million in tax-increment financing promised by the Colorado Economic Development Commission.

Suthers previously said the city would have a proposal to give to the state commission by the end of May. Before that, city leaders said the site for the stadium would be identified by February.

The city has proposed an 8,000-seat stadium for the Colorado Springs Switchbacks minor league soccer team and a 2,000-seat indoor center for volleyball, basketball and other sports. Nick Ragain, president and co-owner of the Switchbacks, declined to comment on the project.

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Such a project downtown is needed for Colorado Springs to continue its natural evolution, said Perry Sanders Jr., a local businessman, lawyer and former partner on the project.

"The city can't afford, if it's growing like it's growing, not to have a serious sports facility or two downtown," Sanders said. "It's a stepping stone to becoming a real city."

If the money is lost, Sanders said, he'll take steps to ensure similar missteps aren't taken in the future.

"If they do squander the money, I probably will try and help get involved in politics — not running for anything — to try and make sure we don't have anybody that would allow the money to be squandered in the future," he said.

The incentive is part of a $120.5 million package for City for Champions' four projects, which hinges on a five-year deadline for work to start.

"Substantial work" must begin on the stadium by Dec. 13 to retain the money.

Antlers Park initially was proposed as a site for the project, but that offer was withdrawn after many residents fiercely opposed the notion.

The bulk of Sanders' involvement withdrew with the Antlers Park proposal, he said. Building a stadium on that 3.3-acre park would have required millions of dollars of infrastructure from the adjacent Antlers hotel, which Sanders owns.

CityGate, a vacant block southwest of Cimarron and Sahwatch streets, since has been identified as a possible site for the stadium.

Because an investment from the Antlers is no longer needed, Sanders said his role now is pushing the conversation into the "political forefront."

The entire stadium project might cost $65 million, Suthers has said. And he reiterated his commitment not to rely on taxpayers for the work.

"Again, no general fund money will be used for this project, but we are enthusiastically pursuing private investment to accomplish this final component of City for Champions," Suthers said.

A state commission spokeswoman said the stadium must be built within city limits to qualify for the incentive but doesn't have to be downtown.


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