The oddly-angled steel structure that will soon be the future United States Olympic Museum rises out of an old industrial lot near downtown Colorado Springs. The skeleton is the cornerstone of a massive civic initiative launched five years ago.
Dubbed “City for Champions“ in 2013, the project consists of four new tourism venues designed to bring visitors to the Pikes Peak region and reinforce the city’s reputation as a sports and healthy living hub. Funding came largely from $120 million in state sales tax rebates awarded through the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade. Five years later, work is underway, but all of the pieces are behind schedule.
While there’s a “big difference between concept and construction,” noted Dirk Draper, president and CEO of the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Corporation, he added that clear progress on the Olympic museum has reinvigorated interest and enthusiasm in City for Champions.
Crews have also broken ground on a sports medicine center at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs and construction is expected to soon begin on a visitor center for the Air Force Academy.
“Those are things that make a bigger dot on the map that’s Colorado Springs for the attractions that are here,” Draper said.
The fourth project has been the hardest to make a reality. The Colorado Sports and Events Center was intended to serve as a multi-purpose indoor/outdoor stadium. From the beginning, the stadium had the least clear vision, Draper said, and private financiers were hard to come by. So, officials announced a new course. The sports and events center has now been split into two separate projects on the opposite sides of downtown. To get moving on the new split project, the city had to get a year extension on the sales tax rebates from OEDIT’s Regional Tourism Act funding and incentive program.
Once the new vision was approved, OEDIT Director of Business Funding and Incentives Jeff Kraft said the Office wanted to “give consistent support to help make sure they would happen.”
A 10,000-seat soccer stadium for the Colorado Springs Switchbacks received a $40 million infusion from Seattle-based Weidner Apartments. The company intends to build a seven-story apartment building and mixed-use space on site.
The other building will be a 3,000-seat indoor arena for the Colorado College Tigers ice hockey team. Both teams expect to move into their new homes in the next few years, completing the City for Champions vision.