A venue for the City for Champions sports-tourism development in downtown Colorado Springs is back, and this time it includes a new 8,000-seat stadium for the Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC (USL).
We’ve been covering the Colorado Springs sports-complex proposal since 2013, when city officials first pitched a $218.6-million sports complex that included an Olympic museum, a UCCS sports medicine center, a new Colorado Springs Sky Sox ballpark and a new Air Force Academy Visitor Center. But a state analysis of the proposal concluded it did not meet guidelines for state funding, and the project was basically mothballed. (Indeed, the Sky Sox will be moving to San Antonio in 2019, replaced by a rookie-level Pioneer League team.) But it’s back now, this time backed by a new set of investors and developers.
One of these investors is the Ragain family, which owns the Switchbacks. (The other: Colorado Springs attorney Perry Sanders Jr., owner of The Antlers and Mining Exchange hotels.) The original development plan called for a $92.7 million, 10,000-seat multipurpose venue (which replaced the ballpark in the overall development plan), and that’s being replaced by a much more modest soccer fan facility. The key in all this: take Antlers Park, viewed by some as an underutilized city asset, and use it as the base of the new soccer facility. From the Colorado Springs Gazette:
The project would address multiple needs, Sanders said. Not only would it prevent state funding from being “flushed down the commode,” but the project would clean up underused Antlers Park, which is a haven for transients, he said.
The Switchbacks, who play in a 5,000-seat stadium next to Security Service Field, would lease the new facility that Nick Ragain says would appeal to younger fans and millennials who want an urban venue. Sanders, meanwhile, said the facility will help attract fans who will visit the nearby Olympic Museum — which will be crucial for the museum’s success.
“This is the best thing that could happen for the city,” Sanders said. “Take a park that is currently nonfunctional and turn it into a family facility.”
Funding will be an issue. There is already a mechanism to fund the larger City for Champions project after the Colorado Economic Development Commission granted the city up to $120.5 million in state sales tax rebates over 30 years. That translates to $27.7 million per venue, which can be applied to the new soccer stadium. But there is a deadline to get this project off the ground: December 16, 2018. Three of the City for Champions projects are already underway, leaving the soccer stadium/event venue behind.
The Switchbacks currently play at Weidner Field, which seats 5,000. The Switchbacks drew 3,389 fans per match in 2017.