City officials say they need to weigh the legal effects of a proposed Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC (USL) stadium, and whether it can be built in Antlers Park.
As was noted here last month, there has been discussion for years about constructing a sports venue as part of the City for Champions development in Colorado Springs. A new ballpark for baseball’s Colorado Springs Sky Sox (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) was previously pitched, but a state analysis of the proposal in 2013 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.)
However, a new proposal has surfaced to construct an 8,000-to-9,000-seat venue that would be used by the Switchbacks. Led by the Ragain family, which owns the Switchbacks, and Colorado Springs attorney Perry Sanders Jr., owner of The Antlers and Mining Exchange hotels, the proposal calls for the construction of both a new Switchbacks stadium and a separate 2,000-seat indoor event center.
Under the proposal, the city would retain ownership of Antlers Park and the site would still be available for the public. At a meeting on Monday, Colorado Springs officials expressed their willingness to consider this idea, but will have to discuss the legal side of the issue after the City Attorney’s Office opined that the proposal would violate restrictions on the park. More from The Colorado Springs Gazette:
“Boy, I’d hate to lose this opportunity,” said Council President Richard Skorman, adding he still wants to know more about funding, parking and traffic concerns before he’d support the proposal.
The biggest question, however, might be whether Springs officials could legally allow the venue in Antlers Park. The City Attorney’s Office says a sports and event center would violate restrictions on public use of the park, which a company controlled by Springs founder Gen. William Jackson Palmer dedicated to the city in 1882 – an opinion disputed by proponents of the Antlers Park proposal.
The City Council probably will hold a special, closed-door session within the next two weeks to hear more legal advice from the Attorney’s Office, Skorman said.
“Time is of the essence in this thing,” he said. “We don’t want to jeopardize the whole project because we are mired in too many delays. So, let’s get a decision.”
City officials have a deadline when it comes to funding. As part of the funding mechanism for the City for Champions project, the Colorado Economic Development Commission granted the city up to $120.5 million in state sales tax rebates over 30 years. That amounts to $27.7 million per venue, which can be applied to the new soccer stadium. However, the city risks losing that money if work does not begin by December 16, 2018. Thus far, three of the City for Champions projects are underway–including an Olympic Museum, Air Force Academy visitors center, and a UCCS sports medicine and performance center–but the soccer stadium/event venue has been left behind.
A new stadium would allow the Switchbacks to depart the 5,000-seat Weidner Field. In 2017, the team drew 3,389 fans per match.
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