Originally Posted on ‘The Denver Post’
State economic-development officials Thursday made it clear they want the United States Olympic Museum — one of the four elements of Colorado Springs’ “City for Champions” — built first and foremost.
“The Olympic museum is the heart and soul of this,” said Jeff Kraft, director of business funding and incentives at the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade. “It is a bad scenario if the Olympic museum doesn’t move forward.”
To that end, COEDIT has reserved 42 percent of the $125.5 million the project is slated to receive in state sales-tax rebates under the Regional Tourism Act specifically for the museum, and 23 percent for the Colorado Sports and Events Center.
The Sports Medicine and Performance Center at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs would receive 14 percent, while a new visitor center for the U.S. Air Force Academy is odd man out, with no direct allocation.
The remaining 21 percent would go into a flexible account that would be released once the museum moves forward.
Colorado Springs, however, would like to have dedicated amounts for each project, with 11 percent for the visitor center and 33 percent for the sports center, which will need to rely more on local financing than the museum, which donors from across the country are expected to support.
“To change the allocation puts holes in our plan of finance,” said Bob Cope, manager of the project for Colorado Springs.
Complicating matters is that it seems like the visitor center, which gets funded last, could get off the ground first. Academy officials have already completed a business case study and picked a location.
Another question the Colorado Economic Development Commission wrestled with Thursday is whether Colorado Springs should get some — or all — of its application expenses back, as Aurora and Pueblo will for the Gaylord project and the Riverwalk and Professional Bull Riders Hall of Fame, respectively.
“Going into this, we thought these expenses could be reimbursed,” said Cope, who estimates that about $375,000 was spent on the application.
The Regional Tourism Act program came under increasing scrutiny this year, and the Colorado legislature required that incentives be capped rather than left open-ended.
Although Colorado Springs’ application was approved before the changes to the act, city officials agreed to a cap, although they would like to have up to 50 years, rather than 30, to collect any incentives, a stipulation commissioners seemed open to.
The commission Thursday approved incentives for two companies — one in manufacturing and one in aerospace — that could help retain or bring 87 jobs to the state.
It also approved rebates worth $502,297 in return for $2.5 million in spending for a feature film called “Christmastime.” Michael Landon Jr. is the producer, and the script is set in Boulder.
Universal Sports received more than $153,000 in rebates on proposed spending for the 2015 Alpine World Championships in Vail and Beaver Creek and for a program called Podium 360.
Aldo Svaldi: 303-954-1410, [email protected] or twitter.com/aldosvaldi