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How to end our quiet war with the Broadmoor

City Sage



Until the late 1970s, the Broadmoor and Ivywild neighborhoods were not within the city limits. That all changed in 1978 when City Councilor (soon to become Mayor) Robert Isaac persuaded his colleagues to pass an ordinance unilaterally annexing both, as well as Skyway, Stratton Meadows and the area around Cheyenne Cañon.

It was a bold move. Isaac had long been exasperated by what he saw as freeloading by those contiguous neighborhoods, which he believed benefited from municipal services without paying for them. A majority of the then-20,000 residents of the annexed areas appeared to oppose the annexation, but that cut no ice with Isaac. He pushed through the measure, igniting four years of legal wrangling that ended with a Colorado Supreme Court decision in 1982 that cleared the way for the annexation.

The Broadmoor hotel had remained silent during the process, effectively bought off by the city's promise to provide water to the sprawling complex. A continuing and guaranteed supply from Colorado Springs Utilities more than offset the increased tax liability that annexation would bring.

On Jan. 9, 1979, four months after the annexation ordinance scraped by on a 5-4 vote, Council approved an ordinance creating the Lodgers and Automobile Renters Tax, a 2 percent levy on hotel rooms with 50 percent of proceeds dedicated to visitor promotion.

The Broadmoor didn't much like it. The hotel was then and still remains the largest single collector for the tax, but LART revenues disproportionately benefit its competitors. Two-thirds of the tax supports the Colorado Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau, which promotes regional tourism. The Broadmoor likely would prefer to promote its own brand, not everyone else's.

That may be when the quiet war between The Broadmoor and city government began. It's a civilized conflict that has simmered for the past 40 years, and one that has damaged the interests of both combatants.

It last surfaced in 2005 when retired businessman Jim Marvin (a prominent opponent of the 1978 annexation) drew up an initiated ordinance that forbade the city from even planning a downtown convention center without voter permission. Funded and supported by The Broadmoor and other large hotels, the measure passed easily.

"We don't mind competition. We just don't want taxpayer money to fund it," said then-Broadmoor CEO Steve Bartolin. "Municipalities can sometimes ignore market realities and plunge forward, hoping it all works out."

Bartolin's view made sense for The Broadmoor, but not for the long-term future of the community. With 779 rooms, The Broadmoor is still Colorado Springs' largest hotel. With the exception of the Antlers, the city's larger hotels are dotted around the suburban periphery. For the Springs to grow and prosper, we need energy, vitality and excitement in the central city.

A downtown convention center might enhance, not damage, The Broadmoor's business. It'd bring more attractions, more airline flights and more business for everyone. Look at Denver's publicly funded convention center — has it been bad for anyone's business? And while city officials never publicly criticize The Broadmoor, some resent its perceived power and influence. As one long-departed city official said years ago, "I don't think there's any other city in the country where a hotel runs the government."

Since Philip Anschutz acquired the hotel, he's become the bête noir of Broadmoor haters. Never mind that he's made transformational changes, vastly upgrading the old lady of Lake Avenue. Never mind that he's carefully invisible in local politics — many still are convinced that he runs the city.

He doesn't, as the noisy kerfuffle over the Strawberry Fields land swap proves. My guess is that Anschutz would support the kind of progressive initiatives that have revitalized downtowns across America — as long as he doesn't get stuck with most of the bill.

So here's a suggestion: Let's have the city, Broadmoor and the 10 largest hotels partner in the construction of a downtown convention center. At the same time, Anschutz acquires the Sky Sox and moves them to a new downtown stadium. The war ends, and we move forward together into a bright future. It'll take some tough negotiations, but once accomplished the participants can solve a couple of comparatively easy problems.

Start with a North Korea/U.S. treaty of peace and friendship, and move on to a comprehensive Middle East cease-fire and demilitarization.

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