After months of complaining that it wasn't getting details about City for Champions, Colorado Springs City Council on Monday heard a 75-minute overview of how the four tourism projects would be financed. That includes 80 percent public money, with donations the other 20 percent.
But the briefing seemed to stir up even more questions about the venture, which would build a downtown Olympic museum and sports events center, a sports medicine center at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and a new Air Force Academy visitors center.
Among Council concerns:
• Council President Keith King noted that if $200 million in debt is to be issued, the city would need about $16 million per year over 30 years to pay it off. Yet figures given Monday show only about $7.6 million per year in tax revenue.
King suggested a tax increase so the bonds would be repaid with general fund money, a move that might cut the potential interest cost by $146 million over the 30 years.
• Councilor Joel Miller said it seems like the city is being forced to commit to the projects in a resolution due for approval by April 16 without having a clear financial plan. "We're putting the cart before the horse," he said.
• Councilor Andy Pico wanted to know what happens if C4C attracts far fewer tourists than predicted. He also said he got "a queasy feeling" when city economic vitality official Bob Cope said there would be no public vote on the current financing plan. "A vote may not be legally required, but it will be politically required if we are going to siphon off a good chunk of change to pay these bonds," he said.
Meanwhile, Councilor Jan Martin scolded her colleagues for asking "questions of why this probably won't work" instead of helping to find solutions. "If this Council had been in place when the [U.S. Olympic Committee] deal was done, I would predict USOC would be located in Chicago right now," she said, referring to the city paying $53 million in 2009 for new facilities to keep the USOC headquarters here. "It takes vision, courage and leadership to help bring these types of programs to completion."
Miller responded, "Leadership is not deciding how to spend other people's money on nongovernmental projects. I think it's important for us to get the finance information. My advice is, let's get the private industry to fund it, and I'll grab the first shovel of dirt. But it's 80-percent public finance, so I'm going to ask the questions, and I'm sorry if that sounds negative."
Cope said C4C translates to about 5,100 new jobs — 2,215 in construction and 2,867 permanent jobs, resulting in $26 million in new spending over 30 years by those workers. The city also would see sales tax coffers grow by tens of millions of dollars over 30 years as the economy expands due to C4C, he said.