2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner

Air Force Academy visitors’ center not part of state’s plan for CFC funding

Published: July 8, 2014, 2:31 am, by Monica Mendoza

Is the Air Force Academy visitors’ center still part of the City for Champions proposal?

It’s unclear.

In the state’s version of a draft contract between the city and the state, dated June 20, the Air Force Academy visitors’ center is not listed as one of the projects that will receive a portion of the state sales tax money.

In December the Colorado Economic Development Commission awarded the city an estimated $120.5 million over 30 years to help finance City for Champions. Under the plan, the city will collect 13 percent of the increased revenue generated in a tax-increment finance zone that covers most of the city.

Under the plan, each of the four projects – a U.S. Olympic museum, a downtown sports and event center, a UCCS sports medicine complex and a U.S. Air Force Academy visitors’ center — would get a percentage of the state revenue.

But in the draft contract, the state Office of Economic Development and International Trade, detailed that the U.S. Olympic museum would receive 42 percent of the state sales tax money; the downtown sports and event center would receive 23 percent; and the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs sports and performance center would receive 14 percent.

“The remaining 21 percent of the dedicated revenue may be allocated by the [insert correct entity here to be defined by Colorado Springs] among all the project elements, including but not limited to any needed infrastructure improvements defined in this resolution as eligible  improvements,” the draft contract says.

In the draft contract the city sent to the state for review, the Air Force Academy visitors’ center was to receive 11 percent of the state revenue.

Bob Cope, the city’s CFC project manager, described the omission of the Academy’s visitor center from the state’s version of the contract as a glitch that needed to be worked out with the state. He said the Air Force Academy center is mentioned throughout the rest of the document.

Council member Don Knight said that the Academy officials he spoke to were surprised to find that their project was not getting a dedicated percentage of the state money, as outlined in the city’s application and state approval of the CFC projects.

“Is the city going to fight to get the Air Force Academy back in?” Knight asked Cope at the City Council work session Monday.

Cope said the omission could be viewed as positive because it gives the city more flexibility with the remaining 21 percent of state sales tax money. But Knight said it could be viewed as negative by those trying to raise private money to pay for the rest of the visitors’ center, which has an estimated price tag of $20 million.

The state Economic Development Commission, which has final say over the contract, is expected to take up the CFC contract at its August meeting.