Mayor Bach promotes tourism plan for Colorado Springs
Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach said creating four new tourist attractions in the city is the best way to provide jobs, boost tourism and generate additional revenue.
Bach mentioned the plan to an audience at Broadmoor Hall on Thursday during his annual State of the City address.
The city could bring in an extra $10 million in sales tax revenue annually, Bach said, by building a downtown stadium, a downtown Olympic museum, a sports medicine facility and a visitors center outside the Air Force Academy.
No specific sites have been chosen yet.
Bach said the new attractions could bring 750 new jobs to the city and attract 450,000 more tourists every year. The attractions have been discussed previously, but Bach said they key difference is the city applying for funding from the state Regional Tourism Act for the first time.
The act, said Bach, provides sales tax rebates to cities that draw out-of-town visitors.
"We just want to take better advantage of what we already do," he said. "We could break even in 7 years, and we can do it without a tax increase. If the city needed to borrow some money for that, I'd ask voters to approve it."
Bach said the four new attractions would cost around $218 million, but the city would pay only a third of that amount; state and private money would cover the rest. He said construction wouldn't begin until 2018 at the earliest.
People attending Bach's address were generally supportive of the plan.
"It seems like a very logical approach because it's such a beautiful area, and we have a lot of things to offer," said resident Eunice Hamilton. "We just want more people to know about them all over America."
"I felt the mayor laid out an excellent vision for the city," said resident Kevin Weiner. "And more than anything, what we need are leaders who can present us with options and ideas."
Bach's plan brought mixed opinion from two local elected leaders.
"I think new attractions will bring some new energy and possibly some new people who have already visited all of our other attractions," said Jan Martin, a city councilwoman.
"I want to make sure for me, personally, that there's no tax dollars involved," said Peggy Littleton, an El Paso County commissioner. "It would be strictly funded by those folks who would be coming into the city beyond what we already have."
City officials should know by December if they'll qualify for state funding. Until then, Bach said, he will schedule a series of public meetings to sell his plan.
In a related matter, Bach said getting more direct flights from the Colorado Springs airport is another goal for the next year. He said he wants more people to use the airport instead of drive to Denver International Airport and pay additional costs for tolls and parking.
Dan Gallagher, the airport's interim aviation director, said the airport can sustain 1.6 million passengers annually, but only 700,000 are expected to board flights there next year. He said officials are trying to work with airlines to lower costs.
However, Littleton said lowering costs depends more on the airlines and less on local efforts. She said offering perks like an executive lounge is one way to attract customers.
"Let all of our carriers provide some of the money that they get as revenue from ticket buyers, not taxpayers," she said. "That's a perk that people like to have when they're traveling."
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