Bonds Issued for New Air Force Academy Visitor Center, Hotel | The gallery

Bonds to fund construction of a new Air Force Academy visitor center and adjacent hotel were sold on Monday, allowing construction to begin on the 57-acre project within two months, it said. city ​​officials.

The $325 million sale by RBC Capital Markets is a key milestone in the latest and most expensive of five City for Champions projects funded, in part, by state sales tax refunds and intended to boost the tourism. The others – the US Olympic & Paralympic Museum, William J. Hybl Sports Medicine and Performance Center at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, Weidner Field and Ed Robson Arena – have opened within the past 1½ years.

“If you look back, we’ve been working on this (initiative) for over eight years. RTA (Regional Tourism Act) funds were awarded in 2013,” said Bob Cope, who as economic development officer of Colorado Springs, has been involved in all five projects since the start of the City for Champions initiative. “You could say the city led the table on the City for Champions initiative.”

Blue & Silver Development Partners, based in Colorado Springs, issued $90 million in bonds for the construction of the visitor center, roads and utility lines and Provident Resources Group, based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, has issued $235 million for the 375-room hotel, roads and utility lines. . Construction of roads and utilities is expected to begin in April and work on buildings within five months. Both projects will be built on a site just outside the academy’s north gate and are expected to open in early 2024.

“With the sale of these bonds and the money in the bank, the vision of City for Champions, which I inherited when I was elected in 2015, has come to full fruition,” the mayor of Colorado Springs said Monday. , John Suthers. “This one (the visitors’ center and the hotel) has been the hardest, but they’re going to happen. I wanted it to happen and it’s something that feels good to me.”

The sale had been delayed for nearly two years by the COVID-19 pandemic – the bonds were due to be sold in March 2020, but the country’s bond markets crashed after officials across the country declared a state of emergency and enforced stay-at-home orders. While bond markets rallied quickly, investor appetite for hospitality and tourism-related projects took much longer to rebound. These delays increased the cost of the project by $40 million.

Bonds for the visitor center were to be sold by Feb. 28 under a deadline extension approved in January by the Colorado Economic Development Commission. The project is to be completed by February 16, 2024, more than a decade after the commission approved $120.5 million in state sales tax rebates for the five City for Champions projects sought by former Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach.

“This $120.5 million has been leveraged in investments that total many times that amount — over $500 million — that will benefit people for decades,” Cope said.

The new visitor center, designed to resemble a wing in flight, will replace the current center just west of the academy’s iconic chapel. This center attracted more visitors than any other man-made tourist spot in Colorado, but visitor numbers dwindled when new rules for entering the academy were passed after 9/11. Cope estimates that the new center could attract up to 1 million visitors a year.

“This project will reinvent the way we welcome visitors, not just to our campus, but throughout the region,” said Lt. Gen. Richard Clark, superintendent of the academy. “For some of the most promising young people our country has to offer, the journey to Air Force and Space Force leadership begins right here in Colorado Springs. The new Welcome Center tells the story well. history of our academy and its critical mission, and we are grateful for the supportive partnerships that turn a bold vision into reality.”

Bonds will be repaid from state sales tax refunds, as well as city and county sales and property tax refunds, as well as property taxes from Academy School District 20 and Pikes Peak Library District collected from businesses at the Visitor Center site. The city has annexed the 57-acre site to allow for the discounts, which are based on revenue generated from the center, hotel, an office complex and restaurants planned there.

Blue & Silver, led by Dan Schnepf, founding partner of Matrix Design Group of Colorado Springs, will develop the welcome center. Provident, a non-profit organization specializing in housing, healthcare and educational facilities, will develop the hotel, conference center and other projects on the rest of the site, which will be called True North Commons. The entire campus is expected to provide employment for around 900 people.

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