After being shelved, it appears that a new downtown Colorado Springs Sky Sox ballpark/dual-use venue could still be a possibility. However, the discussion has prompted concerns from a co-owner of soccer’s Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC.
It was in 2013 that city officials first pitched a $218.6-million sports complex in downtown Colorado Springs that included an Olympic museum, a UCCS sports medicine center, a new Sky Sox ballpark, and a new Air Force Academy Visitor Center. But a state analysis of the proposal concluded it did not meet guidelines for state funding, and the project stalled.
There has been considerable change in the period since for the Sky Sox, as the Class AAA Pacific Coast League team will relocate to San Antonio after the 2018 season and be replaced in Colorado Springs by the current Helena Brewers (Rookie; Pioneer League). While the Pioneer League team is slated to take the place of the Class AAA Sky Sox at Security Service Field, it appears that the notion of the team eventually moving to a new downtown venue has not been completely dismissed. In fact, mayor John Suthers recently indicated in an interview that the Sky Sox are open to using a dual-use venue, but that the Switchbacks have balked at the idea.
However, Switchbacks co-owner Nick Ragain believes that the mayor did not accurately portray the team’s desire. Ragain says that the USL club is open to a dual-use venue, but that it does not want to be the secondary tenant in a facility that is built as a baseball-first venue. More from The Colorado Springs Gazette:
On Thursday, Suthers told KRDO radio that “it appears we’d need two stadiums to satisfy everybody because the Switchbacks want a soccer-only stadium. And the Sky Sox, who are going to keep their Pioneer (Rookie League) team here, they’re willing to have a dual-use stadium – both soccer and baseball. The Switchbacks do not want a dual-use stadium. So that’s also a complicating factor.”
A few minutes later, Suthers told The Gazette the Ragains “want strictly soccer,” but building two stadiums would be financially unrealistic.
Neither Sky Sox General Manager Tony Ensor nor the Elmores could be reached for comment….
The Switchbacks, however, need an outdoor venue with at least 8,000 seats as it competes with other franchises, Ragain said. The team is willing to be part of a dual-use, downtown facility, Ragain said. While the Sky Sox might want a baseball-first stadium that could accommodate soccer, lacrosse and other sports, the Switchbacks need a rectangular stadium – but would welcome baseball as a secondary user, he said.
The Switchbacks have been working to secure an 8,000-seat venue as part of a project that would include a separate 2,000-seat indoor event center. That concept was at one point pitched for Antlers Park in downtown Colorado Springs, but it was recently indicated that the focus will be shifting to another site. (Sister site Soccer Stadium Digest has been covering this story.)
Regardless of what teams it serves, officials are working under a deadline when it comes to the outdoor facility. As part of the funding mechanism for the project, the Colorado Economic Development Commission granted the city up to $120.5 million in state sales tax rebates over 30 years. That amounts to $27.7 million per venue, which can be applied to the facility. However, the city risks losing that money if substantial work does not begin by the middle of December. Thus far, three of the City for Champions projects are underway, but the stadium/event venue has been left behind.
The upcoming changes relating to the Sky Soxs are part of a series Elmore Sports Group-owned franchise shifts that will take effect for the 2019 season. The Sky Sox are moving to Wolff Stadium in San Antonio, with the San Antonio Missions (Class AA; Texas League) franchise going to a new Amarillo ballpark, and the Brewers replacing the Sky Sox in Colorado Springs.
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