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Report: No Move to Pueblo for Orem Owlz

Pueblo Ballpark rendering

This project has been on and off in 2018, and now it’s apparently off, with Pueblo County officials saying that Orem Owlz (Rookie; Pioneer League) owner Jeff Katofsky is walking away from a plan to move the team to the Colorado city.

An email from Jerry Pacheco, director of the Pueblo Urban Renewal Authority, confirms Katofsky’s decision to walk away from a deal calling for him to build three hotels as part of a larger sports-tourism development that would include a new MiLB ballpark:

“It is with disappointment that I have to report that I have received word that the owner of the Orem Owlz, Jeff Katofsky, has declined to move forward with his plans to develop three hotels and will not move his team to Pueblo (into a new to-be-built stadium),” Pacheco wrote to officials involved in the project.

“I have been contacted by local media (The Pueblo Chieftain) and had to confirm that I did receive an email this morning that hinted at that fact.”

Pacheco said that subsequently, he learned that Pueblo County had been officially notified through formal channels.

“It will be up to Pueblo County to comment on the formal status of the project moving forward,” Pacheco wrote.

Pueblo County officials, in the meantime, aren’t confirming the finality of the project, saying that it could be revived. But there’s no doubt the project has become considerably more complex than it was when Katofsky and the county first came to an agreement. For starters, the land where the hotels would be located isn’t a sure thing: city officials say any sale of surplus land must go through an bidding process, as opposed to being sold outright to Katofsky.

Under the funding model for the proposed facility, Pueblo County would issue taxable certificates of participation for up to $25 million, to be backed by tax increment financing. The county is proposing to assume all of the debt risk, but has asked the city to provide 3% of its 3.7% sales and use tax plus 4.3% of its lodging tax revenue generated in the area for 25 years. Katofsky, meanwhile, would develop three hotels in the surrounding area that could serve visitors to the ballpark and tournament attendees at a nearby sports complex that would be funded separately from the MiLB facility.

There’s already been a lot of debate and conflicts between the city of Pueblo and Pueblo County over this project, with opposition from the city already almost killing the deal several months ago. For MiLB, a new Pueblo ballpark solves travel issues in the Pioneer League. With the Helena Brewers moving to Colorado Springs for 2019, a Pueblo team would be a natural travel partner. Without Pueblo, Colorado Springs becomes an outlier: the closest Pioneer League city, Grand Junction, is 285 miles away.

Rendering courtesy Youth Entertainment Sports Pueblo.

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