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Olympic Museum backers in Colorado Springs move closer to funding for their project

Mar 16 2017

Originally Published on The Gazette, written by Rich Laden Rich Laden

U.S. Olympic Museum organizers cleared another hurdle Thursday when a state panel approved details of a multimillion-dollar loan for the downtown Colorado Springs project and how that money would be spent.

Meeting in Denver, the Colorado Economic Development Commission adopted a resolution spelling out the loan plan, which helps pave the way for museum supporters to obtain a critical piece of the project's funding.

Next up: The Colorado Springs Urban Renewal Authority will meet Wednesday and is expected to take similar action in approving details of the loan.

"It really means that we're almost to reality," said Wynne Palermo, the authority's board chairwoman.

At issue is a proposed $75 million museum that would showcase exhibits and displays highlighting the nation's Olympic and Paralympic movements. The 60,000-square-foot venue would be built on donated land at Sierra Madre Street and Vermijo Avenue in southwest downtown - a few blocks from the U.S. Olympic Committee's headquarters.

The museum is part of City for Champions - a series of tourism projects designed to attract thousands of new visitors to Colorado Springs.

In December 2013, the Colorado Economic Development Commission agreed to make up to $120.5 million in state sales tax revenue available for City for Champions projects over 30 years. That funding was authorized under Colorado's Regional Tourism Act, which was approved by state lawmakers to encourage communities to come up with projects that would attract more visitors.

Organizers of the nonprofit Olympic Museum are relying on two key funding sources for their project - the loan and private donations from individuals, foundations and other groups.

Under the loan plan OK'd by the Economic Development Commission, the Urban Renewal Authority - designated as the City for Champions financing entity - would issue $39 million in bonds. Of that amount, $26.2 million would go to the museum and other proceeds would help fund a series of public improvements in southwest downtown.

Three banks have agreed to purchase the bonds - effectively lending money for the museum. The bonds would be repaid with state sales tax money, with 52 percent of those funds earmarked for the museum under formulas approved by the Economic Development Commission when it backed City for Champions in 2013.

As part of the panel's action, it also was required to OK any plan for bonds that would be paid off with state funds.

Meanwhile, museum officials said this week they've raised private contributions or commitments totaling $46.3 million. That leaves them about $2.5 million short of the private funds they need.

The loan being provided by the three banks requires the museum to complete its fundraising by March 31. Museum officials have said repeatedly they'll meet that deadline.

Assuming everything falls into place, the loan would be finalized March 31, and proceeds at that time would be turned over to the Urban Renewal Authority to help pay for future expenses related to the museum's development.

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