A proposed 200-acre, $31 million Royal Gorge Region Sports Park could bring about 78,000 people to the area each year, boosting tourism and adding about 200 new employment opportunities for Cañon City and Fremont County.
The complex, which is being proposed by Bomier Corp. with no assistance from taxes or city or county funding, is expected to be a premier destination for traveling youth baseball, softball and soccer teams in the Western U.S.
Mike Bandera, the retired general manager of the Royal Gorge Bridge & Park and president of Bomier Corp. (the other two partners both are from Colorado), said the complex is expected to be located east of Cañon City.
“This is for travel teams, basically 12- to 18-years of age,” Bandera said. “We would be hosting roughly 100 teams per week for the 12 weeks of the summer, including youth baseball, youth girls softball and youth boys and girls soccer.”
The complex by its third year could host about 24,000 players, coaches and officials, in addition to more than 50,000 parents, family members, relatives and fans throughout the 12-week summer season, Bandera said.
There also would be weekend regional and state tournaments during the fringe months, which include May, September and October.
“There would be accommodations for 1,800 people right there on-site,” Bandera said.
The complex would house 27 athletic fields with artificial turf to save on water; bunkhouses for the players, coaches and officials; a 120-room hotel and a 100-site campground.
The hotel will be open year-round and open to the general public.
“One hotel won’t accommodate everybody,” Bandera said. “We would depend on other hotels and campgrounds in Cañon City, Colorado Springs and Pueblo to accommodate these people, and the other attractions are very important to being able to draw people to this area to play rather than going somewhere else.”
The complex would be pulling in teams from California, Texas, Arizona, Colorado and Oklahoma among other states.
“There are 20,000 travel teams in the country, all we need is about 1,500 of them a year to make this profitable,” Bandera said. “This is not a 501-c-3, this is a for-profit corporation. There are no taxes or increases, it is paid for by private funds, primarily Opportunity Zone funding.”
He said the Royal Gorge Bridge, the Royal Gorge Route Railroad, the Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience, Colorado Jeep Tours and rafting opportunities will offer guests things to do while they are here.
“Cañon City and Fremont County really fit the profile for this type of facility,” Bandera said. “We have three airports within three hours with Denver, Colorado Springs and Pueblo and we’ve got plenty of hotels in those three locations and we’ve got good highways — good ingress and egress.”
If all goes as planned, construction could begin in 2021 with a target opening date of May 2023. The facility — not including the hotel and campground — would employ 180 seasonal positions and 20 full-time people.
“There will be a substantial economic impact,” Bandera said. “This place will be grossing in the neighborhood of $20 million a year by year No. 3. It’s a big business.”
The marketing budget for the area and the facility is projected to be about $2 million annually.
Bandera said, according to a current marketing assessment, sports tourism is a $24 billion industry and is projected to reach $55 billion by 2026.
“This enables Fremont County to jump into the sports tourism market,” Bandera said.
Bandera said teams base their decision to go to an area on the facility, good places to stay and other attractions and things to do in the area.
“We will be dealing as much as we possibly can with local contractors, banks, attorneys and real estate people at this particular point,” Bandera said.
The Cañon City Council on Monday authorized the mayor to sign a letter of support for a feasibility study for the complex. Bandera said letters of support are necessary to go with the application to the Opportunity Zone Committee at the state for feasibility study dollars.
Bandera also has letters of support from the Cañon City Chamber of Commerce, Fremont Adventure Recreation, Fremont County Sheriff’s Office and the Cañon City Area Recreation and Park District.
“The City of Cañon City is very much in support of the Royal Gorge Region Sports Park project,” the city’s letter states in part. “This project could spur new economic development and enhance the culture and pride of our community. Our community can become the next sports destination and drive new market spending through additional heads in beds. The City would like to see the project take the next step and complete a feasibility study for this project.”
Councilman Frank Jaquez reminded the public that the letter is to support the study, and there is no financial responsibility to the city.
“I think this is a great study, and I hope that everybody can see just how needed this is,” Councilman Brandon Smith said. “It is very beneficial for all businesses, especially for hotels, gas stations and eateries — these kinds of travel teams bring in a ton of revenue for our city. I commend Mr. Bandera for approaching this study.”
In other business:
- The council appointed Loretta Bailey and Andrea Stein to the Library Museum Board and Chris Freehling to the Board of Adjustment.
- City Administrator Ryan Stevens announced that the city has received an acceptance letter for a $152,000 grant from the Department of Local Affairs in regards to updating the city’s comprehensive plan and re-writing Titles 16 and 17.
- Stevens announced that the city is continuing to see new business inquiries. There is a new bagel shop working toward opening at 420 Main St. The Lost Cajun restaurant has been discussed for about a year, but it now appears that the project is moving forward as well to be located at Creekside Shopping Center.
- The council approved a resolution appointing Hoffmann, Parker, Wilson & Carberry, P.C. to continue to serve as City Attorney.