COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — A new visitor center for the Air Force Academy has inched closer to reality.
The El Paso County commissioners on Tuesday pledged $10 million in future sales and property tax revenues over the next 25 years to help pay for the proposed $58 million Air Force Academy Gateway Visitor Center, according to The Gazette.
The Colorado Springs City Council is slated to vote next week on whether to declare the project site an urban renewal area, a designation that officials say is critical to financing the project.
The 88-acre center, which would be built on North Gate Boulevard just outside the academy’s north entrance, would include hotels, offices, shops and other businesses. Colorado Springs officials say it is part of an ambitious city-wide tourism initiative.
Dan Schnepf, president and CEO of project consultant Matrix Design Group, said the Air Force has yet to sign off on a lease to develop the land, but that agreement is expected to be final “in the next month or so."
The center would replace the Barry Goldwater Visitor’s Center on the academy campus.
“The Academy was once a top tourist destination in the state of Colorado, but after September 11, 2001, Academy visitors decreased dramatically, from 700,000 annually to a mere 200,000 — with the necessary security for the campus becoming more important than visitor access,” according to City for Champions, the economic development effort undertaken by Colorado Springs.
“The Air Force Academy will overhaul the visitor experience by relocating and expanding the visitor center and moving the existing security perimeter for a more visitor-friendly experience. Additional space will allow for major expansion of exhibits and improved audio-visual equipment for a museum-quality experience.”