Pueblo baseball deal on life support

Posted at 3:47 PM, May 03, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-03 17:47:31-04

The baseball team owner who wants to move his minor league club to Pueblo tells News 5 that the deal is, "on life support." We have also obtained a draft copy of a non-binding Deal Points Memo presented to all of the stakeholders in late February ahead of a public announcement about the redevelopment project. However, that news conference never materialized.

County Commissioners have been working for the last two months to salvage the deal and patch up relationships with City leaders who have publicly shared skepticism over the proposal.

Under the terms of that earlier agreement, Pueblo County agreed to build a 2,800 seat stadium with 3,000 lawn seats to host the minor league games, School District 60 high school baseball games and a series or tournament of CSU-Pueblo Baseball games. The public venue would be available for events such as the Chile and Frijoles Festival, Boats Bands and Barbeque, high school graduation ceremonies, and the 4th of July Fireworks display.

Tax Increment Financing was proposed to fund construction of the public stadium using both sales and property taxes collected on three pad sites along the Riverwalk where the developer would build new hotels with a combined minimum capacity of 350 rooms.  Additionally, the developer would organize and manage 14 weeks worth of competitive travel youth baseball tournaments to be held at the new baseball fields at the Runyon Sports Complex. Those tournaments were to attract an average of 500 players per week, the majority of which would be traveling players coming from outside of Pueblo. The developer’s Minor League Team would have played its inaugural game in Pueblo in June 2020.

The City of Pueblo, Pueblo County, the Pueblo-City County Library District and Pueblo City Schools District 60 all collect property taxes in the redevelopment zone. The Deal Point Memo indicated that District 60 and Library District would have agreed to contribute their full TIF to the redevelopment. Pueblo County agreed to contribute its full 1 percent sales tax to the TIF and the City of Pueblo would have contributed 3 percent of its 3.7 percent sales tax rate to the TIF.

News 5 has contacted multiple sources who were present at a meeting in late February in which the deal point memo was discussed among the stakeholders.  Those sources have said there was general agreement among all parties except for the City of Pueblo and a board member from the Pueblo Urban Renewal Authority. 

The ball club owner flew to Pueblo in February in anticipation of the public announcement. The deal fell apart when representatives from the City of Pueblo reportedly requested a "hold harmless" agreement from the developer and the County with respect to the stadium financing.

City Council President Chris Nicoll said today that the development deal has changed numerous times since the deal point memo was drafted. He said federal grants tied to their bus garage would have slowed down the use of that location as a stadium site given the deadlines the County was proposing.

He still wants to know how much Ballot Issue 1A revenue would be used in the stadium financing and wants the developer to be properly vetted.

"We were not comfortable signing something with a pending deadline when there were so many unanswered questions," Nicoll said.

News 5 has also received a draft Background Paper for a Proposed Resolution to Pueblo City Council which recommended support for the deal point memo and was to be presented on the agenda at the February 26 meeting. That item was removed from the agenda.

Commissioner Sal Pace said today that he has held discussions with a majority of the City Council and that, "everyone agrees that if we work together, we can get this done."

The baseball club owner and developer told News 5 his finances were reviewed by the Pueblo Economic Development Corporation who was to serve as a neutral party in the deal. He said PEDCO had requested additional documentation which he was ready to provide when the February deal unraveled.

He added that private financing has already been secured and he is ready to begin hotel construction once an agreement is in place.  Under Minor League Baseball rules, a team owner may negotiate with up to six different communities in anticipation of a relocation.