COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC President Nick Ragain and high-profile local attorney Perry Sanders Jr. fielded questions and made a strong case for a new downtown home for the club on Monday evening in a public Q&A session at the Antlers Hotel.
The session followed a presentation to the Colorado Springs City Council at its workshop session on January 8. The proposal would see a proposed City of Champions Complex that would include an 8,000-seat outdoor stadium and 2,000-seat indoor venue built in Antlers Park, near the adjacent hotel.
Invoking the spirit of one of Colorado Springs founders, Gen. William Jackson Palmer, Sanders said the new facility would help modernize an area of then city that has fallen into disrepair, and provide a strong platform for the city’s professional sports clubs.
“In our opinion, the proposal complies with Palmer's wishes and is the best solution to a problem that has been going on for 40 years,” said Sanders. “We are trying very hard to fulfil Palmer's wishes in 2018. The plan is far better than anything the city has done over the last 40 years with the park.”
The Switchbacks currently play at 5,000-seat Weidner Field, located a half-hour drive from downtown on the outskirts of the city. Ragain believes the move to a downtown facility would offer a greater opportunity for the club to attract new fans, citing the success of fellow USL clubs who this past year opened new facilities, such as Western Conference rivals Phoenix Rising FC and Rio Grande Valley FC, which both saw substantial rises in 2017 after the opening of the Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex and H-E-B Park.
“The importance of location in sports is a lot like real estate,” said Ragain. “We've seen three teams in the USL see a two-and-a-half times to 10 times attendance rise,” said Ragain. “We want to be a catalyst to create a sense of pride for other local sports teams in Colorado Springs that doesn't exist. At the end of the day, location is the most important part of the equation, that's what's going to have the positive impact.”
While projected to open with an 8,000 capacity, Ragain added the potential to expand the venue could be available should the club and league’s current attendance trend continue. The Switchbacks saw another rise in attendance in the 2017 USL season as the league surpassed two million in total attendance for the first time in its history over the regular season.
With ground needing to be broken by December 13, 2018 for the project to be eligible for funding from the Colorado's Regional Tourism Act enacted five years ago, both Ragain and Sanders are hopeful the project will get the green light soon.