Estes Park loses bid for ski project funding

Estes Park’s $50-million ski hill project won’t receive funding this year from the state of Colorado, the state Economic Development Commission decided Friday.

The commission instead chose Aurora’s Gaylord Project to receive $81.4 million in the next three decades under the Regional Tourism Act. Commissioners also selected Pueblo’s Riverwalk Entertainment District to receive $14.8 million during the next 30 years.

Under the act, local governments can apply for state sales-tax breaks for projects that generate out-of-state tourism. The commission can select two projects annually that will lead to economic development and attract a substantial number of out-of-state visitors.

Estes Park’s Elkhorn Project was one of six projects being considered by the commission. It included a year-round ski and recreational area on the historic Elkhorn Lodge property.

Summer-time skiing was the only unique part of the project, according to a report from the commission.

“It is not clear from the application, however, how the ski park will bring tourists to Colorado who would otherwise not have come,” the report states.

The report also said that Estes Park had failed to show that the project was viable considering it had not received funding from other sources.

Estes Park leaders and business people were seeking $19.2 million in state sales tax revenue for the $49.3-million project. They believed the project would draw 500,000 new visitors to Estes Park by its first full year of operation in 2015.

However, a report from a consulting company hired by the state to analyze the feasibility of the project predicted only 379,000 additional tourists.

The Gaylord Project is a proposed 1,500-room hotel with more than 406,000 square feet of meeting and exhibition space. It is expected to create more than 2,500 new jobs.

The Riverwalk Entertainment District includes an expansion of the Pueblo Convention Center and a Professional Bull Riding University and aquatic center. It is expected to create more than 200 new jobs.

The town of Estes Park said the Elkhorn Project would create more than 370 full-time-equivalent jobs in town.

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