Mayor Melendez Urges Residents to Contact Commissioners in Support of Project
April 7, 2020
Submitted by the Town of Windsor
The Future Legends Sports Complex (formerly known as Colorado National Sports Park) is a private project with a public partnership component tied to the Town of Windsor. With the construction of a 118-acre sports tourism park underway at the location commonly known as the Diamond Valley ballfields, Weld County Commissioners made a last-minute decision without making notice to any of the participating parties to pull out of a statewide program that makes private funding available to qualifying projects.
The state-supported Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy Finance program, also known also as the C-PACE clean energy program, allows developers to secure low-interest and low-risk loans. It is only available to property owners located in counties participating in the state-backed program. On Oct. 23, 2017, the Board of Weld County Commissioners unanimously adopted Resolution No. 2017-3636, authorizing participation in the state C-PACE clean energy program, a program supported by the State of Colorado’s Energy Office. On February 20, the Board of County Commissioners received notification that the Future Legends Sports Complex had submitted a program application seeking $20 million in C-PACE funding, equaling roughly 13% of its capital stack.
To participate in C-PACE, the property owner engages with a selected capital provider. In this case, owners of the Future Legends Sports Complex chose Petros PACE Finance LLC, to prepare and execute a financing agreement. The capital provider then instigates project closing and assessment records with the county where the property resides. With C-PACE no public funds are required for the program and no county liabilities are created.
That is when, according to Windsor Economic Development Director Stacy Miller, the Future Legends Sports Complex project’s future was jeopardized by a single decision made by the Board of Weld County Commissioners.
Only six days later—on February 26 and with no prior indication that Weld County commissioners intended to back out of the C-PACE program—Weld County commissioners voted unanimously to dissolve county participation. It appears the decision to disavowal program support was in response to notification that the board received from Petros PACE Finance, LLC’s that the project intended to secure C-PACE funding.
“By all appearances, the Weld County commissioners had to know that recusal from the C-PACE program would damage the project’s success,” said Windsor Mayor Kristie Melendez. “This project was set to provide the town with a major and revolving source of revenue generated from hotel visitation, retail opportunities, and sports tourism activities.”
Melendez notes, “If C-PACE was such bad policy, then why was it passed unanimously in 2017, sat on the county and state books for almost three years and was only terminated after an application from Windsor was submitted? Why didn’t the Town of Windsor or anyone on the project get a courtesy call to hear the concerns and have an opportunity to address or refute the decision?”
Aside from supporting the local economy, Melendez states the bigger picture harms Weld County’s economy as well.
“I can’t understand why, at this crucial time, with everything our communities are facing in terms of public health and safety and when everything else in the business world as we know it is changing and crashing around us, why we can’t get Weld County to see the importance and magnitude of this project,” says an impassioned Melendez. “The jobs, the economics, the financial implications of this project are crucial and substantial and would greatly aid in our regional financial recovery. It’s not what this project brings to Windsor, but what it brings to the entire Northern Colorado Region, specifically to Weld County and to our state.”
According to Project Developer Jeff Katofsky, Future Legends was never notified that Weld County’s intention to pull out of the state-supported program. Business eligibility relied on county participation so the Petros PACE Finance, LLC loan was no longer an option. Up until that point, the loan was secure with a closing date scheduled. It was only upon Petros PACE’s finalization of loan closing documents that the Future Legends owner became aware of Weld County’s program dissolution.
Various attempts were made between the organization representing the financial interests of the loan, Mayor Melendez, and multiple state and local dignitaries to encourage Weld County commissioners to follow the intent of the original county resolution supporting C-PACE participation. This included offering that a third party, in place of Weld County, could handle the assessment collection obligation. In this scenario, the county would have no obligation with the project.
“There’s an option for commissioners to make an allowance for the sports complex project to move forward with C-PACE funding, but it relies on them holding up the spirit of the original resolution,” says Melendez.
Weld County commissioners’ dissolution of C-PACE participation was outside of Windsor’s control and Melendez believes that the decision is highly indefensible, as it may ensure the sports complex—which was projected to create nearly 1,500 job opportunities during the construction phase alone—will not succeed, having a severe negative impact on Windsor’s economic resources.
According to Melendez, “We were on the verge of something great, something for which we all could have been proud. Instead, we are now facing a severe negative financial impact for not only Windsor, but for all of Northern Colorado.”
“If you have a player at this time under these conditions still willing to move forward, any community would count itself lucky and would fight for it and do everything it takes to make sure that project comes to fruition,” says Melendez. “That’s what we’re fighting for right now. The lack of Weld commissioners’ support of the C-PACE program puts this project at risk of terminating and becoming a dead dream. It’s a job killer and an economy crusher that once gone, we will never get back nor is there anything of its kind to replace it with.”
A letter from Petros PACE Finance, LLC dated March 26, 2020, to Weld County commissioners, stated that the project would include over 250 hotel rooms, a retail center with national and local tenants, a viable sports venue and more. “The annual economic impact is in the tens of millions, with seven-figure annual tax revenue. Partners include local construction giant Hensel Phelps, several Colorado Rockies, led by our own Ryan Spilborghs, and a host of other business people, athletes and people of influence,” the letter states.
“I’m appalled that the Weld Board of County County Commissioners suggested Windsor find a way to make up this $20 million dollar gap. Their lack of sensitivity to the urgency of the timeline and the current state of emergency everyone is facing is part of the issue. Even if Windsor is able to find an alternative avenue for funding resources, and we are looking, my fear is that it will come too little too late and our alternatives would give up valuable tax revenues.” Melendez adds, “Windsor plans and builds for long-term success, and Future Legends Sports Complex fits into this plan. Future Legends Sports Complex is seriously threatened if we can’t get Weld County to rethink this.”
Melendez urges Weld County residents concerned with the loss of this project to contact the Weld Board of County Commissioners immediately and ask them to change their stance on C-PACE financing for the Future Legends Sports Complex project. Information about contacting commissioners is online at https://www.weldgov.com/departments/commissioners.
U.S. unemployment claims jump to 965,000 as coronavirus takes toll
WASHINGTON — The number of people seeking unemployment aid soared last week to 965,000, the most since late August and evidence that the resurgent virus has caused a spike in layoffs.
The latest figures for jobless claims, issued Thursday by the Labor Department, remain at levels never seen until the virus struck. Before the pandemic, weekly applications typically numbered around 225,000. Last spring, after nationwide shutdowns took effect, applications for jobless benefits spiked to nearly 7 million — 10 times the previous record high. After declining over the summer, weekly claims have been stuck above 700,000 since September.
The high pace of layoffs coincides with an economy that has faltered as consumers have avoided traveling, shopping and eating out in the face of soaring viral caseloads. More than 4,300 deaths were reported Tuesday, another record high. Shutdowns of restaurants, bars and other venues where people gather in California, New York and other states have likely forced up layoffs.
Some states and cities are resisting shutdowns, partly out of fear of the economic consequences but raising the risk of further infections. Minnesota allowed in-person dining to resume this week. Michigan is poised to do the same. Some bars and restaurants in Kansas City are extending their hours.
In addition to the first-time applications for unemployment aid last week, the government said Thursday that 5.3 million Americans are continuing to receive state jobless benefits, up from 5.1 million in the previous week.
Many more Americans are receiving jobless aid from two federal programs — one that provides extended benefits to people who have exhausted their state aid and another that supplies benefits to self-employed and contract workers.
Those two programs had expired near the end of December. They were belatedly renewed, through mid-March, in a $900 billion rescue aid package that Congress approved and President Donald Trump signed into law. That package also includes $600 relief checks for most adults and a supplemental unemployment benefit payment of $300 a week. Congressional Democrats favor boosting the checks to $2,000 and extending federal aid beyond March, as does President-elect Joe Biden.
The U.S. job market’s weakness was made painfully clear in the December employment report that the government issued last week. Employers shed jobs for the first time since April as the pandemic tightened its grip on consumers and businesses.
The figures also depicted a sharply uneven job market: The losses last month were concentrated among restaurants, bars, hotels and entertainment venues — places that provide in-person services that some governments have restricted or that consumers are avoiding. Educational services, mostly colleges and universities, also cut workers in December. So did film and music studios.
Most other large industries, though, reported job gains. Many economists had expected last spring that job losses would spread to more industries. Though all sectors of the economy initially laid off workers, most of them have avoided deep layoffs. Manufacturing, construction, and professional services like engineering and architecture, for example, all added jobs in December.
At the same time, many companies seem reluctant to ramp up hiring. A government report Tuesday showed that employers advertised fewer open jobs in November than in October. The decline, while small, was widespread across most industries. Even now, the nation has nearly 10 million fewer jobs than it did before the pandemic sent the economy into a deep recession nearly a year ago, having recovered just 56% of the jobs lost in the spring.
Many economists say that once coronavirus vaccines are more widely distributed, a broader recovery should take hold in the second half of the year. The incoming Biden administration, along with a now fully Democratic-led House and Senate, is also expected to push more rescue aid and spending measures that could accelerate growth.
Extra unemployment money will ease stress on Denver’s rental market
About 3 million Americans employed in March were still without a job in November, and they are disproportionately low-wage workers who rent a home or apartment.
But the extra $300 a week that the federal government will start paying out in unemployment benefits this month should go a long way in reducing the burden renters without a job will face, according to a new study from Seattle-based Zillow.
“The evidence is clear that renters are shouldering much more of the burden of the pandemic than their homeowning peers, in large part because of dramatic job losses in high-contact industries that are often staffed by renters,” said Chris Glynn, a Zillow senior economist, in his analysis.
On average, a single unemployed renter in the U.S. was spending about $8 of every $10 received in state unemployment payments to keep a roof over his or her head. But once the extra $300 a week in federal payments kicks in this month, that burden falls to 43%, according to Zillow.
In metro Denver, the rent burden, based on an average monthly rent of $1,745 and a single income, will fall from 94% of unemployment income to about 56%. That’s still elevated given that housing advocates define anything above 30% as “burdened” and associated with a higher risk of homelessness.
Between April and the end of July, when the federal government was paying an extra $600 a week in unemployment benefits, the average rent burden in metro Denver for the unemployed was at 38.5%, according to the analysis.
“The ability to pay rent on time depends on the financial priorities and obligations of individual households, but an extra $300 each week will certainly help some renters make monthly rent payments that they wouldn’t otherwise — welcome news for both the renters and landlords,” said Glynn in an email.
Glynn expects that rent delinquency rates should ease in the first three months of this year, but that another cliff looms on March 14, when the current stimulus package expires.
The National Multifamily Housing Council’s Rent Payment Tracker reported that 76.6% of apartment households had made a full or partial rent payment as of Jan. 6. That is up from the 75.4% of households who had made a payment as of Dec. 6.
Last month, about nine on10 apartment renters nationally had made a payment or an arrangement to pay as of Dec. 20, while 94% of renters in Colorado had done so, according to counts from the firm RealPage. Colorado’s payment rate was down only slightly from the 96.7% level seen in December 2019.
Canceled 2021 Stock Show leaves room for National Western Center project
This time of year, the Denver Stockyard Saloon should be packed with ranchers, ropers, 4H show judges and an extended cast of other western characters.
Located in the Livestock Exchange building on the National Western Center campus, the stock show is go-time for the storied restaurant and bar. Owner Dean Maus said Tuesday that the business makes between 60% and 70% of its income during the show each year, going through about 250 pounds worth of ground beef in burgers daily.
“Usually during the stock show, we’re open from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. for those 16 days with bands every night,” Maus said, sitting in an empty overflow-dining room. “So it’s going to be an ugly year.”
Organizers canceled the 2021 National Western Stock Show in September because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. It’s the first year the show hasn’t been held in north Denver since 1922.
In place of rodeos, dog shows, livestock auctions and other trappings of Denver’s annual agriculture extravaganza, the National Western Stock Show is putting on a series of virtual events. Staff members are also participating in “16 Days of Service,” volunteering their time this month.
“As heartbroken as we are to not be hosting the National Western Stock Show, the staff and I chose to utilize this downtime and serve with fellow nonprofits in Colorado,” Paul Andrews, the stock show’s president and CEO, said in a news release last week.
Officials have pointed to a silver lining around the cancellation, and it’s playing out on the National Western Campus right now. No stock show means more time and flexibility to make progress on the $1 billion redevelopment project underway on the 250-acre, city-owned property.
“We’re turning it into an opportunity,” said Tykus Holloway, executive director of the Mayor’s Office of the National Western Center, the entity overseeing the massive public improvement project.
In a typical year, the stock show would alter the way crews work from October through March, Holloway said. The pandemic has shifted protocols — making health screenings and other precautions a daily part of the work on the campus — but hasn’t delayed the project or driven up the costs. The first two phases of the project are still on pace to wrap up in 2024. In 2021, as long as the weather permits, everything is full steam ahead.
“2021, for us, is a really big year because it’s the completion of some major things but also the start of some major projects,” Holloway said.
Officials on the campus Tuesday celebrated the recent completion of testing for two located Denver Rock Island Railroad lines. Consolidating those lines with the BNSF and RTD lines that already pass through the property “allows the whole campus to come together,” Patrick Riley, the city’s horizontal construction manager, said.
Next on the docket comes the start of construction on an updated National Western Center Drive, a bridge that will carry 51st Avenue over the South Platte River and a project to bury two 72-inch sewer lines that run along the west side of the property. Once those sewer lines are out of the way — and also producing thermal energy to help power the campus — the National Western Complex will have access to six acres of open space along the river.
The city and its partners are discussing shaking up the sequencing of construction, possibly moving some projects back and others forward depending on the impact each could have on boosting state and city tax revenues in the wake of the COVID-19 driven recession, Holloway said. That includes possibly getting an early start on a new arena on the southeastern portion of the campus known as the triangle. In May, the city puts a bidding process on hold for a private development partner for the triangle area because of plummeting tax revenues.
One key building on the campus is well underway, the 40,000-square-foot Stockyards Events Center. The building will be the centerpiece of the campus’s relocated 20-acre stockyards, hosting livestock auctions and international guests, Riley said. The building and the yards may also host concerts and other special events when not serving the primary purpose in January. Officials with Adolfson & Peterson Construction say the building is on pace to be completed this summer and will be ready for the 2022 stock show, assuming it happens as scheduled.
“It an incredibly flexible facility that we think is in position and in a setting that is going to make in unique to other facilities in the city,” said Brad Buchanan, CEO of the National Western Authority, the agency tasked with managing and programming the campus year-round outside of the stock show.
Colorado State University’s three-building “Spur” campus on the southern end of the property is moving along with all buildings expected to be completed before the end of 2022. The Vida animal and human health building is expected to be open in time for next year’s stock show and there is a chance the Terra food and agriculture building may be too.
Dean Maus, meanwhile, is just hoping for some activity on the campus in 2021 that can fill his dining room beyond the handful of construction officials and employees from neighboring businesses who occasionally stop in for lunch. The city sold the Livestock Exchange building in December to a group that includes the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association and the National Western Center Authority. The Stockyard Saloon is in the second year of a five year lease there and has already been granted a deferral on three months worth of rent amid the pandemic.
“Hopefully, we’ll get some events,” Maus said. “Any little bit helps.”