In 2022, the Walton-Penner ownership group bought the Denver Broncos Football Club for $4.65 billion. The Metropolitan Football Stadium District distributed proceeds from this sale to the counties and municipalities that are members of the district, including Littleton.
As a result, Littleton received an unexpected, one-time payment of $1.2 million to be used for “youth activity programs,” according to a letter from the stadium district.
On May 23, council members and staff discussed how to use these funds.
East Community Center
The largest request for the stadium district funds so far has come from Littleton Public Schools, which asked for $750,000 to support the East Community Center.
In 2021, the Littleton Public Schools Board of Education decided to merge East Elementary and Moody Elementary schools due to declining enrollment and committed to turning East Elementary’s building into a community center.
The school district, which conducted a community engagement process to determine the goals of the center, hopes to use the repurposed space to offer recreational, educational, and community support services.
“We were so pleased to see how many people were really invested in sharing their voice and advocacy related to what would happen not only to the building but how we could use this concept of a community center to further the services for the youth and families in the community,” said Assistant Superintendent Melissa Cooper at the study session.
Through the engagement process, stakeholders decided on nine areas of focus for the new community center: sports and recreation, childcare, wellness, after-school and youth groups, educational classes, small business support, community market, community space, and garden and resource navigation.
“This then drives what we are looking for in the partners from the community, to then be able to negotiate an agreement with the school district for space in the community center, to then be able to provide these types of services,” Cooper said.
The district has put out a request for information to interested parties in the community. Forty-five organizations have already expressed interest in using the space.
Any funding provided by the city would be a one-time grant, with the school district hoping rent income from community partners would financially sustain the center in the future.
In addition to money to support the community center, Cooper said the school district could use extra stadium district funds, if granted, to support summer school and summer camps at the EPIC campus, early childhood education programming, and middle school STEM.
The community center, however, is the district’s first priority for use of stadium district funds.
Discussion and other uses of funds
District 4 Councilmember Kelly Milliman said she liked the idea of financially supporting the East Community Center.
“I'm gonna be supportive of because I look at it as this was — not free money, but essentially kind of free money — to use to help jumpstart this community center,” she said. "It just seems like there's enough people and enough focus and enough energy and enough drive and enough passion to make this work.”
Councilmember At-Large Pam Grove also said the community center is a “well thought-out” plan for youth programming that involved a lot of community engagement.
District 1 Councilmember Pat Driscoll said he was concerned about the financial sustainability of a project like this.
“You give them $750,000 and you know, who knows if this even survives?” he said.
Jerry Valdes, the council member for District 2, said he did not want to give such a large amount of money without seeing a detailed budget.
At the meeting, Cooper outlined the school district’s expected costs of building maintenance, janitorial services, utilities, salary, signage, marketing, and programming. Valdes said he wanted more details.
“I think that that's a request that we could make if the council wanted to pursue in the next steps, we could go back to the district and see how that budget is coming together,” Assistant City Manager Kathleen Osher responded.
City staff also presented two internal options for the stadium district funding, including a youth internship program and a first job program through the city to provide experience and education in local government.
Driscoll said he thought it would be worth putting out more communications to the community to see if other organizations have needs, they will want to use the stadium district funding towards.
The council gave direction to staff to get more financial details and plans from the school district regarding the East Community Center before they decide on how to use the funds.
They also want to see more options for how to use the funds, so they are deciding based on a comprehensive list, not just a few options.
Editor's note: This story's headline was corrected on May 24 to fix a typo that expressed the wrong amount of money. The city received $1.2 million to spend on youth programming, not $1.2 billion.