Twenty-three years after baseball royalty descended on Denver, the Major League Baseball All-Star Game returns to Coors Field.
But things are very different this time.
Colorado is trying to emerge from a global pandemic, the local economy needs a shot in the arm, and the decision to move the game to Denver is awash in politics, and Major League Baseball officials recently pulled it out of Atlanta. MLB made the decision in response to a new Georgia voting law that raised concerns among civil rights groups that voting access for people of color would be restricted.
On Tuesday, when it was officially announced that the Rockies would host the 91st Midsummer Classic on July 13, an enthusiastic Governor Jared Polis could not resist breaking the metaphors of baseball. He said Colorado was “moving through the fences,” adding that he expects COVID-19 to be under control and for players to perform in front of a “completely packed stadium.” (Currently, attendance is limited to 42% of capacity.)
Polis and Denver Mayor Michel Hancock lobbied for the game and touted the economic benefits of owning it in Denver, which Hancock said would result in an economic impact of more than $ 100 million.
“This is a huge relief to our economy here in Colorado,” Polis said. “This is a critical turning point, not just for our return to normal (from COVID), but to highlight Denver and Colorado, nationally, showcasing some of the most amazing talent coming to Colorado.”
MLB said it chose Denver because the city had already laid out a plan to host a future All-Star Game and could quickly prepare for this year’s game.
“This whole thing moved really fast,” Hancock said. “What normally takes months or years to happen happened in a matter of days.”
Details on the cost of the tickets, how fans can purchase them and what other events will coincide with the game are still being worked out, the Rockies said. The annual MLB amateur draft will take place during the All-Star holiday for the first time.
Polis and Hancock said Rockies owner Dick Monfort was “totally focused” on moving the game from Atlanta to Denver.
“When you look at the final spend, it’s likely to be a little over $ 100 million,” said Richard Scharf, President and CEO of Visit Denver.
When Denver last hosted the game in 1998, the game generated about $ 40 million in expenses and other economic activities. Economists and tourism officials said the city has much more to offer and more ways to get visitors to spend than it did back then.
The benefits will not be limited to local spending alone, said Patricia Silverstein, chief economist at Development Research Partners in Littleton. Many trips will turn into extended vacations that will attract dollars across the state, especially in mountain resorts.
“Additionally, events like this increase awareness of the Denver metro area, which may mean the region is considered / reconsidered for a commercial location or expansion,” he said.
Richard Scharf, CEO of Visit Denver, estimates that the value of the TV and social media exposure the city receives could be worth another $ 100 million, based on the cost of purchasing comparable airtime. After a long travel break, the exhibition is highly valued in an effort to win over tourists.
“It seems that consumers have that repressed demand. There is a lot of desire to go to events like the All-Star Game, travel, go to restaurants and be in public, ”said Nick Sly, an economist who oversees the Denver branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. .
The game will benefit the sector of the economy most affected by the pandemic, leisure and hospitality, as well as one of the most affected areas, downtown Denver. The hotels, restaurants and retailers that surround Coors Fields, in particular, have the most to gain.
“This unexpected event will be a tremendous boost to the hospitality industry, which took the brunt of the crushing blow that COVID-19 dealt to our economy. Thousands of visitors will gather to celebrate America’s pastime at Mile High City, ”said Walter Isenberg, president and CEO of the Sage Hospitality Group, which runs several hotels in the vicinity of the stadium.
Isenberg said it will provide Denver with an opportunity to show the world that it is ready to welcome visitors safely.
“I’m very happy. Change the plans for that week and I’ll make sure everything is ready,” said Angela Neri, owner of Pony Up, a bar and restaurant located at 18th and Blake streets. “The most important thing as an operator is to make sure to be provided and ready. “
Neri said stocking up will mean not just food and drink, but having enough trained staff on hand. He currently works with half of his normal staff given the demand. Many of those he had to let go of during various closings are gone. Restaurants in general are struggling to rehire, train, and rebuild.
A key test for the city’s hotel industry will be the ability to provide a memorable experience, in a good way, to those who join the game. And time is ticking.
The Rockies’ Bud Black, who has spent 15 years in the majors as a player and is in his fourteenth season as a coach, was excited by the news.
“I am excited about Colorado. I am excited for Denver. I’m excited for the baseball fans in this region, ”he said. “I’m excited that baseball fans from across the country are coming to see our great city.”
Black called the All-Star Game “great pageantry and great fanfare.”
“It’s a wonderful, wonderful three days,” Black continued. “I know our city will accept it. I know the Rockies organization is going to put on a great show. “
Denver last hosted the All-Star Game on July 7, 1998, in Coors Field’s fourth year of existence. It was a memorable event. A sold-out crowd of 51,231 saw the American League beat the National League 13-8 in the highest-scoring All-Star Game in history.