Thursday, May 04, 2006

Denver got it right

The neighborhood surrounding Coors Field, commonly referred to as Lower Downtown or "LoDo" was once a collection of burned out buildings, a virtual slum. Nobody lived there. Nobody went there.

It was described as a war zone. So bad in fact that an area one block east of where Coors Field resides today was known as "Crack Central". Homeless people routinely slept on the sidewalks and suburbanites stayed away.

But, a group of visionaries decided LoDo would be a good place to build a ballpark for Denver's new MLB franchise. Their sales pitch was that LoDo's revitalization would make Denver a better, safer city. It worked.

The result has been one of the best baseball environments in the country. The abandoned buildings have become bars, restaurants, art galleries, apartments and condos. Any crime element that existed in LoDo pre-Coors Field has ventured elsewhere.

Whenever I go to to the Mile High City, I make it a point to visit LoDo's Bar and Grill, the Wynkoop Brewery and other nearby establishments. Historic Union Station stands as a symbol of Denver's past, one likely lost if the neighborhood had simply been left to deteriorate.

Many Denver residents thought it would be insane to build the Rockies' ballpark in a slum. Truth is, LoDo was in far worse shape at that point in time than Over-the-Rhine was during the debate over building the Reds' new park at Broadway Commons.

Coors Field didn't rescue LoDo. It simply served as the overwhelming catalyst to jumpstart revitalization efforts already on-going. Much like a ballpark at Broadway Commons might have done for Over-the-Rhine and the then-bustling Main Street bar district, which is barely bustling today.

Denver got it right with Coors Field.

And, although Great American Ball Park turned out to be a beautiful venue on the riverfront, Cincinnati really missed the boat.


Daedalus said...

It never ceases to amaze me when teams are getting new parts that there are people out there who argue against it. Here in DC, as you know, there was a massive fight which nearly cost the city the Nats over building the ballpark along the Anacostia waterfront. While there are worse neighborhoods in DC, SE Washington isn't exactly free of its problems. Nothing but good can come from the new stadium and its slum location; I just can't understand why people can't see that.

It is sad that there is nothing around GABP to make it a baseball community.

Daedalus said...

I meant "when teams are getting new parks."

Jeff Wallner said...

Thanks for your comments.

There is a substantial residential and commercial development planned for the barren property just west of GABP. It's been years in the works, but the new Reds ownership group is now taking the initiative to move it forward because they understand its long-term benefits for the club.

Of course, it makes more sense to spend millions to build an infrastructure from scratch than to build the ballpark in a location that already has one.

There were a lot of politics at work in that decision.

Big surprise, huh?