So this is kind of weird: On Saturday, the Denver Post ran an editorial arguing that in lease renewal talks between the Colorado Rockies and the state-run Denver Metropolitan Major League Baseball Stadium District, taxpayers shouldn’t be on the hook for any renovation costs:
[District chair Ray] Baker said instead he’s hoping to craft a long-term lease that would be in the best interests of taxpayers and protect the asset that is the stadium. He said engineering studies have shown the stadium needs $200 million in infrastructure improvements to last for another 20 to 30 years.
We don’t think taxpayers should be on the hook for those construction needs, given that the initial lease so badly inhibited the stadium authority’s ability to raise long-term capital needs.
What’s weird about that? First off, the Post is actually a minority owner of the Rockies, so it’s more than a little odd to see their editorial board insisting on protecting taxpayers from their own demands. But also, this was the first mention of any potential renovation costs to Coors Field at all — not a peep out of the paper’s news reporters before this, or any other news outlet at all.
Read to the very end of the editorial, and it’s maybe clearer what’s going on:
Significant revenue sources need to be dedicated for the structural, electrical, water and sewer needs of the stadium.Without that, it’s likely voters will be asked to approve a new tax again to fund those needs, and that would be a hard sell this time around.
The bad news is that the Rockies, now an ingrained part of our cultural scene, could pack up Dinger, the dinosaur, and Nolan Arenado, the third baseman, and leave town.
Unlikely as that would be, it’s not unprecedented, and it’d be a sad day in LoDo.
Now we’re getting somewhere. Read between the lines, and it appears that Baker, the Rockies’ landlord, wants more funding to snazz up the stadium he runs in the future. The Rockies could choose to pay for any upgrades, obviously, but Baker wants a dedicated revenue stream — the editorial hints that this should be a cut of ticket sales and concessions — so what better way to lobby for one than to get the local paper to insist that it’s vitally necessary to avoid sticking taxpayers with a bill that doesn’t even exist yet?
The real message here, then, isn’t about urgent lease talks — the Rockies owners can unilaterally choose to renew their current deal for another 15 years — than to put a bug in the public’s ear that Coors Field is in urgent need of repairs, and somebody’s gotta pay for it, or else the team may leave. It’s nice and all that the Post is choosing to side with Baker that that somebody should be the team owners and not general taxpayers, but significantly less nice that the paper is trying to shift the goalposts to “We need $200 million, how are we going to pay for it?” at a time when nobody aside from the stadium manager is saying that upkeep of a stadium will cost almost as much as it took to build in the first place. In fact, that seems like the kind of claim that should be investigated by, you know, journalists. Wonder where the Post could find some of those.
UPDATE: Ah, this makes it all somewhat clearer: Apparently the Rockies owners are refusing to sign their lease extension, trying to use it as leverage to get the state to hand over development rights to the Coors Field parking lot in exchange for the team taking on maintenance and upgrade costs. (Aka “the Los Angeles Angels gambit.”) With this as the backdrop, the Post editorial makes even more sense, if by sense you mean “trying to shift the debate in favor of someone else paying for unneeded upgrades,” which is about as much sense as is on offer today.