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Baseball Stadium District: We Need More Parking Lots!

Remember back in 2007 when, for a few months, there was a controversy over the old Light Bulb Supply Building site at 21st and Delgany behind Coors Field? The owners at the time, Bill and Paula Leake, wanted to rezone their property to RMU-30, which would have allowed their underutilized property to be developed with a building up to 140 feet in height. A few neighborhood groups and the Denver Metropolitan Major League Baseball Stadium District (owner of Coors Field) objected to the plan, saying that it would block the view of the mountains from Coors Field.

In response, a view plane ordinance was proposed that would have originated at a point in Section 222 Club Level of Coors Field, limiting new buildings within the view to a height of 72 feet. The problem with a 72-foot height limit was that, with the elevated I-25 HOV lanes soaring 40 feet above ground past the property, not enough of a 72-foot tall building would rise above the flyover to make the project profitable. Also, there was some debate as to the degree to which a 140-foot tall building at the site would really block mountain views anyway. Here’s a rendering, prepared by Buchanan Yonushewski Group (which represented the Leakes at the time) of the view from Section 222 Club Level with a 140-foot building at 21st and Delgany, as well as the Commons (Central Platte Valley) approved bulk plane behind it:

For more background on the issue, here’s a Rocky Mountain News article and editorial from 2007. Anyway, the view plane issue was put on hold so that it wouldn’t detract from the Rockies’ historic World Series run at the time, and since then there’s been no news on the matter… until now.

Jared Jacang Maher has the latest at Westword: The Denver Metropolitan Major League Baseball Stadium District bought the property from the Leakes for about $2.4 million. You may conclude that this is a win-win for everybody: the Leakes get the value out of their property and Coors Field gets to protect its view. I’m not so sure.

The Stadium District plans to turn the 21st and Delgany site into a surface parking lot after they lose some of their surface parking along upper Blake Street to RTD for a FasTracks transit line. Even that may seem reasonable. But what bothers me is the Stadium District’s viewpoint, as expressed by District director Ray Baker: “There’s just not enough [parking] currently with what we have and what will be taken.”

That’s right, there isn’t enough parking around Coors Field, and that’s a damn good thing. The point of placing Coors Field in a Downtown location without nearly the number of parking spaces that it normally would have if it were in a suburban location, was to force people to either a.) take transit, or b.) park throughout the Downtown area and walk/mall shuttle to the stadium, thereby filling the sidewalks with pedestrians and making Downtown a better, more urban place. A place will never become more urban by making it easier to get there by automobile. Let me repeat that: A place will never become more urban by making it easier to get there by automobile! Until we learn that lesson in Denver, we’ll never have the Downtown we strive to have.

“We can’t simultaneously promote walking and bicycling while continuing to facilitate driving.” – Albert Einstein

And, need I remind the Stadium District that Coors Field is located two blocks from what will be the largest multi-modal transit hub in the entire region?! Why does the District feel that they will need to replace the parking spaces they lose to RTD for transit construction, when those very same transit lines will put millions of people throughout the Denver region within a few miles of a transit line that will conveniently drop them off two blocks away from Coors Field?! Did the Stadium District ever consider that when all the FasTrack lines are up and running that fewer people might, you know, drive to the stadium?

The Stadium District should be working hand in hand with the City and the Downtown Denver Partnership to steadily, strategically, replace the surface parking lots around Coors Field with dense, mixed-use development and, if we must, structured parking. The more Coors Field is surrounded by an intensity of shops, restaurants, housing, hotels, offices, and sidewalks teeming with people, the more exciting it will be to go to a game. We want Coors Field to be in the center of it all, immersed in a pedestrian-scaled urban domain, not surrounded by a sea of asphalt like the Pepsi Center is.

In the Rocky article, Mr. Baker is quoted as saying: “We have an obligation to protect the ambience of the experience of going to Coors Field and protecting that view. I think it would be detrimental to taxpayers not to do so.” You want to protect—enhance—the ambience of the experience of going to Coors Field? Make the experience more urban, more walkable, more engaging. You want to benefit the taxpayers? Make the Coors Field experience more sustainable by discouraging driving to the stadium and by invigorating the streets of Downtown with economy-stimulating pedestrians. Seems to work just fine for Yankee Stadium, Wrigley Field, and Fenway Park.

“If you plan cities for cars and traffic, you get cars and traffic. If you plan for people and places, you get people and places.” – Fred Kent

So, the Leakes get their money but Downtown gets a new surface parking lot. I’m happy for the Leakes, but I’m disappointed in the Stadium District’s parochial perspective. I expect more enlighted, progressive thinking from the owners of our Downtown ballpark. But, I’ll make the Stadium District a deal: Develop Block C into a dense, mixed-use project, and I’ll support your parking lot at 21st and Delgany.

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33 Comments

  1. Freddie says:

    Well said.

  2. pizzuti says:

    Is there any chance that people making decisions here would actually read this? They should. (If you do, let us know.)

    I am very much in agreement with everything in this post.

    I'm curious: I know that zoning tends to designate the maximum utility of a given space; something zoned for medium-density mixed used buildings will say, perhaps, no more than 100 units on this block, but if the developer wants to build 50 they can get by with 50.

    That seems to be the case when something zoned a certain way gets replaced, instead with parking lots.

    My question is, can the city zone a minimum utility too? As in, the minimum zoning of this land is for medium-density, so if you want to bulldoze it and put a surface parking lot (which would be very low density) that would violate the zoning.

  3. RTD Watch says:

    This is really disappointing news. Last summer I saw a Brewer's game at Miller Field and the difference between Miller and Coors is so obvious: Miller is in the middle of a huge asphalt parking lot and then surrounded by highways. People go to the park, tailgate, watch the game and immediately leave. There is really no way that I know to get to the stadium except by car, or possibly waiting for a bus to shuttle you there. There is absolutely no connection with the stadium and the area it is next to and as a result the city doesn't take advantage of all those people who could be going to bars, restaurants and go shopping.

    In Denver, it's an established fact that Coors Field is largely responsible for revitalizing Lower Downtown. But it revitalized it because there is a plethora of bars, restaurants and just stuff around there. It's unfortunate enough already that the numerous parking lots in the area keep it from being a truly urbane experience, but it's much more exciting that what Milwaukee has. And Denver has numerous transportation options to get us to Coors Field, and many more in the works. The last thing we need is more parking lots there.

  4. Lembley says:

    Well this is not what I wanted to hear :-( I agree about block C, how has that not been developed yet? It has to be one of the prime spots downtown.

  5. Scott says:

    The lot itself doesn't really bother given the relative isolation of that area behind Coors Field. I do however agree that less parking options around Coors Field in general will drastically improve the area around the stadium. Would love to see development of The empty lots between 20th and 21st on blake and market streets.

    But lets not kid ourselves, with the team currently on the field I'm not sure having enough parking is going to be a problem.

  6. Brian says:

    If they want parking, they can build a garage there. that would free up the other parking lots for other purposes. Surface parking lots should be abolished downtown.

  7. john says:

    I had the same reaction to the Westword article. Enough with the parking lots, we already tried that and are still repairing the damage from the last generation of people who thought "we need more parking".
    Thanks for the article Ken.
    jp

  8. binford says:

    Not sure why the huge lot in Lower Downtown across from Coors field (Block C) was put under the control of the Stadium District.

    The lot is still zoned industrial, and the district couldn't care less. This is a taxpayer funded entity that is effectively blocking development in lower downtown by refusing to let that full block in the heart of Lower Downtown become anything but parking. Were the lot in private hands, or at least in the hands of anybody who played by market principles, it would have developed long ago.

    Tax money shouldn't be going to the district to acquire land for parking. The district was created to build and operate a stadium, not to be in the parking business. We have to get away from the idea that the facility is tied to parking.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Amen, brother Ken.

  10. The Artistic Mercenary™ says:

    Well said, here's to hoping you, or someone likeminded, has the ear of the Stadium District.

  11. dwilson says:

    This is a simple case of contradictory incentives. If everyone who visits Coors Field comes in through Union Station, and then walks the 5 blocks to Coors Field through the vibrant part of Lodo, they may feel compelled to visit the bars and restaurants along the way. If they drive to Coors Field and park adjacent to the ballpark, there is little to no food and beverage options until they are actually inside the ballpark. Once inside, they will eat and drink all the overpriced refreshments Coors Field has to offer.
    Now this makes clear, at least to me, why the Monforts would prefer nothing but surface parking lots surrounding Coors Field.

  12. Anonymous says:

    While I too don't like the sound of a surface lot, is there any chance this could bring us a pedestrian bridge from 21st and Wewatta over the railroad tracks/players lot to the Wynkoop ticket gate? I would think people parking there would need it for access to the ticket gates. Plus it would make for a nice addition to Prospect which is currently quite disconnected from LoDo.

  13. joeindt says:

    This shows how out of touch the people of commercial real estate are. These 'experts' have obviously sold the district on the importance of a parking lot. It is very arrogant of them. Essentially, they are trying to cheapen the land. Why do they want it cheap? Because they have a lousy product. They know people people aren't going to want to pay $20 parking for a losing baseball team. Following that logic through, they seem to say we'll invest in parking lots, instead of better players. That's losers logic, not the stuff of a champion.

  14. Saint says:

    I don't like your compromise Ken. Mine would be: if Coors wants parking, they should build a three or four level garage at that spot, and have the first level of the garage be for retail/restaurant development, so at least the land is being used for something besides parking.

    I mean, seriously, a surface lot? They don't really care about parking. They just want to lock up land to protect their "view". Which from that picture, the view is more ruined by Coors Field items (scoreboard and additional seating) anyway.

  15. Saint says:

    I think dwilson above said it best.

  16. Adam Denowsky says:

    I work on 22nd street by Coors. There is a least 3 large parking lots that I can see from my job that are within 1/4 mile of Coors Field. Other than opening day or the World Series games, I have never seen those parking lots even come close to being full. Its just $5 to park there for a game. You are just a bunch of silly speculators that really don't know what your talking about. Why don't you go there and actually take a look around the park when there is a game and you might just realize that there is absolutely sufficient parking. Most Rockies games don't even fill 1/3 of the stadium.

  17. pizzuti says:

    joeindt, I don't think the publicly owned nad funded Baseball Stadium District has much control over whether the Rockies lose or win, and I don't think they are allowed to invest taxpayer money directly into the team, which is a private enterprise. Nor do they represent commercial real estate, since they're a public entity.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Speaking of parking Ken,

    Have you ever noticed that there is no parking allowed on the streets Downtown from
    aprox 2-6 AM. I do not believe in encouraging driving Downtown either but if you are out late there are few options other than driving, and a cab ride from the burbs would be very pricey! I think this no parking rule is CRAZY and promotes Drunk driving and car accidents at 2AM. Ken it would be great if you would address this matter; who can we talk to about getting this changed? I'm surprised MADD has not gone after the city for this rule. I have been responsible and left my car after a night of clubbing as to not risk others lives on the road, only to find my car ticketed or towed the next day, hense rewarding thos who chose otherwise. Thoughts?

  19. Anonymous says:

    Block C could at the very least be structured parking, with ground floor restaurants/bars/retail. That surface parking lot is embarrassing.

    Parking is non-existent at Fenway Park. They don't seem to have a problem getting people to come to the games. Ditto for Wrigley.

    Why not concentrate on fielding a competitive team and building a loyal fanbase instead? Then you'll never have to worry about parking again. Or selling merchandise. Or tv ratings. Only crappy teams that cut corners on payroll need to worry about parking. If you had resigned Holliday, and kept building on success rather than trying to coast by on the goodwill built up by the memorable World Series appearance, you wouldn't have to worry about parking.

    If you're going to have a ballpark downtown, act like it. If not, move your stadium out to Commerce City, construct miles of asphalt surface parking lots, and see how people enjoy the experience.

    Check out Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City. The stadium is surrounded by acres and acres of surface parking lots. And the stadium is empty (19,794 average attendance so far this year). But it's sure easy to drive to!

    When the Rockies suck, I still go to games because of the experience. The buzz that gets going downtown, the bars packed with people, the electricity in the neighborhood on a summer night. It's unbeatable. You want to fill that up with cars and parking lots?

    They need to embrace being a downtown ballpark, and quit worrying about parking.

    Does it concern anyone else that the stadium, named Coors Field, which makes millions selling booze at the games, is trying to make it easier to drive to the stadium? They should be doing all they can to keep people off the roads. I'm only half-kidding here.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Don't remind me of how unpleasant the Pepsi Center experience is. I love the Nuggets, but having pre/post-game fun out there is a chore. I'm pretty tired of the routine of meeting everyone for drinks at the Pour House or Maloneys, then having to make the mad dash across Speer in sometimes freezing weather, and weaving through all the cars and parking lots. It's a massive hassle and dangerous.

    Anything to avoid having to spend money at Brauns' or Brooklyn's, two of the worst bars in Denver that make a living by preying on the Pepsi Center crowds.

    I suppose it's a genius business decision to isolate your stadium from all the good bars and restaurants, so people are forced to spend money there. But it's an obvious middle-finger to all your fans. Is that what you want?

    At least the Pepsi Center has a light-rail stop though.

    Message to Pepsi Center and the City of Denver, can you PLEASE make some sort of pedestrian walkway over/under/around Speer? Or better crosswalks or something?? Crossing Speer is miserable, unless you're part of the mob that leaves immediately after the game and takes over the intersections. I feel like I almost get run over at least a couple times a season. It's like running a gauntlet to get to the game.

    Coors Field, I beg you not to go down that path. Don't sell your soul just to make it a little easier for a handful more suburbanites to get to the game.

  21. beyonddc says:

    I know the point here is parking lots, but can I just say that the never-ending worship of mountain views is getting really, really old. The influence of that one issue is so overblown in Colorado. It's embarrassing.

    I like the mountains as much as anybody (and Coors field may even be a good place for a view plane), but in the grander scheme of things, at some point somebody needs to say that no, making sure everybody and their mother can see them is not in fact the most important thing in the world.

  22. Scott Bennett says:

    "Have you ever noticed that there is no parking allowed on the streets Downtown from
    aprox 2-6 AM."

    That's the main reason I moved out of downtown 10 years ago. Only had one garage space, and we weren't going to give Ampco $200/month so my girlfriend (now wife) could park overnight half the week. I never understood the rationale behind that rule.

  23. joeindt says:

    Pizutti – I have to disagree. There are most certainly people on the stadium board that have a vested interest in profit making, business 101. That is why I believe 'views' is a smokescreen of the real issue, they want cheap parking for their crappy team.

  24. Mymilehi says:

    Idea for the Pepsi Center:

    Develope the blocks Closest to the Pepsi Center, northeast of 9th street, into structured parking. Give the rest of the land, southwest of 9th, to the Auraria Campus:)

  25. Anonymous says:

    For example, the construction of PNC Park and Heniz Field included requirements that the land between the two venues be developed and get on the tax rolls over a period of X years. Pittsburgh did not want a repeat of Three Rivers Stadium which was center city property with a bunch of parking lots around it. The city grid development now includes office buildings, riverfront parks, an outdoor concert venue (coming soon), several hotels and more to come. http://www.city.pittsburgh.pa.us/cp/assets/north_shore/North_Shore_Master_Plan_Booklet.pdf

  26. Beth Partin says:

    I'm late to this party, but I agree with everything you said. Some people just can't get out of the car mindset.

  27. G says:

    The blight that is created by the 5 block stretch of nothing but asphalt behind Blake Street is enough parking! I know that it is occasionally used to bus in drivers to the convention center, but please, alternative transportation is key! What about moving some of the offices and maintenance facilities into that lot and free up the brick building on Market? Now that is some prime retail space that is underutilized.

  28. Anonymous says:

    I don't understand the significance of this miniscule plot of land. It's not a large building and if torn down – there might be room for 40 or 50 cars – maybe.

    More interestingly, though, the Westword article stated that RTD would likely "gobble up" a bunch of the current parking lots used by the Rockies. I wonder where and how that might work. Does anyone know?

  29. Byron Watson says:

    I noticed the architech view plane image conveniently leaves out the giant banners and SUVs parked on tall pedistals. Those things are blocking the precious view plane, but the Rockies are not moving to take them down.

  30. Anonymous says:

    Can anybody explain what the Denver Baseball Stadium District actually is? As in what kind of legal entity is it? I google searched it and found very little information. I know that it was originally created to collect taxes and build the stadium. But since the stadium has been paid off, what is the Stadium District now? Is it public? Is it private? Who appoints/elects the board of directors?

    If it is a public entity controlled by taxpayers, the mayor or city council, then it is far more likely the district can be reasoned with to help improve the surrounding neighborhood. On the other hand, if the district has been reduced to a small group of owners who profit from the stadium, then all of their motives become quite clear… to limit the amount of competing retailers nearby, to increase their supply of parking (which they profit from), and to protect views from the stadium. If this is the case, I don't think there is much anybody can do to educate them on "good urbanism" and we could only hope they keep their grubby hands off the rest of the vacant lots around Coors Field.

  31. Anonymous says:

    I had an opportunity the other day to be around the Fireclay developments between 30th and 32nd at Blake. I guess I never realized how long that strip of lot was. It parallels the tracks and isn't terribly accessible for another "row" of development unless a street was put in (although people seemed to be using it as a speedway to get from 33rd to 27th). Main point being, there is PLENTY of parking back there, so to have Block C developed into something that would enclose Wynkoop plaza and the walk to the stadium would be great.

  32. Matt Chiodini says:

    Has anyone seen a plan view of the proposed view plane. I don't see one attached to the planning board document on the City of Denver's website. Thanks

  33. Anonymous says:

    I thought people went to the Coors Field to watch the Rockies play. Maybe I am one of the dumb people who go for that purpose. I didn't know that everyone else is going for a slight view of the mountains before it gets dark and you can't see the mountains anyway.