“It’s a di≠ er­ent­world now”

Mon­fort com­ments on ex­tend­ing Coors Field lease for long term

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Nick Groke

scotts­dale, ariz. » The four- year ordeal to keep base­ball atCoors Field for three more decades proved to be a new ex­pe­ri­ence for Rockies owner Dick­Mon­fort. OnWed­nes­day, he agreed to ex­tend his club’s lease at the ball­park through 2047. But not with­out dif­fi­culty.

“The days of mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties build­ing new sta­di­ums with­out fi­nan­cial help from clubs is over,” Mon­fort said Thurs­day. “When Coors Field was built, it was built by the tax­pay­ers, and that’s the way it went back then. It’s a dif­fer­ent world now. We had to fig­ure out the best way to off­set some of the costs.”

TheRock­ies and theMetropoli­tan Base­ball Sta­dium Dis­trict, the state di­vi­sion that owns Coors Field, agreed on a 30- year lease that will cost the club $ 200 mil­lion. Ma­jor League Base­ball ap­proved the long­fought deal early Wed­nes­day morn­ing. And Coors Field, al­ready the third- oldest ball­park in the Na­tional League, was en­sured a longer life.

But to make the fi­nan­cial ar­range­ment work, the Rockies horse- traded with the dis­trict for a 99- year lease on a plot of land di­rectly south of the sta­dium. Now the Rockies are in the real es­tate busi­ness.

Metro- area tax­pay­ers, through a 0.1 per­cent sales tax, ponied $ 162 mil­lion for the con­struc­tion of Coors Field, which opened in 1995. The dis­trict did not­want to ask the pub­lic for more money. But the orig­i­nal 22year lease was set to ex­pire Fri­day. If the Rockies and the dis­trict failed to agree, the lease would have rolled over for five more years, then five again, with three pos­si­ble ex­ten­sions.

Mon­fort­was not in­ter­ested in mov­ing the team or the sta­dium, he said. But he needed to fig­ure out a way to pay for up­keep.

“Our only op­tion was to fig­ure out a long- termlease,” Mon­fort said. “We could have gone through three five- year deals and let the park de­te­ri­o­rate know­ing that in­15year­swe­may­be­out or re­lo­cate. Butwe­wanted to stay­wherewe’re at.”

Coors Field will be 53 years old at the end of this lease. But un­like foot­ball sta­di­ums and bas­ket­ball and hockey are­nas, base­ball sta­di­ums of­ten in­crease in value and pres­tige­with age. Wrigley Field and Fen­way Park are each more than 100 years old.

The pub­lic owns Coors Field, but the Rockies are re­spon­si­ble for its sur­vival. Mon­fort, and his brother Char­lie, be­came pri­mary own­ers of the Rockies in 2005, a decade af­ter Coors Field opened. They in­her­ited the ball­park as it aged.

The Rockies and the Dis­trict each gath­ered en­gi­neer­ing stud­ies that sug­gested sta­dium up­keep over 30 years would cost about $ 200 mil­lion, for every­thing from­sewer lines to wire­less in­ter­net and con­crete side­walks. This sea­son, af­ter a three- year ef­fort, Coors Field will have new seats through­out the sta­dium.

The Rockies, Mon­fort said, have im­me­di­ate plans for im­prove­ments. The 10- year- old score­board above left field will be re­placed be­fore next sea­son.

“The soft­ware that runs that, we are so far be­hind ev­ery­body else, it’s a joke,” Mon­fort said. “We’re wor­ried thingswill break down. We have a real con­cern.”

As part of the deal, the Rockies bar­gained for con­trol of a sur­face- level park­ing lot next to Jack­son’s Den­ver sports bar, south of Coors Field. The land is zoned by Den­ver for an eight- story build­ing and a va­ri­ety of uses. Mon­fort said he wants to build some­thing base­ball- re­lated.

“I’m not a de­vel­oper by any means, so I’ll have to forge for­ward,” Mon­fort said. “But we can make it some­thing that is re­ally unique. My goal is to have it as an ex­ten­sion of the sta­dium.”

Mon­fort said he has scouted sev­eral cities and how teams have ex­panded the sta­dium out­side its gates, in­clud­ing St. Louis, where the Car­di­nals built a “Ball­park Vil­lage” en­ter­tain­ment area next door to Busch Sta­dium.

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