Let’s talk about construction and real estate
McGregor Square, the mixed-use development southwest of Coors Field, is nearing completion. The pandemic delayed the project for a few months, but the new building complex is set to feature, among other things, a hotel, condos, a Tattered Cover bookstore location, and, of course, a Starbucks. A 30-thousand square foot plaza in the center of the complex will host ice skating rinks, movie nights, watch parties, and general merry-making. Oh, and the complex will also host a new Rockies Hall of Fame and museum. By all accounts, it will be a massive improvement on the bare parking lot that stood between between 19th and 20th and Wynkoop and Wazee for over 20 years.
So, naturally, it has caused consternation among Rockies fans.
A lot of the recent kerfluffle seems to be related to poor timing more than anything else. While the Padres were going all-in on their first competitive roster since Matt Holliday was called safe, the Rockies Twitter account was talking about the new LoDo development.
Character. Fun. Style. Class. Strong Presence. .
— Colorado Rockies (@Rockies) December 28, 2020
It’s frustrating and disappointing to see a division rival winning the offseason while the Rockies seem to be more or less sitting it out, and that frustration is only accentuated by the official Twitter account talking more real estate than signings. But if we’re not careful, “McGregor Square” could very well become a byword among Rockies fans like “Party Deck” did seven years ago.
Let’s hop back into the Wayback Machine (no, not that one) and remember a time when a segment of the Rockies fanbase thought the new Rooftop area was a bad thing. The $10 million project has since become one of the most popular spots for fans to take in a game at Coors Field, but in the winter of 2014, cries of “Cheapfarts” were rampant. Those fans (and a few pundits) felt the money would have been better spent on improving a roster that had just lost 88 plus games for the third year in a row. “Party Deck” turned into a shorthand for the Rockies not being willing to spend money on the roster.
At the time, many didn’t realize that the funds for the Rooftop came from a capital fund explicitly for stadium improvement, so the money couldn’t be directed toward the roster. Today, it’s hard to argue against the benefit it brought. The Rooftop replaced hundreds of seats that went unsold for most games with a bar area that is constantly packed. It’s also gone on to be imitated around the league.
No, this was just evidence that the Monforts were greedy and didn’t care about putting a good product on the field so long as they could rake in the LoDough.
News: Padres sign Shields to $75m deal. Views: Pitching. What a concept. Rockies sticking w/ Party Deck philosophy: Pour me another.
— Mark Kiszla (@markkiszla) February 9, 2015
Friends, let’s not go down this road again just because the Rockies find themselves in a similar position. Let’s talk about how McGregor Square came to be and how we need to keep it separate from all the austerity talk of the offseason.
Back in 2017, the Rockies’ lease on Coors Field was up. In negotiating the terms of a new lease that would keep the Colorado Rockies in Colorado, the team wanted to lease the West Lot from the Metropolitan Baseball Stadium District, the entity that represents the taxpayers who helped fund the stadium construction. So they signed a $200 million, 30-year lease for the stadium and the West Lot (though the team will maintain control of the lot until 2116, at which point it will be returned to the city). In exchange for paying above-market prices for a ground lease, the Rockies keep the revenue generated from any development on the site.
Short version: the Monfort’s took Jo Bennett’s advice and invested in property while simultaneously securing a place to play baseball for the next three decades. One purpose of developing the lot is to pay for future improvements to the stadium. So they sub-leased the lot to a development entity who takes on much of the financial risk of developing the land.
Long story short, the Rockies are taking money already spent to have a place to play baseball and having someone else develop the land so they can generate revenue to help maintain the stadium. Those checks were written in 2017 and 2018. What were the Rockies doing in 2017 and 2018? Going to the playoffs. What were they doing in 2019? Handing out big contracts to players like German Márquez and Nolan Arenado. (Thanks again, Party Deck, the gift that keeps on giving!)
Will that money generated also go to the roster? Difficult to say (though we would probably like to see the team spend more on an analytics department, but that’s a story for another time). Monfort has always said that half of the team’s revenue goes back into the roster. With revenues unquestionably down due to the pandemic (and without two decades of not-spending behind them, as is the case for the brown-clad clan from Southern California), we had to know spending would be down. The Square has little or nothing to do with it. It’s meant to honor a man, Keli McGregor, who did so much to build one of the first great Rockies teams (and may serve as a reminder of how much his leadership has been missed over the last decade).
It’s not fun having to talk about if and when and how to rebuild the roster instead of speculating on what additions can take the team over the top, but let’s hold off on making McGregor Square the proxy for our ire. Like the Party Deck before it, McGregor Square is not evidence of hypocrisy for the Rockies claiming austerity. With any luck, the Square can only help the outlook for the roster in the future (and the money the Monfort’s paid goes back to the taxpayers!).
So I hope that we can all agree, no matter what our fears or frustrations with the state of a struggling Rockies team may be, to leave McGregor Square out of it?