The City of Colorado Springs and its “City For Champions” project is gaining a lot of support from neighboring towns in El Paso County.
The effort is being spearheaded by Colorado Springs mayor Steve Bach. The former real estate developer is a huge sports enthusiast. But I think he might be biting off a bit more than he can chew.
One of the most ambitious parts of the City For Champions project would be the construction of $60 million downtown baseball stadium. The idea would involve the Colorado Springs Sky Sox relocating to the new digs. Once that happens, downtown would be even more revitalized, and fans from the surrounding downtown area would have easier access to watch the Triple-A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies.
The problem with Bach's plan is that the odds of that scenario ever happening are slim and none. In other words, the chances of the Rockies relocating to Colorado Springs are probably better than the Sky Sox moving from their current home at Barnes Road and Tutt Blvd.
The biggest obstacle in the plan is Sky Sox owner Dave Elmore. The 80-year-old Elmore is one of the most successful owners in all of minor league baseball. He is a shrewd businessman who's had plenty of success in the sports world.
Just last week, three of Elmore's other minor league baseball teams won championships in their respective leagues; San Antonio Missions (Double-A Texas), Inland Empire 66ers (Single-A California League) and Idaho Falls Chukars (Rookie level Pioneer League).
Elmore knows how to make a dollar and he also seems to have a flare for being involved with winning teams. His Missions and 66ers have each won six league titles since 1995. Coincidentally, Elmore's Sky Sox have not won a playoff game since 1995.
As previously written in this paper (my column from Aug. 21), the last time the Sky Sox advanced to the postseason was 1997, when they were swept in three games. The last time they won a playoff game was 1995, when they defeated the Salt Lake for the Pacific Coast League championship.
Elmore has owned the Sky Sox franchise since 1981 when the team was based in Hawaii. He moved the club to Colorado Springs prior to the 1988 season. That same year he had his own stadium ($4 million at the time) constructed in the Stetson Hills area of town.
The Sky Sox were a success from the start. They made the playoffs four out of five seasons as a Cleveland Indians affiliate, winning the PCL title in 1992. The Rockies came on board in 1993 and two years later a second flag was blowing in the wind.
But all of the sudden the winning stopped and a lot of people have been searching for answers why.
The Rockies first blamed the stadium for playing a key role in the hurting the club's chances of winning. They said it was difficult for pitchers to have success at elevation with the ball flying out of the ball park.
The Rockies then blamed the older, less specious locker room. They said the players would play better if they had more plush surroundings.
So Elmore, the good guy that he is, refurbished the stadium and built a brand new home clubhouse. That was 2005.
The Rockies are one of the folks leading the charge of a new downtown stadium. They believe that if the players are playing in a state-of-the-art facility they will play better. They believe that since it is less windy downtown the pitchers might pitch better knowing that they won't give up so many gopher balls.
Even some of the heavy hitters in the Colorado Springs sports world have gotten on board with Bach and the Rockies. These folks suggest, basically, that Elmore needs to get with the times and do what is best for the Rockies and for the city.
I say hogwash.
This is Elmore's team and he can do with it what he wants. It's his stadium. If the Rockies don't like it, then one of the 29 major league clubs will relocate their Triple-A affiliate here. Plus, what guarantee is there that a new downtown stadium will make the Sky Sox instant contenders?
The main reason the Sky Sox have been as mediocre for nearly two decades is the Rockies. They fleece the club of its best players year in and year out. By June, the Sky Sox are generally a shell of the team that broke spring training. This year's list who began the season with the Sky Sox and were in Coors Field by mid-summer included Nolan Arenado, DJ LeMahieu, Charlie Blackmon, Corey Dickerson, Tyler Chatwood, Drew Pomeranz and Charlie Culberson.
Another factor in relocating the team downtown is that Elmore owns the concessions at Sky Sox Stadium (Security Service Field). There is little chance the City would allow Elmore to own the concessions in a ballpark that it had built with taxpayer funds.
The same goes for parking revenue. Elmore owns the land Sky Sox Stadium sits on and gets all the money from parking. I can't imagine any scenario in which the City would allow him to make money on parking at a new downtown stadium.
Basically, in order for the City to make this deal work, it would have to pay Elmore in the neighborhood of $30 to $50 million for his team. That, plus the cost of the new stadium, would cost taxpayers around $100 million. It would take the City years to recoup that money; if at all.
I am not against the Sky Sox playing in better digs. But I just don't see how this is going to come together. Tell me if I am wrong.