DENVER - I am standing in front of the most formidable obstacle to a new baseball stadium in Colorado Springs, and this obstacle, gorgeous on a summer morning, is not going anywhere.
I'm gazing at Coors Field, the palace that led the resurrection of Denver's lower downtown. For most fans in the Colorado Springs area, an hour of driving will transport them to this baseball paradise.
Security Service Field, home of the Colorado Springs Sky Sox, never will be described as baseball paradise. The stadium is basic and unadorned, and if you blindfolded a throng of Kansans and drove them to Security Service, they would wonder if they ever departed their homeland.
I'm not opposed to a shiny new home for the Sky Sox in downtown Colorado Springs, as long as someone else pays for it.
I am realistic. If my fellow citizens plop down, say, $35 million for a new home for our Triple-A team, a fad will follow for two or three seasons. Excitement will increase. Attendance might multiply.
But boom times would fail to linger. Coors Field and the big time always will beckon, an hour or so away. A new stadium in greater Springs never can compete with Coors Field.
The Springs, our Springs, is not Denver. Please understand this is not a criticism. I'm a child of south Denver, which means I've spent a massive chunk of my life trapped in traffic in Colorado's Big Town.
Denver boasts Mile High, Pepsi Center, Casa Bonita and the forever untamed sleaze of Colfax Avenue. We boast the dusty urban solitude of Red Rock Canyon and the Santa Fe Trail along with the groovy charms of Manitou Springs.
A few moments after arriving here for my job interview in late 2002, I checked into the Antler's Hotel, changed into a suit and tie and walked across the street to eat lunch with my prospective boss.
I had been in the Springs 15 minutes when I shook hands with The Gazette's sports editor.
"If you take this job," he told me immediately after we said hello, "you have to live in Colorado Springs."
This news jolted me. I had planned to move from New York, home for 18 years, back to Denver, the city of my childhood.
Let me make this clear:
This was the most rewarding restriction ever placed on me. Denver is a world-class city, but the Springs ranks as the superior place to live. We fight less traffic, enjoy a vast variety of wild land in our city limits and awaken each morning with Pikes Peak gleaming above us.
One of the reasons the Springs thrives is we do not seek to be Denver. This is a medium-sized city minus big-city pretensions.
And it's seldom a solid idea to get pretentious, or ambitious, about Triple-A baseball, a complicated, frustrating creature. About the time Triple-A pennant races truly gain heat, the big club snatches the best players. Many Triple-A managers, including the Sky Sox's Glenallen Hill, worry about development first and victory a distant second.
Wise Triple-A fans emphasize watching young talent, drinking a soda or a beer under the stars and chatting with friends and family. I'm not a fan of our Powers Boulevard corridor. Too crowded. Too far east. Too jammed with chain stores and restaurants. But this corridor is where the majority of our city now gathers, and Security Service is convenient to the multitudes seeking a quiet night of baseball.
And for those who seek Our National Pastime at its best?
The nation's finest baseball stadium is an hour away. Coors Field is, and always will be, a massive obstacle for those with plans for a Triple-A baseball palace in the Springs.