May 14, 2013 Updated: May 15, 2013 at 8:19 am
Mayor Steve Bach has said several times he's interested in a new downtown stadium for the minor-league Colorado Springs Sky Sox as a way to help revitalize the area.
Now he's asking the public for its opinion in what could be the first step in the latest community effort to build a downtown ballpark.
At Bach's request, the Sky Sox and the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance have emailed surveys to their fans and organization members, respectively, that solicit input on a possible downtown park.
Among the survey's nearly 40 questions: Whether respondents think a stadium would attract restaurants, retail, hotels, housing and other development to downtown; how a state-of-the-art stadium with modern amenities would affect the decision of fans to attend games; and what kinds of tickets they might buy.
Among questions not asked: How a stadium should be funded or where it should be located within downtown.
Bach didn't return a telephone call seeking more information about the survey - why it was sent out at this time, who assembled the questions and what happens after results are tabulated.
Jared Rego, a spokesman for the mayor, said the survey is intended to gauge "preliminary interest in a possible downtown, multi-purpose stadium" that would serve as a home for the Sky Sox and other events. He said he had no additional information.
The idea of a downtown stadium has been floated many times by community and business leaders over the past 15 to 20 years.
A stadium, they've said, would attract residents and visitors to downtown and infuse the area's economy with new places to eat, shop and the like. Just last year, an Urban Land Institute advisory panel studying the Springs' downtown recommended a stadium be built on the southwest side.
Since his election almost two years ago, Bach has broached numerous ideas to improve downtown, including a stadium.
The Sky Sox, who have played in Colorado Springs since owner Dave Elmore moved the team from Hawaii in 1988, have played at Security Service Field on the city's northeast side for all but a few months of their time in the city.
The ballpark, originally known as Sky Sox Stadium, is southeast of Barnes Road and Tutt Boulevard; it lies just east of the busy Powers Boulevard corridor and is surrounded by thousands of homes in subdivisions that sprang up over the last 20 to 25 years as the city grew to the north, northeast and east.
The stadium was built, in part, with a $1.5 million loan from the Loo family of Colorado Springs, along with $500,000 in tourism-related revenues contributed by the city. It's undergone millions of dollars in upgrades since it was built.
Sky Sox general manager Tony Ensor said Tuesday the team is happy and successful at its current location and didn't ask the city to consider building a new stadium.
However, Bach and the Sky Sox have had discussions about a downtown ballpark over the past few months, and the team agreed to send out a survey to the 40,000 names on its mailing list when approached a few weeks ago by the mayor's office, Ensor said.
While content at Security Service Field, the Sky Sox would consider the idea of a new stadium, Ensor said. But nothing can or should be done until the public has a chance to voice its opinion, he said.
"We're in the very, very early stages of this conversation," Ensor said. "The fact that the city has asked us to participate in a study to see if it's feasible to go downtown, that's where we are right now. We can't, won't make any move until we hear from the community. That's really what it's all about for the Sky Sox. How does the community feel about this? Is this something they want?"
The Sky Sox, part of the Pacific Coast League, are the top farm team of the Colorado Rockies in Denver; the two franchises have a player development agreement that has been renewed every two years for many years, Ensor said. The current agreement expires at the end of the 2014 season, he said.
In September 2011, Rockies' general manager Dan O'Dowd told the Denver Post that weather was a problem at Security Service Field.
"It sits at the highest point of the city, where the wind currents are worse than any other place you could actually put a ballpark," O'Dowd said at the time. "In the months of April and May, we got on the field once to be able to hit and take infield, do fly balls and work on baserunning, because of the weather."
O'Dowd was traveling Tuesday and couldn't be reached for comment.
To his knowledge, Ensor said, the Rockies haven't talked with the mayor's office about a new stadium.
Susan Edmondson, president and CEO of the Colorado Springs Downtown Partnership, said a downtown stadium could be a positive development for the area
"When people attend something like a ballgame, they're absolutely much more likely to go out to eat, buy a beer or go experience other great things nearby," she said. "I know I do that when I go to a Rockies game. But I'm a little more challenged when I go to a Sky Sox game because I can't just step outside the stadium and have a pub in walking distance."
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