Denver economic experts and city leaders opined the MLB All-Star Game could have a $100 million impact on the city and surrounding area, based on projections Atlanta had completed before MLB moved the game here.
While it’s much too early to get exact numbers from sales tax receipts, hotel occupancy levels, pedestrian foot traffic counts downtown from Friday through Tuesday and anecdotal evidence point to one of the strongest business weekends for downtown-area businesses in more than a year — especially those closer to Coors Field in LoDo.
“This particular event in Denver has been an absolute blessing,” said Derek Friedman, owner of the Sportsfan retail stores on the 16th Street Mall. “Huge kudos to the Mayor (Michael Hancock), Governor (Jared) Polis and the Downtown Denver Partnership for putting this together in such a short period of time. What a burst of people.”
The sports memorabilia store has two locations on the Mall. Friedman said the pandemic year was rough, as the stores had to close for three months. Then someone broke into one of the stores and looted it during the summer protests downtown.
The business and the foot traffic has been great, he said, but there were issues trying to get enough All Star Game memorabilia to sell.
“These things are supposed to be planed 18 months in advance; we didn’t get our stuff ordered until six to eight weeks ago,” Friedman said. “It was supposed to show up four weeks ago. It arrived today (Tuesday). We blew through all of it in just a few hours.”
Friedman said he hasn’t seen it this busy since the Broncos won Super Bowl 50 in 2016.
While the bars and restaurants within a three-block radius of Coors Field were experiencing overflow evening business Friday through Tuesday when the game started, the businesses further away from LoDo weren’t quite as busy.
“It’s been good, but unfortunately, we’re on the wrong side of downtown,” said Brendan Prough, manager of Where the Buffalo Roam souvenir shop. “This isn’t even close to how busy we were during July 4th weekend.”
Even though the shop, off 16th and Welton streets, is just blocks from the Colorado Convention Center, where more than 100,000 guests were expected over the weekend for the All Star Game’s “Play Ball Park,” there weren’t too many tourists.
“That drew the locals,” Prough said.
The Orta Vez Cantina restaurant manager agreed, saying the weekend’s business was good — but “about the same” as previous weekends last summer.
“Monday and Tuesday have been great, about the same as Friday and Saturday,” said Trevor Eisenbeisz, manager. “I tell you, though, the people vibe has been happy. Everyone’s having a good time.”
Several businesses jokingly expressed thanks to Georgia for passing the voting laws MLB interpreted as too restrictive, prompting the game’s move to Denver.
“Folks have been coming in looking for All Star merchandise,” said Joe Quintana, manager of Colorful Colorado souvenir shop. “This is a thank you to Atlanta, or Georgia, I guess.”
Visit Denver offered some estimates of what the economic impact could look like.
Baseball Almanac provides the economic impact to cities who have hosted the All Star Game for the past 20 years. The last five, pre-pandemic, looked like this:
• 2015 in Minneapolis, Minn.: $75 million
• 2016 in San Diego, Calif.: $80 million
• 2017 in Miami, Fla.: $70 million
• 2018 in Washington D.C.: $68 million
• 2019 in Cleveland, Ohio: $65 million
New York City was estimated to have made $191 million in 2013. The last time Denver hosted the All Star Game in 1998, the economic impact was $40.5 million.
“The implications go far beyond that when you factor in the exposure this opportunity will generate through national broadcast and news coverage,” said Richard Scharf, VISIT DENVER president and CEO, via email. “Not only will the All-Star Game provide widespread television exposure for Denver through a national broadcast, but for the first time, the MLB Draft also was broadcasted from the Bellco Theater at the Colorado Convention Center in front of a nationwide viewing audience.”
The 2019 All-Star Game in Cleveland was covered by more than 2,500 writers, broadcasters and photographers, according to stats provided by Visit Denver. MLB Network’s international transmission of the All-Star Game also was broadcast by 60 media partners in more than 197 countries and territories around the globe in 14 languages.
“Those media impressions — that’s huge,” said Brian Lewandowski, executive director of the University of Colorado Boulder Leeds business school’s research division. “It’s hard to quantify, but we know it’s valuable when Denver shows up on national and international media. It’s like free advertising for the state and all of Colorado’s tourism.”
Lewandowski said “normal” July in Denver means lots of visitors in the city, many of them locals out of school and on vacations. But the incredible number of out-of-state visitors the All Star Game brings means an extra dose of economic activity for Denver fueled with out-of-state dollars.
“We’re coming off a pandemic, an event that decimated the tourism industry and left a gaping hole in Denver’s economy, especially hotels and restaurants,” Lewandowski said. “While we’ve seen a surge in economic activity in that industry, it’s not back to par. It’s special that Denver was able to host the All Star Game in this particular year, to help cover such a gap in that activity.”
Philadelphia Filly, a 16th Street Mall food shop owned by Sally Rock and Dale Goin, is usually at the Broadway end of the Mall, closer to Civic Center. But they moved down to try and take advantage of the All Star Game traffic.
While they saw a lot more foot traffic, it didn’t translate to better business.
"There’s lots of traffic on the highway, too, but we’re not going to set up our cart there,” said Rock. “We saw a whole lot of foot traffic, but business has been about the same. … We were off work for 14 months, though, so it’s good to see people, at least.”
The Filly cart has been in Denver for 25 years, and the couple say they were one of the first vendors at Taste of Colorado. They said they’ve sold as much to local employees and residents as they have to All Star Game visitors.
“We’ve seen a lot of different baseball jerseys today,” Rock said. “But so far we’ve only noticed two Atlanta Braves shirts.”