Urban Design Profile: Coors Field and the Regeneration of the LoDo District

Twenty one years ago, The Denver Metropolitan Stadium District and the Colorado Rockies set out to do something that would forever transform downtown Denver. They would add a new, fan-centric, iconic ballpark in the city’s languishing Lower Downtown (LoDo) district. It would be a ballpark that could become the heart of an entertainment district; an anchor building that could become a vital economic driver; a ballpark that could become a place visitors and Denver residents alike love to be together. Two decades later, the ballpark has exceeded all expectations, achieving the goals listed above and more. But why was it successful? And what role did urban planning play in the ballpark design and eventual growth of the surrounding area?

Coors Field Site Selection

This success can be first traced back to the site selection. After studying several sites in and around both the Lower Downtown district and the Arapahoe Triangle, the current site was chosen in part because of the surrounding existing buildings and potential for views to the city. We looked at many options, knowing that the site we selected would come to define the ballpark and the potential for development. While the Lower Downtown district wasn’t entirely revitalized at the time, there was tremendous opportunity for retail, restaurants and housing, and it had a rich history as the oldest settlement for the city of Denver. We oriented the ballpark on the site to work within the existing street grid, allowing the ballpark’s edges to be placed against the denser urban fabric along 20th and Blake Street. The main entry points face downtown and left field offers views toward the mountains – views and connectivity to the city and the mountains that wouldn’t have been possible on another site.

Designed for Denver

Once the site was selected, we began the hard and important work of designing a building that was of the place – a ballpark that felt uniquely Denver and embodied the characteristics and strengths of the city and team. Carved out of the character of the Lower Downtown, the eventual design for Coors Field interacts with its surroundings as if it has always been a part of the urban landscape. A balance between traditional masonry detailing and an open-steel truss and grillwork structure, the ballpark design was informed by the historic buildings existing in the district so it would meld seamlessly.  In planning and design, we were careful about the spaces beyond the ballpark walls. We thought about how the ballpark could be a good neighbor; how we could make it feel accessible and approachable to pedestrians; and how we could connect the ballpark in an authentic way to existing structures in the district to inspire eventual development.

The Fan Experience at Coors Field

An important part of the success of the district is the success of the ballpark. The Rockies were adamant about providing an incredible, memorable spectator experience – something worth coming back to time and time again. We knew that if we could provide an impactful experience inside the ballpark, there would be greater impetus for growth and development outside the ballpark’s walls. In addition, the spectator experiences throughout the ballpark have been shaped by the location, allowing views from the field to the Rocky Mountains and to the city. The ballpark’s main concourse opens onto the field so that spectators at the concession stands or moving along the concourse retain a sense of connection with the game. The upper concourse, by contrast, has been treated as a breezy, open skyway, with panoramic views of the skyscrapers to the south, warehouse district to the east and north and mountains to the west – views that are all quintessentially Denver. Tucked under the right field upper deck seats to keep the building’s facades in scale with the existing warehouse is a brewpub, providing inspiration for future development in the surrounding neighborhood.

Coors Field has also been preserved through strategic renovations that have repurposed underutilized spaces of the iconic venue to reach next-generation fans. My colleague Bradd Crowley touches on those renovations here, which have served as an important part of the ballpark’s continued influence.

The Impact of Coors Field

Two decades later, Coors Field has had a lasting impact on the city’s development, leading to the growth of a charming and eclectic neighborhood surrounding the stadium where pioneering young professionals and families have flocked. The results of the investment in the stadium were both immediate and impactful with retail, restaurants and housing in the surrounding area growing rapidly. LoDo has seen an increase of housing units in the area by 408 percent, growth in the occupancy of hotels downtown by 25 percent and a substantial increase in the number of restaurants (totaling over 70), night clubs, breweries and art galleries in the city.  It was estimated that the economic influence of the stadium was double what initially was predicted- at $195 million a year.

Fans not only travel to LoDo early to shop, eat and socialize, they also live, work and play in the district on non-game days. The 25-block district is now a national example of the impact an urban ballpark can have on downtown, revitalizing a district in a way worthy of urban textbooks.

This post is part of a new series on urban design for 2015. Each month, we’ll look at another project that has impacted and shaped a downtown district. Join the conversation with #POPUrbanDesign. 

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