Facing questions about its ownership and fan base, Denver had all the right answers Tuesday when the National League expansion committee made the final visit of its six-city tour.
The Mile High City even got the weather right. Denver's unpredictable March weather can sometimes yield a foot of snow, but instead the four-member committee was greeted by 65-degree temperatures.The prospective baseball owners promoted Denver as a "regional franchise" with broad support, and the committee seemed receptive during its nearly six hours in Denver.
Asked at a concluding news conference if he harbored any negatives about Denver's bid, committee chairman Douglas Danforth said, "We don't see anything in Denver that disturbs us."
The committee hopes to decide this summer which two cities will gain major league franchises.
Danforth, president of the Pittsburgh Pirates, said the group came to Denver with concerns about the financial makeup of the prospective ownership group. Those questions were answered satisfactorily, he said, in a lengthy face-to-face meeting with the owners.
The parties held detailed discussions about everything from the $100 million ownership equity to the site of a new baseball stadium if Denver is awarded a franchise.
"We had a full, productive day," Danforth said. "We got to know the ownership group better . . . to satisfy ourselves that they would be compatible with Major League Baseball. We have a higher comfort level with them now.
"At first we were concerned that the general partner wouldn't be residing in Denver. We're satisfied now that he (John Antonucci) will be living here.
"We weren't convinced they could raise $100 million. Now we are. And the majority of that equity will be from the Denver area, and that's important to us, too. Coors (which has increased its ownership stake to $30 million) is a big player - a strong corporate presence.
"We weren't convinced they would build a new facility for baseball. With the stadium bond vote, now we are."
The Denver team would play its first two seasons in Mile High Stadium, which currently is home to the Triple-A Denver Zephyrs. The team would move into a new, open-air, 43,000-seat facility in lower downtown in 1995.
The committee viewed the new stadium site from helicopters and spent some time at Mile High, then had lunch at the governor's mansion and witnessed a rally attended by about 2,000 people before the nuts-and-bolts meeting with the prospective owners.
Danforth called the new site "impressive" and said it would meet baseball's criteria.
In touting Denver as a regional franchise, Sen. Tim Wirth, D-Colo., presented a letter endorsing Denver's bid that was signed by 13 U.S. senators from Idaho, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska, Montana and Wyoming.
At the luncheon, Wyoming Gov. Mike Sullivan spoke about strong support for baseball throughout the Rocky Mountain region.
"The two governors tried to convince us that we're talking about 22 to 25 million fans this franchise could draw from," Danforth said. "I'm sure this franchise would draw from the area, not just Denver. They have an opportunity for a regional franchise here."
Danforth said he was impressed by the show of support at the downtown rally.
"We were greeted by 2,000 to 3,000 prospective fans," he said. "I don't get that kind of reception in Pittsburgh. It was kind of nice."