Kroenke says upgraded facilities and big changes to Ball Arena will come
The Colorado Avalanche practice in a glorified arcade where beer league hockey happens to be played in Centennial, 17 miles from their arena. While the Denver Nuggets practice in a more or less standard high school gym that happens to be attached to Ball Arena.
While the Kroenkes undertake two multi-billion-dollar redevelopment projects around Ball Area, it’s only fair to ask if the near quarter-century-old area will get upgraded. Or if its anchor tenants will be treated to modern facilities near the stadium.
In 2017, team President/Governor for the Denver Nuggets and Governor of the Avalanche Josh Kroenke told the Denver Post that ownership was working on plans. Over five years later, the only thing that has happened is that Ball Arena’s teams have gotten exponentially better. With the improving teams, it’s only fair that their facilities get upgraded too, right?
“As an organization, KSE (Kroenke Sports & Entertainment) is publicly committed to continual improvements in and around Ball Arena, and I think that’s been evident over the last several years,” Kroenke answered a question from Denver Fan on Friday. “With KSE, we have a very entrepreneurial spirit, and the announcement got leaked a month ago. We can go based on that. But there are some plans. We’re involved with Elitch Gardens here next door. There are numerous hurdles that go into such a large development involving aspects that we don’t control, like zoning and entitlements, things of that nature. But plans are in place to build a facility that will not only make Avs and Nuggets players, coaches, and staff very proud but the city of Denver as well.”
Kroenke’s plans are specifically for The River Mile and the Ball Arena redevelopment, which could potentially expand downtown Denver by 40%, according to a “large development review” submitted by Kroenke Sports & Entertainment to the city in March.
Josh’s father, Stan Kroenke, is the owner of the Colorado Avalanche, Denver Nuggets, Colorado Mammoth, Colorado Rapids and Los Angeles Rams. The elder Kroenke is a real estate developer. He owns Ball Arena, Elitch Gardens amusement park, and the land around each.
The two properties are a 55-acre site anchored by the arena and across the train tracks a 62-acre site that Kroenke bought in 2015, dubbed The River Mile, which was rezoned to allow for construction in 2018, no visible work has taken place.
Small changes have been made to Ball Arena over the years, but nothing huge. A practice facility for the anchor tenants would seem to be atop the list, given land ownership around the arena coupled with the value of those clubs and how easily it could positively impact the Avs and Nuggets.
“There are certain parts of the development that are just going to be slower than others, but this would be one area where I’d think if we focused on it we could get that thing moving faster than some of the other areas involved, whether it’s a high rise or down by the river,” Kroenke said about a practice facility. “ I’ve seen some of the preliminary plans, and we’ve had a lot of meetings about them. But we’re not quite there yet to really show what we’re going to do.”
The Kroenke family views their clubs as communal assets and they are the custodians. Suppose they build two new communities around the arena without taking care of their teams first. Do they care about the community, or do they care about the money from the new buildings? These questions will be answered in time.
Yet the redevelopment projects are not unique around the city or country. The Rockies building of McGregor Square shows that ownership can make big bucks from creating entertainment, business, and living areas around sports venues. But Coors Field has never been a dump, and they first made visible incremental improvements to the upkeep of the baseball field before building their money-maker across the street.
The Broncos have even talked about similar projects. And given the properties the two projects that KSE has in the works back up into the Empower Field property—only separated by the River Platte and Interstate 25, which bridges over that area—it’s an interesting question to ask if these projects may merge somewhere down the line? Particularly if Rob Walton, also of Walmart fortunate and part of the larger family, wins ownership of the Broncos.
A combined stadium district, the possibility of a Rapids stadium downtown, and more have to be considered high up within KSE—not just the high rising littering the Ball Arena campus in the plans to the city that we’ve seen. Either way, you shape it, the Kroenkes have the key to the city’s heart via land and emotional connections to their sports teams. What they do next, will prove if it’s just dollars or if they truly believe their assets to be communal and worthy of championship chasing.