Rapids announce new stadium plans

Kroenke Sports Enterprises (KSE) and officials of Commerce City on Tuesday announced plans to develop more than 360 acres of open land to house a 20,000-seat soccer stadium, youth soccer fields, retail development and a new Commerce City civic center.

The stadium will be home to Major League Soccer's Colorado Rapids, also owned by KSE, as well as concerts and other events. The stadium, which will be owned by the city and operated by KSE, will be at the new Prairie Gateway development in Commerce City.

The announcement comes following last night's unanimous approval by the city council of Commerce City. The vote also cleared the way for a November ballot initiative that will ask Commerce City voters to approve a $64 million bond issue, with no tax increase to Commerce City residents. If approved, construction would begin in early 2005 with a projected opening date in Spring 2007. HOK already has been announced as the stadium architect.

"The Prairie Gateway site is an ideal location on which to carry out a vision for the game of soccer and Colorado's youth," Kroenke Sports COO David Ehrlich said. "We intend to build a first class facility that will grow the game, support this region's kids, and benefit Commerce City.

"This vision requires a large amount of land with access to city amenities," Ehrlich continued. "It would be hard to replicate the land package that we've put together with Commerce City anywhere in the country."

Prairie Gateway Site includes Commerce City's Civic Center

The $130 million project will be located nine miles northeast of downtown Denver near the intersection of I-70 and Quebec Street, just north of the planned NorthField at Stapleton retail center and the rapidly growing Stapleton neighborhood development. Under terms of the agreement, Commerce City will contribute 160 acres for construction of the stadium and playing fields. Kroenke Sports will purchase another 200 acres from the city for commercial or retail development over the next decade.

The proposed development site would be bounded on the west by Quebec Street, on the east by the Rocky Mountain Wildlife Refuge, on the north by Highway 2 and on the south by 56th Avenue.

Additionally, Commerce City will develop part of the property to include Commerce City's civic center and government building. The new city building had been in the planning stages prior to negotiations with Kroenke Sports and would potentially house the offices of the mayor and city manager, city council chambers and offices of the departments of community planning and development services, finance, and parks and recreation.

"The potential of a new civic center on the site will bring tremendous value to the entire project," Commerce City mayor Sean Ford said. "The location of the civic center at Prairie Gateway will enhance the vitality of the entire site."

"What better place to base a city government facility than in a location dedicated to families and children," Ehrlich said. "We're very pleased that Commerce City had the desire to move ahead with this part of the plan."

Youth Sports - Soccer and Lacrosse

Construction of a new stadium specifically for soccer had been announced when Kroenke Sports bought the Colorado Rapids last September. The planned stadium complex will include two regulation size fields outside the stadium, as well as 10-20 additional playing fields.

"The Kroenke-Commerce City partnership is the largest private-public partnership ever dedicated to a soccer complex," Ehrlich said. "The stadium complex is one of the most significant private commitments to youth sports in Colorado."

The stadium and surrounding fields will be modeled after successful soccer-only stadium projects in Columbus, Ohio, and Carson, Calif., home to the MLS Columbus Crew and Los Angeles Galaxy teams, respectively. Both MLS commissioner Don Garber and Colorado Rapids coach Tim Hankinson hope the new stadium will increase support for the team as has happened in other markets.

"For the third time in less than a year, I am proud to celebrate the vision and innovation of a community which has dedicated bricks and mortar to the development of professional soccer in the U.S.," Garber said. "Lamar Hunt coined the term 'soccer-specific stadium' with the Columbus Crew Stadium in 1999. The Home Depot Center in Carson is referred to in soccer circles as 'The Cathedral.' Last April, the forward-thinking leaders of the city of Frisco, Texas, voted for a public-private partnership to build one of our spiritual homes in suburban Dallas for the 2005 season. Last winter we marked yet another watershed moment for our sport in Bridgeview, Ill., with the dedication of a new home for the Chicago Fire. Now we add Denver to the list of places where the dreams of Major League Soccer and its fans come true."

"A soccer-specific stadium builds tradition, inspires our team to fight and gives our soccer community an arena of competition for our fans to cheer in, which in turn fuels the aspirations and dreams of our young players," Hankinson said.

Soccer balls may be joined on the field by lacrosse balls. Plans call for the facilities to be used for lacrosse as well. KSE owns the National Lacrosse League's Colorado Mammoth franchise, which last year led the league in attendance, and there has been an increase in local youth lacrosse league participation.

"We hope to build on the enormous success of the Mammoth by spurring additional interest in youth lacrosse," Ehrlich said. "Ideally, Prairie Gateway will become the center for youth lacrosse in the state."


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