When he saw two dozen stretch limousines pull up outside of CoorsField in Denver, Steve Sabitini became convinced Major LeagueBaseball's All-Star Game was more than just a game.
'They all lined up at the curb, and the doors opened up, and itwas all owners of major league teams, some Hall of Famers and allkinds of big shots from companies,' said Sabatini, who saw theprocession while working across the street from the stadium as awaiter at the Breckenridge Brewing Co.
'I grew up watching games in Fenway Park, and this is really ahistoric event, here,' said Sabatini, a native of Arlington, and aself-styled baseball guru. 'But it's also brought a lot of moneyinto town -- lots of money.'
Indeed it has. According to tourist and hospitality industryofficials in several major cities, the showcase of Major LeagueBaseball's most luminous stars has spurred spending of $28 million to$38.5 million annually in recent years.
Officials in Denver have prepared feverishly, eyeing an evenhigher payout.
In Boston, which will host the 1999 All-Star game, planning isalready well under way. The Greater Boston Convention & VisitorsBureau projects the city will realize at least $40 million inrevenue.
'It's a big economic boost for the city, it's not just an All-Stargame,' said Mayor Thomas Menino, who is in Denver to meet with MayorWellington Webb and his staff for advice on hosting the event. 'InCleveland two years ago, it attracted 120,000 people, and Boston is amore attractive destination. So we ought to do better than that.'
Beyond the revenue from tourism, baseball's All-Star game providesa huge civic marketing opportunity. Hundreds of officials from majorcorporations and their favored customers fly from across the countryto attend the game and the large, staged events that now envelop it.
'The bottom line is, in terms of the convention and touristindustry perspective, it'll be another way to show the country andthe world what Boston is, and what we can do,' said Patrick B.Moscaritolo, president and chief executive of the Visitors Bureau.
Officials of the Colorado Rockies and the Red Sox, the localtourist industries, and the city governments in Denver and Boston allsay they have had to forge a well-coordinated master plan for bothAll-Star Games.
Major League Baseball provides a 28-page list of items that thehost franchise and city must accomplish -- everything from how todecorate the field and the ballpark to how corporate sponsors of thegame may use and display the 'marks' of Major League Baseball and theAll-Star game.
Denver and the Rockies have amassed 1,200 to 1,500 volunteersserving as hospitality agents in the airport, hotels, restaurants,information areas and at the ballpark. They are guiding the 100,000to 150,000 visitors -- two to three times the capacity of Coors Field-- to the myriad of events that form what Major League Baseball likesto call 'All-Star Week.' A similar number of volunteers will besought in Boston next July.
Events began officially on Friday, but many of the businessmen andteam owners were in Denver as early as Wednesday, when Sabatini stoodand watched the line of limos roll up to the ballpark. On Friday,Saturday, and Sunday, tens of thousands of fans attended The All-StarFanFest at the Colorado Convention Center. The FanFest is an amalgamof events and displays arrayed around 300,000 square feet of indoorspace that take fans on an extensive, often-interactive tour of thesport. Because far more fans attend All-Star week than can fit intoCoors Field or Fenway Park, FanFest and other ancillary events nowprovide nearly as much of an attraction for visitors as the gameitself.
'It's got races, and throwing skills, batting, it has displaysabout how gloves are made -- on and on. It's terrific,' said Red Soxspokesman Richard L. Bresciani, describing FanFest. 'In Boston, thisthing should attract 125,000 people.'
Indeed, Major League Baseball has been an enormous businesssuccess in Denver, driving the dramatic revitalization of the oldestsection of the city -- the so-called LoDo (Lower Downtown) district,where Coors Field and about 85 restaurants and microbreweries, 20 artgalleries and 500 loft apartments have opened in the once-abandonedwarehouse district.
Throughout LoDo Friday through tonight, restaurants and bars havebeen rented out by companies sponsoring private parties for employeesand customers.
'We're all psyched up,' said Sabatini, who helped play host toMasterCard, which rented out the Breckenridge Brewing Co. for a partyfeaturing the club's microbrews and barbeque and pub food. 'We closethree days a year: Memorial Day, Christmas Day and New Year's Day.But we're going to close down for MasterCard.'
A few blocks further into the LoDo and away from Coors Field, TheDenver Post is sponsoring a party today for employees and readers atthe Wynkoop Brew Co. The Post and the Rocky Mountain News competefor the hearts of Rockies fans as they compete for readers. Whilethe News is an official sponsor of the team, the Post likes to callitself 'the official sponsor of the fans.' The Wynkoop was preparedto handle more than 1,000 people at the Post's party.
'You gotta love any event that happens early in the week, if youare a restaurant,' said Matt McAleer, the Wynkoop's marketingdirector. 'And the All-Star game is always on a Tuesday.'
Denver officials say they hope all of this secures the future ofLoDo. The refurbishment of the area has sparkled since Coors Fieldopened, in part because of spillover parking. Planners intentionallyprovided parking for only 5,000 cars near the field, so fans parkalong the streets in LoDo, often eating dinner before games andstopping in for a nightcap afterward.
'It is hot now,' said Eugene Dilbeck, president and chiefexecutive of the Denver Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau. 'Thisweek it is the focus of national attention.'
Yesterday was MCI All-Star Workout Day, with the long-distancecarrier spending a tidy sum to sponsor the day and other companiespaying to sponsor individual events, including the Fleer DiamondSkills National Finals, the MCI All-Star hitting challenge and theService Merchandise Home Run Derby. All of the money from WorkoutDay goes to charity, with Major League Baseball and the hostfranchise splitting the donations 50-50.
In Denver yesterday, many fans who could not obtain tickets tothe game tried instead for tickets to Workout Day. In fact, withFenway Park's limited capacity, there is a possibility Workout Daywill be close to a sellout next year. And because both stadiums areconsidered sluggers' parks -- Coors Field because of the thin air atthe high altitude, and Fenway because of its cozy confines -- thehome run competition is especially popular with the fans.
About 5,000 people also were expected to gather last night at theDenver Performing Arts Complex for the All-Star Gala, featuring food,drink and entertainment, and another 5,000 fans were expected todayat the Major League Baseball Pre-Game Celebration.
Officials in Boston are already preparing for many of the sameevents next year.
Bresciani says the Red Sox have sent 25 employees to Denver tohelp them conceptualize what the team must do in and around FenwayPark next July. The All-Star Game has not been played at Fenway Parksince 1961.
Moscaritolo and a member of his staff, and Robert V. Colarossi,president of the Massachusetts Sports Partnership, are all joiningMenino in Denver in anticipation of the work that lies ahead toprepare Boston for next year's event.
Moscaritolo says 18 hotels already have been assembled in Bostonto provide 14,000 hotel rooms, and he and Bresciani say the hunt ison for venues large enough to host many of the ancillary events.
'We're already gearing up to provide a really first-classexperience,' Moscaritolo said. SIDEBAR ALL STAR NUMBERS
PLEASE SEE MICROFILM FOR CHART DATA GLOBE STAFF CHART