DENVER (CBS4)– The seven political appointees who manage Coors Field on behalf of Colorado taxpayers have agreed to no longer award themselves a prime luxury suite for home games. This after the practice came under public scrutiny and some intense criticism.
Several of the appointees told CBS4 when they used the Coors Field suite to watch Rockies games, they would typically host family and friends.
The Denver Metropolitan Major League Baseball Stadium District operates Coors field for taxpayers. The DMLBSD is made up of seven volunteers who are appointed by the governor.
According to the 1995 lease between the Rockies and the Stadium District Board, the baseball team agreed to give the Board a luxury suite for all 81 home games and six infield seats within the first 25 rows of the field.
The suite is number 42 located inside third base. It seats 14 people and comes with three parking passes. The suite is valued at between $3,000 and $4,000 per game. The six infield seats are just behind the Rockies dugout, in the ninth row valued at about $38 each.
The board said it gives the suite to the seven Front Range counties that helped pay for the stadium for four games each for a total of 28 games. The board also decided years ago to let its seven individual members each have the suite for four home games apiece.
The suite features a dozen outdoor seats, several indoor leather armchairs, a wet bar and wood paneling.
Board Chairman Ray Baker says for the remaining 25 games, the suite has been given to charities and nonprofit groups although he said there has been no accounting for what groups got the luxury box.
“We have not kept a list … which was a mistake by us,” Baker told CBS4 during an interview. “That was an oversight by us and we’re going to deal with it.”
Some critics have expressed concern about political appointees, who attend three to four meetings a year, getting a pricey suite for their personal use for multiple games each season.
Baker told CBS4, “I think it helps to be familiar with the stadium and what we are dealing with.”
Sen. Lois Tochtrop, a Democrat representing Thornton, told CBS4 that rationale does not fly with her.
“Well I would assume if you wanted to see how the stadium was run you’re not going to be sitting in a box away from the rest of the fans. How are you going to inspect a facility you are in charge of if you are sitting in a box, isolated from the masses so to speak?,” asked Tochtrop.
She believes it’s improper for political appointees to have a suite for their own personal use.
“I just feel like we have so many people on boards and commissions not getting any perks its unfair that this one group is getting a perk,” said Tochtrop. “My suggestion would be to give it to non-profits, to raffle it off for use for disadvantaged kids – I think that would be the gift of a lifetime for kids like that.”
Ruben Valdez, a Stadium District board member, told CBS4 he too did not think board members really needed to be sitting in a plush box four games a year to see how Coors Field is operating.
“I don’t think we need to come to a ballgame to look at the stadium,” said Valdez. ”We have tours to see the guts of the stadium. We don’t need it.”
Within days of CBS4 asking questions about the suite use, the stadium district board convened a special meeting April 24 and approved a new policy that would no longer provide the suite to board members for their personal use.
The new policy would allow board members shared access to the suite for the first and last games of the season only. The seven Denver metro area counties would each still get the box for four games each, but for the remaining 51 home games, the suite and the premium infield seats will now be made available to charitable organizations and schools on a first come first served basis.
“It will be dramatically different than before,” said board member Bob Lee.
Board chairman Ray Baker said the new policy would “best serve taxpayers.”