DENVER (CBS4) – Denver has a lot of show off in the MLB All-Star Game, including McGregor Square developed just south of the stadium and 20th Street. Inside the Rally Hotel, windows overlook the stadium. People were showing up to check in Thursday.

“So we’re staying for a couple nights,” said Jennifer Stephens along with partner Cody Cline.

“We’re super excited. Big baseball fans in general,” said Cline. They already have tickets for some weekend events. “Coming to see all the big name players for sure and just getting to be out at Coors Field you know after COVID.”

This is a short wind-up to capacity after Denver’s late pitch for the game. Denver based Sage Hospitality Group — which owns several LoDo hotels including The Oxford, The Maven Hotel at Dairy Block, The Crawford Hotel in Union Station and the new Rally Hotel — had been back up to about 60%, said president and CEO Walter Isenberg, but will reach further around the MLB All-Star Game.

It’s been an incredible up and down.

“We had 6,200 associates pre-pandemic and on April 1 of last year, we were down to 500. Our business dropped, 97%.”

It meant changes for the workers who were left who are now having to adjust again.

“We had a lot of our managers checking people in, cleaning rooms, doing all the work and have been doing that for 14, 15 months straight and now all of a sudden business starts to boom and you can’t find employees to add on.”

Hiring difficulties are not surprising considering how much of an employment shift there has been, with many people changing careers after layoffs.

“There’s a lot of jobs created in the pandemic, just in different industries than ours,” he noted while pointing out the hiring by employers like Amazon and Whole Foods and Costco.

Many hiring managers have complained about people sitting at home and collecting unemployment rather that returning to the workforce due to supplemental federal payments that will expire in September.

“I don’t think the employment problem gets solved in September. I think it will certainly help when the federal benefits expire, but I think that’s a small piece of the problem.”

Isenberg sees it as being more complicated.

“If you were a single parent and you were getting the federal benefits and the state benefits, you also don’t have to pay for child care. You don’t have to pay for transportation and so I don’t blame people for doing that. I goes beyond just their wages.”

He also believes a shortage of immigrant labor is affecting his industry and others.

“Do we want a secure border, of course. At the same we need a rational immigration policy. The agricultural community, the hospitality community, transportation, construction … everybody’s struggling to find people.”

Denver, he believes, has a chance to shine during the MLB All-Star Game.

“It really is a big boost for the city … It tells the world that we’re open for business in Denver.”

Business he’d like to see balance out.

Isenberg first came to Denver in the 80s.

“And I tell people that LoDo was just low. And it feels like the center of gravity has really shifted. … The Brown Palace was more the center of gravity in a lot of ways.”

But now he believes things have flipped around.

“Today as we look at our downtown, we’ve got to refocus our efforts on upper downtown.”

Other policies, he believes, need to be looked at by government, nonprofits and business together, like the homeless problem.

“I think we should enforce the laws that are on our books. Camping is illegal in our streets and I know this is a very difficult and complex issue.”

As answers, he believes in more housing, mental health help and addiction help. But not just shelters.

“What we really need is transitional housing so people that are getting off the streets can get into a safe and clean house. And then what we also need is what I call affordable and workforce housing.”

The city does have an opportunity like it did with other big events like the previous All-Star Game in 1998 or the Democratic National Convention.

He feels the city’s chances are good.

“I know that every time one of these events has happened, Denver has shown its best face and people come here and love this place and love it for good reason.”

Alan Gionet