DENVER (CBS4) – For the first time since landing the MLB All-Star Game, Gov. Jared Polis and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock are sharing the behind-the-scenes story of how it all came together.
“I will never forget when staff said to me, ‘the commissioner of Major League Baseball wants to get you on a call,'” said Hancock.READ MORE: A List Of Events In Denver Connected To The MLB All-Star Game
He had been on the phone with the governor for weeks trying to lure the game to Denver after Major League Baseball made a bombshell announcement that it was pulling out of Atlanta, Georgia just three months before game day over a controversial election law there.
“In my mind I knew he’s not calling to say, ‘you’re not getting it.’ He’s calling to say, ‘we’re coming,'” recalled Hancock.
It was the kind of economic boost the state and city sorely needed. What it didn’t need, Hancock says, was the controversy that came with it.
“Obviously we wanted to understand more about the political environment and why they pulled out of Atlanta.”
The politics over Georgia’s election law played out publicly, but Hancock and Polis insist, privately, it was the elephant in the room.
“What Major League Baseball wanted to see is that we’re ready to go and we’re all on the same page,” Polis said.
The organization, they say, asked about hotels and restaurants, police and fire, COVID-19 infections and vaccinations. Everything … but politics.
“They never asked about elections. They wanted avoid politics as best as they could,” said Hancock.
He knew it was an issue, and 15 years ago, he says it would have likely cost Denver the game. In 2006, Colorado dealt with an electronic voting machine debacle. Thousands of people waited in line for hours to cast their ballots while many just gave up.
Hancock says it was a turning point.
“We went about designing the most innovative, accessible voting system, I believe, in country.”
It’s now paying off in ways no one envisioned.
“They wanted to avoid the kind of controversy that would lead to athletes boycotting the event, or fans boycotting the event. We don’t have anything controversial. We have a great voting system,” said Polis.
We also, he says, have a bid already submitted for the 2024 All-Star game.
“The Rockies organization is ready to go. They have a proposal to host it in future years. They’ve showed flexibility and creativity to be able to move that up.”
It doesn’t hurt either, Hancock says, that Denver has experience with big events.
“You can’t just win these overnight in your sleep. You have to have a system, an apparatus, in place.”
Still, he knows this event wouldn’t be here if not for politics. He says he understands why some people might lament that politics is in play with baseball.
“We’ve seen recently in the past 5 to 7 years, politics invade sports whether it was standing or kneeling for the flag. The reality is there and how do we leverage (it).”
Polis just picked up the phone.
“Reached out to (Rockies owner) Dick Monfort, reached out to (MLB) commissioner, conferenced in Michael Hancock. Until the announcement was made you never know.”
Hancock says he had a good feeling about it all along.
“Alright, you guys ready to do this? I said we’re ready to go, let’s do this. It’s show time.”
As of the writing of this story, the controversy has not followed the MLB here. While there is a heavy police presence throughout the city, Public Safety Manager Murphy Robinson says, so far, there have been no protests.