Why did Coors Field buy the old Light Bulb Supply building?

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Rockies fans will no longer have to worry about their view of the mountains from Coors Field becoming obstructed by a possible high-rise condo building. The special district that owns the baseball stadium quietly purchased the former Light Bulb Supply building at 2010 Delgany Street for $2.4 million earlier this month, ending fears that a 140-foot building could be built on the site just west of the left stands.

The parcel was the topic of much controversy in the fall of 2007 when its owners applied for a rezoning from industrial to mixed-use residential, which would have increased the land's appeal to developers.

Bill and Paula Leake first opened the Light Bulb Supply Company in 1979, when the Central Platte Valley was a wasteland of railroad yards and abandoned warehouses. In the mid-'90s, several metro area cities formed the Denver Metropolitan Major League Baseball Stadium District to pay for the construction of Coors Field. As the area evolved into an epicenter of new infill construction, the Leakes hoped that by selling the modest property, they could secure their retirement.

But the prospect of a fourteen-story tower marring the mountain backdrop alarmed Rockies fans and Stadium District officials, who began lobbying City Council for a view-plane ordinance similar to ones that prevent tall structures around many of the city's parks, including Ruby Hill Park. Property-rights advocates, however, saw any such move by the city as a violation of the Leakes' freedom as property owners to benefit from the legitimate sale of their land. Several potential buyers were reportedly scared off by the team's efforts to cap the height of future buildings.

The Leakes withdrew their rezoning proposal and the issue dissappeared -- at least until they put the property back on the market last year for $2.9 million. Real-estate firm Denver Equities advertised the Light Bulb Supply building as a "mixed-use development site" with an "unobstructed view into Coors Field" that "mostly likely could be rezoned" to allow a building with a 140-foot height.

But it wasn't necessarily the threat of a rezoning that finally prompted Coors Field to buy the Leakes' land, says Stadium District director Ray Baker. "RTD is going to be taking a bunch of our parking for light rail to the airport," explains Baker. "We won't know how much until September or October. So we're still building a strategy. There's just not enough [parking] currently with what we have and what will be taken."

After several months of negotiations, the Leakes sold the land to the Stadium District for roughly $700,000 cash with a $1.6 million carry-back to be paid over the course of five years. The Leakes could not be reached for comment -- apparently they sold the business to an electrical supplier and have retired in Evergreen. The Stadium District plans to lease the building until they need the site for parking, which may be one of several new lots needed after RTD gobbles up existing baseball parking.

"This is, we think, a good resolution for all parties," says Baker.

So, in the end, it took an RTD eminent-domain land-grab to get the Leakes their money, satiate property-rights advocates and protect the beautiful mountain views for baseball fans -- assuming, that is, said fans have found somewhere to park.

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