DENVER -- All-Star weekend is just four days away and Denver is ready to put its best foot forward as it steps into the international spotlight.
Preparations are well-underway for one of the biggest events in sports since COVID restrictions were lifted.
Street closures are now in place around the Colorado Convention Center in downtown Denver where many of the events leading up to the game will take place.
Closures are also happening near Coors Field.
But some say part of polishing up the Mile High City for baseball's big moment is just a Band-Aid on a much more serious problem.
"Having tents throughout your city is a pretty big embarrassment,” said Ana Cornelius, spokeswoman for Denver Homeless Out Loud. “And it should be, at least to the mayor. So, they're wanting people to move away from the baseball field so they can have a good PR moment, nationally."
Just two blocks from Coors Field, Marco's Coal-Fired Pizza, now an institution in Denver, has been preparing for this moment, too.
"The party's back on,” said Mark Dym, owner of Marco’s. “It’s pretty exciting that we're going to have the street shut down from the 9th of July through the 13th. There's going to be open-carry around the area and restaurants."
Dym and others are also noticing the homeless sweeps.
“It's a tough nut to crack, especially when you're on the international stage," Dym said. “I’ve been living with the homeless issues down here for the past 13 years. You have to feel for these guys, but at the same time, you have to run a business and run the city. We must come down somewhere in the middle
"This is what the city calls a clean-up,” Cornelius said of a recent sweep. “We call it a sweep because humans are displaced from where they're living. It isn't just a clean-up of garbage."
Cornelius says it’s clear what’s happening.
“This is about the All-Star game. The mayor’s policies have only exacerbated the problems. He’s not created any solutions.”
For his part, Mayor Michael Hancock denies that the latest sweeps have anything to do with the All-Star game, even when he was pressed by reporters last week.
“It is not,” Hancock said. “Let me be very clear, it is not connected to the All-Star game. There's not been one new order to step-up enforcement. What we’re doing post-pandemic, is enforcing the law."
Cornelius says that's just false. She says most sweeps are one clean-up for one day.
“This sweep was posted for about a 20-block area and it was posted for 3 days," Cornelius said.
Dym says he's staying out of the politics, but he is tired of failed policy after failed policy.
"If you're going to do a sweep, have a place to bring people," Dym said. “Come up with a real solution. Don't just keep putting a Band-Aid on it. And that's all they do. I think it goes back to Mayor Hickenlooper, you know? Denver’s Road Home. We were going to end homelessness in 7 years. Well, that whole situation fell apart.”
Still, Dym is upbeat about All-Star week.
"It's a major boon for us,” Dym said. “Not only for business, but for exposure. And that we're open 100% really makes a big difference."
Cornelius says cops on the beat directly told her group they were moving tents away from the ballpark area.
The mayor's office insists it's all just coincidental and sweeps are only ramping up because we are now coming out of the COVID pandemic.
The MLB All-Star Game is Tuesday, July 13 at Coors Field. Festivities begin Friday, July 9.