One of the ideas behind Itinerant Fan is to celebrate the stadiums, those wonderful edifices to which we flock because there’s a game of some sort being played inside. But in truth, it usually is about more than just the stadiums — the environment around the stadiums matter, too, because the act of going to the stadium should be just as fun and interesting as being inside it, right?
I say this to say that I love going to sporting events in Denver, and in particular I love going to Coors Field. It’s a quirky ballpark that lies in a vibrant area, and those two things together always make for a more pleasant fan experience.
The act of watching a game at Coors Field, of course, is a pleasant one as well, even if the existence of humidors means you don’t often see the 15-10 track meets the park was known for in its early days. It seems that no matter whether the Rockies are good, bad or mediocre, they can always count on a pretty good crowd, and from my experience there, it’s easy for me to see why.
- The Approach
Downtown is where it’s at for sports venues in Denver, so if you’re in downtown Denver, Coors Field is highly accessible. More likely than not it is just a lovely stroll from where you are, and as long as it’s not snowing (don’t laugh — it has been known to snow even during baseball season in Denver), it should be a pleasant walk through what, for our money, is one of the most vibrant and interesting downtowns in the country.
Denver isn’t exactly known for its public transportation, but if need be you can take advantage of one of its most convenient services: the free shuttle that runs up and down the 16th Street Mall. While the street is closed to vehicles, these buses stop at every cross street between the Civic Center and Union Station, and run at a fairly staggering frequency. If you reach a street corner and see that a bus has just pulled away in the direction you’re going, just look the other direction and 9 times out of 10 the next bus is already within a block or two. Get off at the Market Street Station (really a bus depot) and you’ve got an easy four-block walk to the ballpark from there.
In my case, my hotel was near the Pepsi Center on the other side of downtown, and had I walked to Coors Field from there it would have been about eight blocks. No sweat, even in the thin air. But I had gone down to the Civic Center area first, and then headed back on the free shuttle toward the ballpark, the bus picking up more and more purple-clad Rockies fans as it progressed.
As far as parking, I noticed quite a few independently owned lots on my walk, most of them in the fairly reasonable $7-10 range. (Don’t know if they jack up their rates on weekends or when more popular opponents are in town, but standard practice around the country would dictate it.) If you’re willing to walk more than a few blocks, you could probably snag a $5 rate or less.
Parking is the latest process to enter the digital age, and a company called Parking Panda is leading the way. This site can be really handy for finding and reserving parking near Coors Field. You can even save a few bucks along the way! Take a look in the window below to get started.
- The Build-Up
Coors Field sits at the corner of 20th and Blake Streets on the edge of the district known as LoDo, short for Lower Downtown. LoDo is widely recognized as a hip part of town, full of restaurants, bars and lofts, and when the Rockies are home this atmosphere of hip and trendy gets turned up a few notches. If you can’t find something to do before the game, then you simply aren’t trying very hard. There are lots of bars in particular within a couple blocks of Coors Field’s main gate, many of them with patios or rooftop decks, making it feel more and more like a party as you approach the ballpark — even on a Tuesday night. If it’s grub you’re looking for, the better bets are along and near the 16th Street Mall, where many fine restaurants running the gamut of price ranges await.
For a Tuesday night game against the Marlins, the crowd was quite impressive, and so was the scene. It was a mix of diehard Rockies fans, casual fans who were off work and looking to have a good time, people who had gotten a head start on getting drunk, and commuters just passing through via car, bike, foot or moped. (Seriously, I counted at least five helmetless women zipping along on mopeds during my day in downtown. Just a coincidence or is that a thing in Denver?) There were also quite a few scalpers on the streets — definitely way more than you would expect for a Tuesday night game against the Marlins — and people were going up to them and buying tickets! I don’t know why this astounds me … did I mention this was a Tuesday night game against the Marlins?
I reached the crowded intersection of 20th and Blake right around 6:40 p.m., when first pitch was supposed to be, and noticed a gaggle of people gathered around the main gate. From afar I saw a bunch of yellow signs and thought that maybe a demonstration of some sort was going on, but when I got closer I realized the signs were just the normal vendors hawking stuff and the crowd was really people queuing up to get inside as though the home-plate entrance was the only one around. It sure pays to be observant sometimes — 20th Street north (northeast, technically) of Blake, the stretch of road that runs along the first-base side of the ballpark, closes to vehicles on game nights, and a one-minute walk along the street revealed the first-base gate, with lines about 3 or 4 people deep to get in. To me that seemed a way better alternative than the 30-deep lines at the home-plate gate, so in I went.
- The Ambiance
Denver never misses easy chances to remind visitors that it’s the Mile High City, and that holds true at Coors Field as well. Look closely at a few of the pillars on the upper concourse and you’ll notice signs that read “1 mile high.” In the seating area of the upper deck, there’s a row of purple seats about six rows from the top amid all the green seats — same thing. So sit in a purple seat if you want to be able to say “I watched a baseball game from EXACTLY one mile above sea level!”
There are other, less obvious nods to your Rocky Mountain locale. First of all, there’s that terrific view of the Rockies (the mountains, not the team) beyond left field — sit in the upper deck along the right-field line for a night game in the summer, and you’ll be treated to the sight of the sun setting behind the mountains at some point in the middle innings like I was. Second, Coors Field is BIG, both in width (the dimensions of the field are enormous due to the whole high-altitude-leading-to-cheap-homers thing) and in height (take one of the very tall escalators to the upper deck, then near the top, look behind you and down, and you’ll see what I mean). Third, there’s a nice craggy-rock-and-wilderness motif behind the center-field wall serving as a cool reminder that you’re in Colorado. Fourth, walk too fast and you might find yourself unusually out of breath, like I did at one point. Yup, that’s the altitude.
Also in the running for most well-known feature of Coors Field is the Rockpile, those bleachers in faraway center field that seem extremely popular among Rockies fans, probably because they’re the cheapest tickets in the house. On this night, the Rockpile was two-thirds full, and during my travels I came across two different people from Colorado who found out I had gone to the Rockies game and responded, “Did you sit in the Rockpile?”
Coors Field’s fan-friendly creature comforts extend to the concessions, where you can find a pretty good variety of options — especially if you’re in one of the high-end areas. Me, I was tempted a bit by a burger shack named after Todd Helton, but my appetite had been lessened by three straight days of eating barbecue, so I went to my seat with only a bottle of water. There I was pleasantly surprised to find my row of seats, the first row of the upper deck, to be angled directly toward home plate. Chatting with the fan next to me (a military man from Colorado Springs who had bought up the entire row for his extended family and wondered who would want the single seat that had already been purchased, haha), we agreed that our seat view was terrific except for the railing in front of us — if we leaned back, our view of the pitcher was completely blocked. But I guess nothing’s perfect.
2001 Blake St.
Denver, CO 80205
All times local