It wasn’t that long ago when the Colorado Rockies shut down the right-field upper deck at Coors Field because of a lack of fan interest. Now, it’s the hottest place in the ballpark — and a model for other teams seeking to generate some buzz.
This season saw the addition of the Rooftop to Coors Field. Basically, the team took the previously dead upper decks in right-center field and overhauled them, taking out seating and installing a 38,000-square-foot two-story party deck complete with multiple indoor bars and drink stands, covered seating areas and plenty of drink rails. (The photo above was taking during the consumption of an adult beverage while standing at a drink rail.) While the rest of Coors Field opens an hour and a half before the game, two gates — A and E — open two hours before the game, with fans limited to the outdoor concourse and (surprise!) the Rooftop.
Subsequently, the Rooftop was already crowded when the visiting Arizona Diamondbacks were in the midst of their batting practice. Also serving as an enticement to early arrivals: discounted beer, with 12-ounce Coors going for $3 and 16-ounce microbrews going for $6. Of course, at Coors Field — where brewing giant MillerCoors controls naming rights and runs a microbrewery inside the ballpark walls — microbrew is a relatively slippery term, as Colorado Native, a beer brewed by a MillerCoors subsidiary, is offered as a microbrew at the Rooftop. (Note: It was pretty tasty.) But then again, real microbrews from the likes of Great Divide Brewing, New Belgium and Odell Brewing are on tap on the Rooftop, so beer fans have some solid choices.
When they can get back to the bar, that is. After the gates opened, folks headed immediately for the bar and the drink rails, but it was manageable. By the second inning, fans were lining up four deep at the long indoor bars (and we mean long: at least five bartenders were staffing each indoor bar) in hopes of snaring an adult beverage. The lines were even longer at the outdoor drink carts offering cocktails, and there was not an open seat in the outdoor seating area, as fans lured to an area without a view of the field by live music and a firepit area. As the lights went down, the Tivoli lights added nicely to the rooftop ambiance.
This isn’t a new concept: the Minnesota Twins and Populous designed some of the most attractive spots in Target Field in the worst spaces (down the left-field line, in upper-deck areas) and succeeded in drawing a younger demographic that doesn’t see the ballpark necessarily as a place to watch a baseball game, but rather as a place to hang out with friends and perhaps meeting new ones. (Let’s just say we saw several instances of youthful mingling while watching the game from a drink rail.) No surprise that Populous also designed this new space. The competition for the Rockies — and the Twins and the Cubs and the Orioles and everyone playing in an urban ballpark with lots of entertainment options nearby — isn’t fans deciding whether to stay home and watch the game versus showing up in person, but rather fans flocking to Blake Street and Wynkoop Brewing Company and deciding whether to take in a game.
Currently the Rockies are taking an interesting approach to exposing fans to the Rooftop: anyone in the ballpark can go up there; no special ticket needed. So you could buy a cheap $4 Rockpile ticket, never go near the center-field bleachers, and station yourself at a drink rail for three hours. For the rest of the month the Rockies are selling $15 Rooftop GA tickets with $6 in concessions preloaded.
We visited Coors Field on the second home game of the season. A lot of folks rush to Opening Day in order to judge the ballpark, but that’s usually the worst day to evaluate things: the concourses are clogged with amateurs wandering the concourses looking for God knows what, and concessions workers are still getting into game shape. Conversely, the second game of the season features a smaller crowd (the Rockies drew 10,000 fewer fans on the Saturday night game over the Friday opener) and a better chance to evaluate ballpark operations. If the Rockies can fill the Rooftop consistently with 3,500 fans that arguably wouldn’t be there otherwise, then building out the party space will be a raging success — and a model for other teams looking to spruce up their ballparks in coming years.
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