Four stadiums was the goal on this venture, along with sightseeing across the Centennial State. We left for EWR (Newark) around 5 AM and had a connecting flight in Minneapolis before getting with Denver. For the most part everything was smooth, but this whole overbooking flights thing baffles me. On both flights, Delta had to ask for several volunteers to switch flights (with incentives) as the flight was overbooked. I know that this is all about money and I’m sure it’s successful for them…but jeez, you have x number of seats, therefore x number of seats should be sold. You don’t see stadiums ask fans to come another day for free, because the stadium is overbooked.
Anyway, we got into Denver and picked up our rental car (2011 Mazda, meh) and then drove through the surprisingly crowded interstates of Denver. Both our drives (weekend afternoon and weekend night) featured traffic where it became stop and go on I-10, I-25. Didn’t realize this happened here as comparable cities like Phoenix and San Antonio that I’ve been to were fine. One pleasant surprise on the drive was seeing very close up, the Denver Coliseum and Sports Authority Field (really, Mile High Stadium). Despite the occasional traffic, Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City was very easy to get to and park in.
The complex is huge with 24 soccer fields and the stadium being the highlight of it all. There was a nice, but small opening exterior and I really enjoyed the completely open and wide concourse here. Good display and story on their 2010 MLS championship too. I wasn’t blown away by the seating bowl as the single level bowl wraps around the field. The end where the supporters sit could have been filled in more, instead of just a few, cheap looking bleachers behind the net. I did like the displays behind the seating area, along with the elevated walkway. DSGP’s biggest design feature is probably the disjointed panels that act as a roof and were created to look like the tectonic plates that created the Rockies. Supporters were much fewer than what I saw in New York and fans seemed much more casual as handfuls arrived after the first whistle through the 25 minute mark. They annoyingly got up and down constantly as well, especially in our cheaper corner seat. The more passionate fans (aside from the PID Army and Bulldog Supporters Club) were on the sides and they would clap before set pieces and also stood, cheering in unison with arms raised after a Rapids goal. The game was entertaining, especially in the 2nd half, when chances were numerous. Unfortunately FC Dallas tied it and then won it in the 81st minute as Fabian Castillo drilled home a rebound. That was Dallas’ first win in 14 matches, while Colorado has lost five of six.
It was all about Denver today and though we didn’t visit downtown’s main attractions (that’s Tuesday), we did visit a couple spots that were enjoyable. Driving through the city, I was impressed as it seems very clean and modern. The first half of the day was spent at the Denver Zoo. Though we were unsuccessful in beating the heat (it was in the 90s by noon and the city reached the mid-upper 90s), the zoo was fun. We’ve been to our fair share of zoos, as my wife is a veterinary technician and also has a zoology degree. This zoo was one of the biggest and the new elephant exhibit was the closest I’ve ever been to one.
After cooling off in the hotel for a bit, we went to Tocabe for dinner. Despite my dislike of Guy Fieri, I’ve really gotten into Diners, Drive-ins and Dives and this Native American place was on there. The Indian Fry Bread tacos were filling and awesome. Then we went to the Denver Botanical Gardens, another gigantic space. For anyone interested in gardening, plants or flowers, you’ll be blown away here…I was. Tomorrow we’re off to Colorado Springs for the day and a visit to Security Service Field.
Colorado Springs was where we spent the day and this was what I would picture most people think of with Colorado (myself included). Whereas Denver is surprisingly flat with the Rockies off in the distance, the Springs butts right up next to the Rockies and is far hillier and more open. It certainly does not feel like the 41st most populous city in the country. We started on the west side with a visit to Garden of the Gods Park, which was absoulutely stunning. With the mountains and Pikes Peak in the distance, the red rock formations were beautiful to hike around and through.
After a scenic lunch at the cafe on top of their visitors center, we went into the city a bit to tour the US Olympic Training Center, where we got to see the training facilities for wrestling, shooting, weightlifting, swimming and taekwondo. US and A, greatest country in the world! After killing some time at the Ghost Town Museum, we drove up to the Northeast portion of the city for dinner at Big Dog Barbeque and then baseball with the Colorado Springs Sky Sox at Security Service Field (try saying that three times fast). The ballpark is older (1988) and has an odd entrance, but surprising in that the concourse is open to the playing field. It almost feels like a double-A park as it only holds 8,500. There is a little charm in the stadium and the staff really is friendly, especially the usher who came down just to see if we were enjoying ourselves. Location is lacking as some more mountain views would have been nice instead of seeing rolling fields and new neighborhoods. The game was crazy as I think that was the first time I’ve seen a 10-spot in one inning. 14 batters came up in the first and the ball was flying in the high altitude and wind blowing out. The good guys went on to win 15-6 in front of a typically small Monday Night crowd.
Today we were in the Capitol Hill and Golden Triangle section of Denver and I continue to be impressed on what a clean and nice city this is. The first stop was the Molly Brown House Museum, where the long wait wasn’t really worth the house visit. Lunch was at the Cheeky Monk…a place that had a massive beer selection and it was all Belgian. Many things that I couldn’t pronounce and I can’t say which beer I had, but it was really good. We then walked over to the state capitol and took a tour of the incredibly ornate building. It took 19 years to build this and everything from floor to ceiling is meticulous. The gold dome is being renovated, so we couldn’t get up there, but I can imagine the view is spectacular. Then it was off to another old house (my wife absolutely loves these) and it was the Byers-Evans home, which was better.
The highlight of course was in the trendy LoDo neighborhood, where Coors Field sits. Before the game, right nearby is B’s Ballpark Museum featuring a wonderful collection of memorabilia. I was pretty exciting for this game (nothing new there), because this was my first MLB mid-90s park of the brick and green era. I came away quite impressed with the stadium, with the views being a big highlight. An awesome view of the Denver skyline can be seen while walking the upper concourse (and when sitting in the outfield, it looms over the stadium). Meanwhile for those on the first base side or right field corner (like we were), the mountains are wonderfully distracting and if the clouds are playing tricks with the sun, it can make for quite a setting. There was a decent crowd on hand, however this felt more like a place to come and hang out for a bit as tons of people filed in between the 1st and 3rd and then filed out from the 7th to 9th. They made noise, mainly when the scoreboard told them. Still, the Rockies are atrocious and it was good to see a nice crowd on hand. I’ll have to gather all my thoughts and notes to compile my review next week, but without diving into much else until that review, I walked away really impressed and happy with Coors Field.
About 12 miles to the west of Denver is Golden, CO, set in an amazing backdrop between the Rockies and two mountains known as the North Table and South Table. This is the same Golden that you hear in the Coors commercials and yes it is brewed all here in one massive facility. There is a tour and despite it’s constant self-promotion, it is pretty cool and we started here. The tour also gives free beer. Not sure I’ve seen it sold, but I had Batch 19…very good. After the tour we drove up Lookout Mountain and the view from the top near the Buffalo Bill Museum was breathtaking. On one side is the rocky terrain of the mountains, while down below was Golden on the valley floor and the rest of the Front Range, including Denver. We could’ve spent hours up here just sitting and looking.
After some Southwestern food at the Table Mountain Inn back in town, we took a stroll down Washington Street, which is the main one through Golden. Small shops, charming walkways and a nicely designed bridge over Clear Creek combined with the mountains on either side make for one of the most pleasant strolls in the country. What a cool little town. Tomorrow we go through the mountains to Western Colorado for Grand Junction and a visit to Sam Suplizio Field!
In the morning, we took off on I-70 West making the scenic drive over and through the Rockies passing mountain towns like Idaho Springs, Vail and Glenwood Springs. Once we started coming back down from a peak height around 11,500, the Rockies took on a more desert appeal with red rocks and more shrubery as opposed to evergreens. A little under four hours later, we arrived in the Grand Junction area, well actually Fruita, where we drove up the Colorado National Monument. It’s not really a monument, but the national park is more a 23 mile scenic loop filled with Grand Canyon-like views of the valley floor below. Though nerve-wracking for me as the driver on the tight, cliff edges, the pull-offs were breathtaking as the scenery continues to blow me away.
After a few hours, we came back down to Grand Junction, a city of 58,000. It was still around 95 degrees, after hitting 100 earlier when we hit up Main Street for dinner and a walk through their huge farmers market. Just this year, the Colorado Rockies, moved their Pioneer League team from Casper to baseball-crazed GJ and fans have welcomed them big time. The atmosphere in Sam Suplizio Field was awesome as the crowd was completely into the game, knew the players and cheered loudly after plays. I was really impressed with the passionate and very friendly vibe. I talked to a couple next to us for much of the game and the people here are wonderful. There is still room to improve with attendance (they rank third in the league and the 6,949 seat ballpark was well short of a sell out in the franchise’s home opener), but the atmosphere is great and let’s hope that it does not wane past the first year. By the way, Todd Helton is rehabbing in Grand Junction tomorrow (Friday) and that should bring out a huge crowd.
The stadium on the other hand is strange. Very strange. First, the parking is awful as the tiny lot couldn’t hold enough cars for the crowd of 2,000. Inside, the ballpark is combined with the football stadium on the other side. So on the first base side is a press box that acts as suites. Below that is the seating bowl, with the area directly below having been renovated with new green seats. The rest are bleachers that go around the stadium. Back to the first base side, it creates almost a football-like feel and it centers the fans together. Combine that with the Grand Mesa in the background and despite it’s awkwardness, this section (where I sat) grew on me. As for the Rockies, they won 3-1 with a great performance by Matt Carasiti. Glad we made the trip out to the quirky stadium as I really enjoyed the Grand Junction game and visit #125
Waking up this morning and hearing the awful news of horrific shootings in Aurora, CO, our thoughts and prayers were with the victims and families. This poor state has suffered a lot in the past few months, but this tragedy is inexplicable. Hopefully all those injured are able to recover.
We spent our last day in Colorado at Grand Junction, first at the Cross Orchards historic site and then back downtown. Lunch at Bin 707 was great and then the Museum of the West got better the more we went through the museum. The best part was climbing the tower and getting a 360 degree view atop the valley. While yesterday we looked down on the Grand Valley from the Colorado National Monument, this view from the city was great too as the surrounding mesas are incredible. The sunny midday set the scene for the 100 degree day.
Our four hour drive back to Denver went smooth and we’re flying out tomorrow. It’s been a great trip to a beautiful state and four new stadiums have been visited. Reviews will be up over the next few weeks.