Colorado Sports: Rooting for the Home Team on a Budget

September 3, 2014

If there’s one thing that really unites Colorado, it’s our sports teams. Whether that means cheering on the Broncos in the fall, the Avalanche and Nuggets in the winter, or the Rockies during the dog days of summer (and don’t forget our most recent championship team, the Rapids) people all over the state help make Denver one of the most exciting mid-market sports cities in the country. And nothing is more thrilling than coming to the Mile High City and seeing one of your favorite teams in person at one of our beautiful venues.

Of course, attending all of those sporting events can leave your wallet reeling worse than a batter diving out of the way from an inside fastball. From tickets, to food and beer, and of course parking, the costs add up. Fortunately, there are several ways to save money while still enjoying all Sports Authority Field, Pepsi Center, Coors Field, and Dick’s Sporting Goods Park have to offer.

Tickets

Box Office/Team Website:
You can almost always get tickets to the Rockies, Nuggets and Avalanche at the box office in the stadium on the day of the game. (The Broncos have sold out every game for years, so plan well in advance if you’re looking for an NFL experience.) If you’re not in the mood to sift through discount websites, or you’re worried about getting ripped off by ticket resellers (AKA scalpers), this is the best way to know you’re paying the exact right amount.

Unfortunately, a ticket for a game against a team in last place (or, in some cases, when the home team is struggling) in many cases will cost the same as an important game against a top tier opponent. In those cases, the box office—while convenient—may not be getting you the biggest bang for your buck. Additionally, when purchasing tickets through the team’s website, it’s common to get hit with surcharges in the neighborhood of up to $5 per ticket, so make sure to read the fine print.

Third Party Websites:
Being a sports fan in the 21st century has its advantages, and its disadvantages. Websites like StubHub almost always have a better deal than the box office, because the tickets are being sold by fellow fans (or sometimes brokers) who are motivated to get rid of seats, even if it means selling them for less than face value. This is what is known in the event business as the secondary ticket market.

Good deals are usually easier to find for weekday and weeknight games since they tend to be less well attended than Friday or Saturday night matchups. Also, because StubHub has partnered directly with several of the major sports leagues, tickets are authenticated, so you know you’re not buying counterfeits. However, as always, caveat emptor (“let the buyer beware”) since tickets for more highly sought after seats can sometimes fetch a price above face value. Buying tickets well in advance can usually save you money when you use this option.

Ticket Resellers:
Although the notion of “scalping” tickets comes with an oftentimes deserved stigma, it is still a useful route, especially if you are attending a game on the spur of the moment. Some tips for buying from resellers:

  • Know the law -- reselling tickets for above face value (and buying them) is illegal under Denver municipal law. On Coors Field property, it’s illegal to resell even at face value. Undercover vice cops enforce this law on game days. If someone is offering to sell you tickets for a sold out event, and they are asking even a penny above face value, be aware that you could face a fine of up to $999 and up to one year in jail. However, outside of the Denver city limits, reselling tickets for above face value is fair game.
  • Don’t get ripped off. If a ticket looks even the least bit suspicious, don’t buy it. Sports venues won’t care about your misfortune, and you’ll be left in the cold (literally, if it’s a Nuggets game in January).
  • The best time to look to resellers for cheap tickets is, perhaps not so surprisingly, when the start of the game is imminent, or when it has already started. At that point, resellers are desperate, and will likely shave off a significant portion of the price.
  • Don’t be afraid to haggle, especially when the kickoff/first pitch/tipoff/puck drop is imminent. Resellers are incredibly shrewd, though, so don’t be surprised if they play (no pun intended) hardball with you.

Food and Drink

As always, convenience will cost you. Sports venues are a prime example of this. Once you get inside, there are very few good deals for concessions. Of course, there are a few exceptions to the rule:

  • At Coors Field, the best deal in the entire ballpark is at the Famous Dave’s stand near the foul pole in left field. For just $2(!) you can get three pieces of their incredibly delicious chocolate covered bacon. If you’re on a diet, or you value the reliability of your arteries more than me, the best value for the money is at Blake Street Burrito near home plate on the main concourse. You can get a burrito bowl with chicken and veggies for about the same price as a burger and fries or a Rockie Dog.
  • At the Pepsi Center, the arena’s own Blue Sky Grille offers a better value on food than you can get at concession stand; not because it’s cheaper, but simply because it’s cooked to order. You can also make reservations up to four months in advance. Try the White Bean Chicken Chili, which at $8 is about as cheap and wholesome as fare inside the stadium gets.

Ticket Deals:
The best ticket deals are offered by the teams that play under the Kroenke Sports Enterprises flag (The Avalanche, Nuggets, and Rapids). All three teams offer “Guys Night Out” and the teams playing at Pepsi Center offer “Family Meal Deal” packages that include tickets, beer and/or concessions, and team merchandise like t-shirts. If you’re planning on buying concessions, these deals can usually save money. At Coors Field, the polarizing Party Deck located on the third deck in right field offers pretty good food and beverage credits included in the price of the ticket (just don’t expect the college-aged crowd, which is largest on Friday and Saturday night games, to be paying much attention to the game.)

Bring Your Own:
Because Coors Field and Sports Authority Field were paid for, in part, with taxpayer dollars, fans are allowed to bring in their own concessions. Didn’t think to pack any? Don’t worry. Outside of the ballpark there are folks (many of them small business owners who rely on these sales to make a living) who sell things like snacks, soda, water, and other goodies. Although they’re more expensive than shopping at a store, it’s a lot cheaper than buying the marked up stuff inside the stadium, and you can bring it in with you. Be aware that all drinks need to be in plastic bottles and have the original seal still on them.

Outside the Stadium:
The best deals on food and drinks will always be found outside the stadiums themselves. In Lower Downtown Denver, just steps away from Coors Field, several bars and restaurants offer a great place to congregate (and knock a few back) before or after any Rockies game.

My personal favorite place on Blake St. is the Falling Rock Tap House, which is heaven for anyone who is looking for dozens of selections of great beer on tap, and scores more options in bottles. You come for the beer, and stay for the great bar food—just don’t expect to find much in the way of healthy options.

At the ever-popular Sports Column, they offer all the Coors Light you can drink for $10 on game days. Additionally, during football season, they provide a free (with purchase of food or drinks at the bar) shuttle bus to Sports Authority Field during Broncos home games. I recommend taking the E-Line light rail back to the bar after the game. (More on transportation and parking in the next section.)

Another convenient location before Broncos games is Mile High Station, which is an event center that hosts a pre-game party before every home game. Drink specials, live sports radio broadcasts, and good food make it a better choice for Broncos games than the popular Brooklyn’s. However, if you’re looking for more of a traditional, sit-down experience, Brooklyn’s has two locations -- one near Sports Authority Field, and the other just steps from the Pepsi Center. If you’re willing to jaunt across Speer Blvd, there are other establishments on Market and Blake streets that can provide better drink and food specials.

Parking and Transportation

Public Transit:
If you live in the multi-county Regional Transportation District, and can be without the freedom of your own car for an evening or an afternoon, buses and light rail are the best way to visit any of the stadiums, other than Dick’s Sporting Goods Park—although that will change when the planned East Rail Line between Union Station and DIA becomes operational in 2016. Ticket prices vary depending on which RTD fare zone you live in, so check their website for fare pricing and details.

Parking Lots and Garages: 
If you must drive to the stadium, then be prepared for some sticker shock at the parking lot. When venues are packed with fans for big games, I’ve seen some lots charge as much as $50 just to park. The best way to combat this kind of price gouging is to carpool. If a parking lot charges $25 (a pretty typical for lots closer to the ballpark) then it really ends up being about $5 per person.

For Rockies games, an even better deal can be found at a garage located at 15th and Wynkoop just a five block walk from Coors Field. On weekends, they charge a remarkably low $5 per vehicle, and the same price can be found weekday afternoons as long as you park after 5:00 (with the earliest Rockies night games starting at 6:10pm).

For the Pepsi Center, I find the best and cheapest parking lots are located about a 5 minute walk from the stadium at Speer Blvd and Market St. They usually range in price from $5 and up, and as long as you get to the game about an hour ahead of tipoff/puck drop, there is usually space. Another benefit is they are much, much easier to get out of after the game than the lot at Pepsi Center or the lots at the Auraria Campus.

Those Auraria Campus lots are a good value at $4.50 and up, with prices varying depending on the event. However, I only recommend these lots for weekend games at Pepsi Center, or when classes are not in session, as students fill the lots up during school days.

For tailgating at Broncos games, it all depends on how far you want to walk. The lots near the Pepsi Center usually top out at around $20 (again, make sure you carpool) and the walk to the stadium is only around 5-10 minutes.

Sports fans of all levels of interest and experience can find good deals at the various venues in and around Denver. You just need to plan ahead, be patient, and know how to balance when the convenience is worth it. Most importantly, have fun and go Broncos/Rockies/Nuggets/Avs/Rapids!