Lacrosse was once a niche sport in this country. You would have been hard pressed to find a lacrosse stick west of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. The popularity of lacrosse is surging - US Lacrosse reports a 34% increase in boys teams and a 36% increase in girls teams at the high school level since 2013. Professional leagues have sprung up as the game begins to spread - Major League Lacrosse has teams playing traditional outdoor lacrosse, and the National Lacrosse League has led the charge of box lacrosse. Box lacrosse takes all of the skill and athleticism of traditional lacrosse and compresses into a playing field the size of an ice hockey rink. And yes, they leave the boards up.
After playing in Baltimore, Washington DC and Pittsburgh, the team currently known as the Mammoth arrived in Denver in 2003. Owned by local sports and real estate baron Stan Kroenke, the Mammoth set up shop and became a big hit immediately, setting league attendance records in 2004 and 2006, and winning the league's Champion's Cup in 2006.
Opened in 1999, the Pepsi Center houses each of Kroenke Sports Enterprises' arena teams - the Mammoth, the Nuggets, and the Avalanche. The "Can" replaced the aging McNichols Arena, and despite being 16 years old, still feels brand new. Official seating capacity for lacrosse games is 18,007, with the seating configuration being identical to the setup used for NHL games.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
The Pepsi Center has made large strides in the past few years to increase both the quality and the variety of food available. The traditional fare are all present - hot dogs, burgers, nachos, popcorn, candy and beer. There are also "street" tacos (chicken, pulled pork and veggie), chicken waffle sandwiches, tater tots loaded with cheese/chili/hot sauce, freshly fried mini donuts, and sugar coated nuts, among other exotic choices. Here are prices for the staples:
Hot Dog - $5.00
Bottomless Popcorn - $7.50
Bottomed Popcorn - $5.25 (in a much larger container than the bottomless popcorn - unless you have 8 friends with you, the $5.25 popcorn will suit you fine)
Nachos - $7.25
Regular Soda - $4.75
Souvenir Cup Soda - $6.50
Water - $4.00
Beer - $7.50/$7.75 (regular/"premium", see below)
Due to a mixture of loose brewing laws and an excess of entrepreneurial spirit, Colorado is known for an abundance of craft breweries, and that is reflected in the beer selection. While Coors is present around the arena, each stand that serves also has a "premium" beer selection. If you are a discerning drinker, feel free to shop around to the various stands - at some, the "premium" selection is Colorado Native, a beer mass produced by Coors and lacking much flavor at all. Many stands have Dale's Pale Ale as their premium selection, a popular brew from Colorado brewery Oskar Blues. My personal recommendation would be the Odell stand near the top of the escalator from the East entrance. Their beers carry the same $7.75 price tag as Colorado Native and offer much better bang for the buck.
A personal favorite are the nut stands spaced around the concourses on both levels. They take a variety of nuts - peanuts, walnuts, almonds, cashews - and mix them with sugar, cinnamon, or chocolate. The nuts are very tasty and filling, and you can smell them halfway around the concourse.
The Tuaca Chill Zone is a bar built into the concourse at the end of the arena. The bar itself has an open view above the seats behind one of the goals, and provide a good spot to enjoy a drink while keeping an eye on the action.
As with every modern arena, prices are high. I'd recommend doing your heavy drink and meal lifting at the fine establishments around downtown, while reserving some cash for a special treat inside the arena.
Mammoth games are not for the faint of heart. You shouldn't bring a book to read during timeouts. Good luck making a phone call from your seat.
Entry into the Pepsi Center is not a concern for most Mammoth games. I've had good success entering through the east entrance, as it serves mostly pedestrians from downtown and a few small parking lots.
Seats in the lower deck have nice cushioning and decent width. I'm a tall person, so if you are tall, I'd recommend apologizing to the person sitting in front of you in advance of you knee them accidentally. Seats in the upper deck are a step down in quality, but I actually prefer the view up top. It is much easier to see each play develop. Seats behind the goal are also recommended for easy view of the passing and spacing in each offensive zone.
A couple of years ago the Pepsi Center upgraded the main scoreboard, going from the worst in Big 4 professional sports to one of the best. The scoreboard dominates your view, and can easily hypnotize you into watching the action up above instead of directly in front of you. Check out the pictures posted with this review.
The player introductions are very involved. Pyrotechnics and flame throwers punctuate each Mammoth player as they are introduced to the crowd. The visiting team...well, I'll explain below, when talking about the fans and unique traditions.
The Mammoth have cultivated a bit of a party and rock n' roll atmosphere during the game. The PA plays music while the Mammoth have the ball in the offensive zone. The PA announcer, a local radio personality, is very active and brings a ton of energy to the game. If you dislike PA announcers, loud music, and a high energy atmosphere, a Mammoth game is not for you.
The Pepsi Center is situated in downtown Denver. While a bit of a walk from the Pepsi Center, the Lower Downtown area (LoDo) features countless bars, restaurants, breweries and clubs clustered around Coors Field. The area around Union Station has also undergone a drastic revitalization and offers high quality restaurants and bars (a perfect option if you take the Light Rail to the game). The more traditional downtown areas, like the 16th Street Mall and Larimer Square, are a bit closer and feature everything from popular chain restaurants (Chipotle, Subway) to very high class dining (The Capital Grille, basically anything on Larimer Street). The free 16th Street shuttle makes the entire area very accessible.
Directly adjacent to the Pepsi Center are Brooklyn's and the Tailgate Tavern. While convenient and close to the venue, these establishments pass their high rent directly to the customers. The Shock Top Lodge is built into the Pepsi Center and offers a higher quality alternative to Brooklyn's and the Tailgate, but prices are still high. I'd recommend venturing a bit into downtown to find a little more bang for your buck.
Personal Recommendations for Food and Drink in Downtown:
Illegal Petes on 16th and Wazee for Fast Casual Burritos.
Marlowe's on 16th and Glenarm for a nice sit down meal or cocktails at the bar ($20-$25 per person for dinner).
The Terminal Bar in Union Station on 17th and Wynkoop (craft beer, other restaurants nearby).
As you can guess from the Atmosphere grade, the fans at Mammoth games are a raucous group. Most seem to understand the rules of box lacrosse, including cheering for good defensive plays and jeers for the referees for perceived missed calls. The fans get loud, which is a major positive if you feel that most professional arenas are too quiet and corporate these days.
A lot of fans bring in noisemakers, including cowbells and more than a few vuvuzelas. I personally have had vuvuzelas confiscated going into other venues, so kudos to the Mammoth/NLL for letting fans bring noisemakers to the games.
I mentioned the flames and fireworks intros that the Mammoth players received before the game. The visitors received nothing of the sort. Once the lights come back up and the visitors are introduced, every fan turns away from the floor and either mutters to themselves, checks their phone, or has a conversation with their neighbor. The PA announcer, who introduces each Mammoth player with gusto, runs through the entire list of visiting players in about 20 seconds. I understood a total of 3 names from the other team. A cool little tradition, and something you would expect to find at a college basketball game more than an NLL game.
The Pepsi Center is located right off of Interstate 25, making it an easy drive for anyone living in the Denver metro area. There is plentiful parking for Mammoth games, but it can be expensive. The nearby Auraria Campus, home of the University of Colorado Denver and Metro State University, has cheaper parking while only being a 5-10 minute walk to the arena.
Instead of driving, I would recommend using the excellent Light Rail system that Denver has developed over the last 15 years. Trains serve most of the major Denver suburbs, with the Pepsi Center stop being a two minute walk from the main entrance. Taking the train will also let you enjoy yourself downtown after the game.
There are two entrances to the Pepsi Center - the main atrium, located on the west side and facing Sports Authority Field, and the east side. I recommend using the east entrance for the shortest wait to get inside.
I paid $20 for a ticket 8 rows up from one of the goals. This was the first Mammoth game I've attended, and I had an absolute blast. The game was fast paced and featured some great skill from the players. The atmosphere was electric. The fans were fully into the game. The only reason this doesn't get 5 stars is the concession prices - not terrible, but the Pepsi Center doesn't lower the prices used at Nuggets/Avalanche games for the Mammoth games. Expect to pay NBA/NHL prices for your food and drink.
The entire experience seems like a great time for kids (probably 8 and up - lots of loud noises for young children) as youth lacrosse participation surges across the country. The Mammoth mascot, a woolly mammoth name Wooly, signs autographs and takes pictures during halftime along the concourse.
I purchased my ticket using FlashSeats, an eticket system used by each of the Kroenke Sports teams. Tickets can be purchased from the Mammoth website, with the tickets being credited to your account. You show up to the gate and have the attendant swipe your credit card (or scan a dynamic QE code from your smartphone screen) and your tickets will be printed right at the door. The FlashSeats website and app also allow fans to sell and buy tickets, not only for the KSE teams, but also for local concerts. As an Avalanche season ticket holder, I use the app all the time, and the convenience of the system alone is worth two extra stars.
The Mammoth game I attended was fantastic, even for a novice to the sport of lacrosse. The energy in the arena, skill of the players and overall experience makes any Mammoth game at the Pepsi Center a can't miss event.
The Pepsi Center is a multi-purpose venue in downtown Denver, CO. It is the home of the NLL Mammoth, NBA Nuggets, NHL Avalanche, and also serves as an event center for concerts and conventions throughout the year. The team less portrayed in its souvenir shop, along the walls, and in advertisements is the NLL Mammoth. None the less, the Mammoth games are equally as fun and entertaining to attend at the Pepsi Center as its other sports teams.
Founded in 2003, the Colorado Mammoth are celebrating their 10th season in the NLL this year (2012). They won the NLL Championship in 2006 and have won their division championship in two additional years.
I still don’t quite understand all the rules of lacrosse, particularly the penalties. Why whacking an opponent’s helmet off the front of his head isn’t called a penalty, boggles me. The game feels like a mix between hockey and basketball. The NLL players seem to know and respect each other; however, there are times that some scuffles break out.
Surprisingly well attended franchise here. As this is a venue used by both the NBA and NHL, it has all the major league food options, but prices are a bit much. I loved the Arby's burgers on the 100 level, but at $6.25, a bit more than you would pay outside, but what else is new. Parking is also overpriced, but easy to exit after the game. There are ticket deals, including a "Guys night out" which gives you 2 tickets, 2 beers (or sodas) and $10 credit at the gift shop for $29. The NLL generally only plays on the weekend, but they can switch between hockey and lacrosse quite quickly, so check for a doubleheader, which happens once or twice a year.
1000 Chopper Circle
Denver, CO 80204
1055 Auraria Pkwy
Denver, CO 80204
901 Auraria Pkwy
Denver, CO 80204
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