The Pepsi Center is a multiuse facility that hosts the Denver Nuggets, Colorado Avalanche, and the Colorado Mammoth NLL (lacrosse) team as well as numerous concerts and shows throughout the year. The Pepsi Center opened in 1999 and remains a state of the art venue 16 years later. It has three levels of seats and two suite levels. The Pepsi Center catches the fan and any architecture lover's eye right away. It combines soft curves and an overall elliptical shape, contrasting them with sharp triangle-like protrusions that are made up of hundreds of windows - creating awesome glass facades, giving everyone a "wow" sensation when it is admired from close or afar.
The Denver Nuggets have played at the Pepsi Center since 1999 but have a long history with the ABA and NBA. The Nuggets began play in 1967 in the now defunct ABA under the name “Aurora Larks.” After one season, they changed their name to the Denver Rockets until 1974. Just imagine if that name had stuck today. The Rockets had modest ABA success with multiple playoff seasons but early exits each year. Under the new Nuggets name, they made the ABA finals in 1976 before losing to Julius Erving and the New York Nets.
NBA success for the Nuggets has been varied. There have been some periods where the Nuggets make the playoffs multiple years in a row as well as years of continued struggles. The Nuggets have made three western conference finals and lost all three. The franchise record for wins in a season is 57 during the 2012-2013 season but that year ended like so many other Nuggets playoff runs; a first round loss.
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 food options at the Pepsi Center vary on which seating level you are on. All seating levels have the obligatory stadium fare such as hot dogs, hamburgers, nachos, etc. This type of food is priced around the norm for stadium food. Snacks such as pretzels, candy, and popcorn are found at multiple spots throughout the stadium. One change from the basics that I think is a downgrade is Marcos Pizza taking over the Old Chicago stands. While Marcos Pizza is good, it is not worth the seven dollars a slice charged here. The best value for a basic food item is a cheesesteak priced at $7.50. This sandwich has plenty of steak in it and I seem to always have pieces in the wrapper after I am done eating it. Throw in a side of onion rings for $3.75 and you have yourself a tasty meal. Another value item is a kids pack. For five dollars, kids have the choice of a burger or hot dog plus a small drink. I haven't seen one of these ordered but in stadium pricing terms, two items for five dollars is a steal.
Some of the better items are downstairs on the main concourse. There is a chicken and waffles stand on the lower level which is quite popular. A baked potato stand offers a filling meal at a reasonable seven dollar price. Many more of the stands are open downstairs vs. upstairs where some stands may be closed depending on the amount of people at the game.
Pepsi Products are served here which is no surprise given the name of the arena. Prices run from $4 to a $7 souvenir cup. Domestic beer such as Budweiser products are served for $7.50. There are plenty of drink choices around the stadium and most are slightly below NBA average. The JP Wisers club on the lower level is quite popular with fans. Solo beer carts and beer vendors are available to sell their products away from concession stands here which makes concession lines go quick during stoppages of play.
Where the food and drink get interesting are at the Pepsi Center's in-house bar (Blue Sky Grill) and restaurant (The Ridgeline). Both of these special destinations are located within the club level although The Ridgeline can be accessed by any fan within five minutes left in the game. The Ridgeline offers a full and unique menu with a long wine list as well. Plus, The Ridgeline has many micro brew options for the more picky beer drinker and it features its own patio in case a fan needs to step outside for some fresh air. Blue Sky Grill is a full service bar and restaurant that focuses on Western cuisine, including buffalo tenderloin, buffalo rib eye and ribs. The regular food and drink stands have a short wait time. One of the highlights is a carvery station where you can get a sandwich and a choice of chips or pasta salad.
The atmosphere at a Denver Nuggets game is fun and family friendly. There are numerous games and things on the scoreboard to keep the fans entertained during breaks in action.
One nice perk about going to Nuggets games at the Pepsi Center is seeing Rocky the Mountain Lion in action. He is the most entertaining NBA mascot I've seen. Various acts from Rocky include shooting half court shots with his back to the basket, sitting with unsuspecting fans and posing for pictures on the kiss cam, and playfully messing with fans or referees. On rare occasions, Rocky can be found interacting with a player. Earlier this year vs the Houston Rockets, Rocky and Dwight Howard had a good "mock" battle going the entire game. Dwight and Rocky kept antagonizing each other playfully throughout the game and it kept fans on the edge of their seats wanting more.
Entering the stadium and going to your seat can be a challenge at times. Most fans walking from downtown will try the southeastern gate which can get very crowded. Take the short walk to the southwestern gate instead. There are more employees working the gates and you can usually get right in. Once you enter the stadium, there is a gift shop in the atrium. All fans will have to take an escalator, elevator, or stairs to get to all levels of the stadium. The first set of stairs/escalators will take you to the 100 level. A second set of escalators or stairs will take fans to the 300 level. Watch carefully for signs to the club level as it is kind of hidden. There are close to 80 sections on the main level as well as upstairs. Even numbered sections are higher up while the odd numbers are rows one through six or seven. The seats are wide and padded (!). The angled pitch of the seats is lower so if you have someone tall in front of you, it may be a problem. That being said, there are no bad seats in the place and I have literally sat everywhere.
One nice thing about the concourse area is the amount of television sets around. One can use the bathroom or get something to eat or drink and not miss the action. There are televisions everywhere it seems. Speaking of television monitors, the scoreboards in the stadium are massive. If you are sitting behind a basket, the scoreboards aren't very intrusive. If you are sitting on the sidelines, the televisions are intrusive. Think AT&T Stadium - home of the Dallas Cowboys big. I often find myself watching the TV since it's a better view. I catch myself doing this no less than a dozen times a game. The good thing about these is that replays and other things are crystal clear.
The Pepsi Center is in a great location that is close to downtown Denver. There are numerous places to get a bite to eat or have a drink before the game. Brooklyn's is a block away from the stadium and has an extensive drink list as well as great pub food. It fills up quickly before and after games but has two floors worth of tables and seating areas. The area just off Brooklyn's seems to be where the action is as far as the secondary ticket market goes. It is illegal to buy or sell on the Pepsi Center premises but most scalpers will be across the street. One thing to note, Nuggets games are a buyers' market as most games don't sell out. The lower level seems to sell well but there are quite a few pockets of open seats in the upper bowl.
Fans who come from downtown will like the Lodo district in downtown Denver as well as the 16th St Mall area. If you are looking for a hole in the wall restaurant, these neighborhoods are your best bet. Either place is a short walk or cab ride away from the stadium.
Amusement park fans will like the fact that the Elitch Gardens is a block or two away from the Pepsi Center. It is seasonal but you can't miss the coasters and ferris wheel outside of the stadium when lit up.
There are plenty of police around the Pepsi Center area and the areas surrounding it are safe. Downtown Denver in general is very safe. As with any big city, be careful of your surroundings but I've never had a problem.
Nuggets fans at the Pepsi Center are loud and boisterous. They cheer at the right moments and appreciate the good plays made by their team. It does seem as if Denver isn't much of a basketball town unless they are winning. Most games have not been sold out and the Nuggets are near the bottom of the league in attendance. Some big name teams have had a lot of fans there and can be heard during a game cheering their own team. I haven't heard of any out of town fans getting hassled by Nuggets fans during games.
There aren't many chants or cheers during the game. The PA announcer will try a "whose ball - Nuggets ball" chant but most fans don't take the bait. One unique cheer is when the Nuggets make a three point basket. The PA announcer will say "Ty Lawson for 1.... 2 (echo after 2) and the crowd will yell 3!!
The Pepsi Center is easily accessible by car or train. By car, it is right off of I-25 and Speer Blvd. Parking is plentiful and will set you back between $5-$20 dollars depending on how close to the stadium you want to be. After the game, getting out is a bit of a hassle if you park close by. Traffic is congested and the flow isn't very good. For an easier time, park downtown near Wewatta or another main downtown street and walk over. You will save money on parking and have a much easier time leaving the stadium.
Taking a cab after the game can be an adventure. The lines for cabs after the game are not marked well at all and many fans get yelled at for not being in line by a taxi cab employee. A better solution would be to have a rope up to keep things in order like the Broncos do. There are plenty of cabs though and the lines do go quickly. Pedi cabs are available as well.
Taking the light rail to a game is a great way to go to a game. You can go from the outskirts of Denver to the Pepsi Center in a half hour or so and the drop off point is a block from the stadium. Most rides will cost a few dollars one way.
Nuggets games are quite entertaining when you add up the whole experience from tip off to the closing buzzer. The mascot and dance team keep fans entertained as well as the promotions team. The food and drink here is at or slightly below league average. Ticket prices seem fair and there are many discounts throughout the year.
The scoreboards are too big for the arena but they are quick to show replays and various other things. Getting score sheets and rosters each game is an added plus that isn't available at every NBA stadium. Souvenir stands here have a sale item of the game each game that offers a discount on a Nuggets related item. The friendliness and helpfulness of ushers and staff earn an extra point here as well.
Seeing a Denver Nuggets game at the Pepsi Center is a fun experience. The Nuggets haven't had a lot of success the past few seasons but seem to play in close games and win their fair share while playing at home.
The Pepsi Center is easily accessible and is located in one of the best cities for nightlife in the U.S. If you haven't been to a game here yet, it should be a must see.
As the Pepsi Center moves into its second decade of use in 2011, the arena remains state-of-the-art both inside and out. Located in the heart of Denver, Pepsi is definitely the center of attention on many Colorado nights and the stunning multi-use arena is befitting the beautiful capital of the Centennial State. It is home of the NBA's Denver Nuggets, the NHL's Colorado Avalanche, the NLL's Colorado Mammoth, and it regularly hosts the world's biggest musical performers when they come to town.
The Pepsi Center catches the fan and any architecture lover's eye right away. It combines soft curves and an overall elliptical shape, contrasting them with sharp triangle-like protrusions that are made up of hundreds of windows - creating awesome glass facades, giving everyone a "wow" sensation when it is admired from close or afar.
The many doors at the main entrance of the Pepsi Center and the plentiful number of ushers eager to help in any way possible makes going into the building a breeze. After entering into the grand atrium, the "Altitude Authentics" team store invites visitors and is seemingly always packed. Fans can find all the latest gear for both the Nuggets and Avalanche and the store offers all the hats, jerseys and other memorabilia that can't be found anywhere else.
As you travel up the great escalators in the huge entrance of the Pepsi Center, you notice a massive and visually interesting hanging statue, half made up of hockey players, half basketballers.
Once on the first, second or third level, food and drink stands and bathrooms are abundant while their lines are usually nonexistent. When it comes to watching a game, there's literally not a bad seat in the house as the Pepsi Center is a marvelous place to catch a competitive contest.
Pepsi, or "The Can", has been arguably the top sporting venue in the Mile High City since it opened in 2001. What makes it great? A few things. First and foremost is the fan experience. Ushers are wonderful. Lines move quickly into the stadium and the great atrium is certainly inviting. Lately, the Pepsi was upgraded with four gigantic screens hanging over the hardwood/ice. Owners had to make the tough call of choosing only basketball and hockey (the screens hang too low for indoor football, which was played there in the past), but the choice was an intelligent one. Pepsi is wonderful through and through and has barely shown its age.
Great location, good fans, easy to get to on transit, tickets affordable, if only the team could meet expectations, this would be one of the best venues in the NBA.
1190 Auraria Pkwy
Denver, CO 80204