- Matt Finnigan
Dick’s Sporting Goods Park – Colorado Rapids
Photos by Matt Finnigan and Meg Minard, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.71
Dick’s Sporting Goods Park 6000 Victory Way Commerce City, CO 80022
Dick’s Sporting Goods Park website
Year Opened: 2007
Colorado Rapids and DSG Park
Back in 1994, the United States hosted the World Cup. Riding the wave of public interest and enthusiasm in soccer that World Cup sparked, the 10-team Major League Soccer launched two years later with no guarantees of success or even survival. One of the league’s original teams, the Colorado Rapids, symbolizes the success that MLS has enjoyed in the 25 years since Brazil defeated Italy at the Rose Bowl to earn that World Cup.
The Rapids played their first six seasons (1996-2001) in cavernous Mile High Stadium and the ensuing five seasons (2002-2006) in its equally cavernous replacement, Empower Field at Mile High. Both stadiums were built for American football and both seated more than 76,000 fans. Denver-based Kroenke Sports Enterprises, Inc., which also owns English Premier League’s Arsenal club, purchased the Rapids in 2004. In 2007, the Rapids moved into their current home, the 18,061-seat Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, or DSG Park. The Rapids frequently play in front of raucous home crowds that fill the stadium. From pre-game tailgates until the final whistle, a Rapids match at DSG Park will thrill even a casual soccer fan.
Food & Beverage 4
DSG Park offers a large array of food and drink options. Along with familiar standbys such as hot dogs ($6), nachos ($6), and pizzas ($8.75), fans can enjoy a quinoa salad ($8.25) or a beef cheesesteak ($8). The GB Fish & Chips stand on the stadium’s south side complements the action on the pitch. The Taco Shack, on the concourse along DSG Park’s north end, is a culinary revelation. It offers made-to-order vegetarian, braised chicken, beef barbacoa, and pork carnitas tacos, bowls, and salads with three salsa options ($9.25).
The taps at DSG Park pour a wide variety of beers. Budweiser products are available at most concession stands ($9.25 regular/$10.50 souvenir). Beer-only concessionaires are placed throughout the concourses, easing the lines at the stadium’s primary concession stands. There, fans will find both domestic bombers ($10.75) and premium bombers ($12.50). The Odell Brewing Pitch Pub on the east concourse has a wide selection of the Fort Collins-based brewer’s beers.
One of DSG Park’s best features is the Eighteen76 pub on the south side of DSG Park. The name is a nod to Colorado’s year of admission to statehood. Fans can enjoy food and beer there, with abundant seating and patio areas. When the weather is nice, staff can raise garage doors to open the building fully. This space hosts pre and post-game events and is a great option for a more sedate dining experience during a game.
DSG Park’s design as a soccer-specific stadium enables fans to enjoy great sight lines all along the pitch. Particularly in light of the mammoth size of the Rapids’ first two homes, fans are close to the action – even in the last row of a section. Every seat has a chair back and drink holder. The rows themselves are narrow and thus difficult to navigate when filled.
The seating bowl circles the pitch below, with fans entering from the concourses above. The game day experience is tailored to honor well-established soccer traditions. For instance, both teams enter the pitch in single-file with youth soccer players from the stadium’s north side. C 38’s sections create the match’s pulse; opponents’ fans can sit together in section 136.
Concourses are quite wide, permitting fans to see the game from multiple vantage points as they walk around the stadium. The concourses house plenty of concession stands for food, drink, and team merchandise. Impressively, the primary team store, on DSG Park’s west side, sells a wide variety of team scarves not only for the Rapids, but also for their sister club, Arsenal.
Because DSG Park is properly situated amid acres containing nearly 25 soccer and lacrosse fields, there is not a neighborhood to which fans can walk. A short drive, however, will take fans to a wide range of dining and entertainment options. The nearby Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge merits a visit. More than 330 species of mammals (including bison), birds (including bald eagles), reptiles, amphibians and fish call the refuge home and visitors can explore on foot or by car, via the refuge’s 11-mile Wildlife Drive that snakes through the property.
Shoppers, eaters, and fun-lovers will enjoy the Stapleton neighborhood, a development built on Denver’s former airport of the same name. That the complex sits on the former airport grounds is not simply a cool, historical aside, the control tower from the Stapleton International Airport remains. It stands next to and above Punch Bowl Social, which has a full bar and menu, bowling, arcade games, and billiards. Franchises of Gameworks and Bass Pro Shops are also located at Stapleton.
DSG Park does not have a hotel within walking distance. Again, the Stapleton neighborhood offers several lodging options – some of which, such as the Renaissance Denver Stapleton, were built for Stapleton International Airport and have survived despite its closure in 1995. Stapleton features newer hotels, including a Staybridge Suites and a Residence Inn less than a 10-minute drive from DSG Park.
Simply put, the Rapids have a large, enthusiastic, and knowledgeable crowd. The team does not need to exhort fans to cheer via scoreboard displays or loud music. The fans are constantly engaged, passionately urging on the Rapids. Youth soccer teams help fill the stands, providing another loud and collective voice.
The Rapids, like their brethren not only in the MLS but globally, have a thriving supporters group, Centennial 38, or “C 38.” The group takes its name to honor the State of Colorado, which joined the United States in 1876, the nation’s centennial, as our 38th State. The Rapids permit C 38 members bring drums and noisemakers into DSG Park. C 38 now has two sections at DSG: Section 108, with seats along the stadium’s east side; and Section 117, a standing-room area behind the south goal. The group hosts a large pre-game tailgate and bus service to and from bars in downtown Denver for every home match.
DSG Park sits approximately 10 miles from downtown Denver, in Commerce City. Youth soccer and lacrosse fields, and parking lots surround the 360-acre complex. Access, however, presents somewhat of a challenge. Mass transit does not serve the facility, so automobile travel is the only option for fans attending a Rapids game. Cars enter the complex through labyrinthine, two-lane streets that feed into parking lots. Although parking is abundant and team staff capably directs cars into open parking spaces, the process of entering the lots demands time and patience.
C 38 offers what may be the most fun way to travel to and from Rapids games: the Supporters Bus. The group charters buses that stop at three pubs in downtown Denver: the British Bulldog, the Celtic on Market, and Baere Brewing. For a suggested $10 fee, fans can purchase a ticket that includes a round trip between the pub and DSG Park and refreshments en route that include hot dogs, pizza, sodas, and beer. Tickets for the Supporters Bus sell out, so C 38 encourages fans to purchase tickets in advance at the group’s website. Rapids supporters thus have a fun option to leave their cars in Denver and engage with their fellow fans, all while someone else handles the driving.
Return on Investment 5
A Rapids match at DSG Park provides a decent return on investment. Tickets range in price from $22 to $80, depending on the game and the opponent. The team also offers a Coca-Cola Fan Pack: two tickets, two soft drinks, and two meals for $52.
The Rapids do not charge for parking. Food and drink prices align with what fans expect to pay at a professional sporting event, and may be slightly lower. Given the level of excitement that awaits fans inside, a visit to DSG Park is a solid return on investment.
Free parking at DSG Park merits acknowledgement. Parking adjacent to some sporting venues can cost more than $50, depending on the facility and the teams playing. The Rapids, by contrast, have rejected what would otherwise be a steady source of cash by providing free parking.
The Rapids also have a wall in DSG Park where they name all of the season ticket holders. This is nice recognition of some of the club’s most ardent supporters.
DSG Park also earns a point for a rarity that more professional sports franchises should consider including: diaper-changing stations in the men’s restrooms.
Professional soccer continues to grow in popularity in the United States, as Major League Soccer will expand to 28 teams by 2022 with new franchises in Miami, Nashville, Austin, and St. Louis. A Colorado Rapids match at DSG Park serves as a microcosm of that success and illustrates the importance of a spirited, robust fan base. Quality food and drink options, exciting play, and a beautiful pitch combine to make a match at DSG Park a first-rate spectator experience.