Photos by Matt Finnigan, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 2.14
Dick’s Sporting Goods Park 6000 Victory Way Commerce City, CO 80022
Year Opened: 2007
Dick’s Sporting Goods Park: An Uncertain Future
When Dick’s Sporting Goods Park opened in 2007, it provided a new, cozy home for the MLS’s Colorado Rapids after having played the first decade of their existence in cavernous NFL Stadiums (Mile High Stadium from 1996-2000 and Empower Field at Mile High from 2001-2006).
DSG Park, as it’s come to be known, promised to be a long-term home for the Rapids, with empty acreage surrounding the facility to be developed into just about anything in the suburb of Commerce City, north of downtown Denver. The ensuing 16 years have seen that acreage sit mostly empty while the MLS’s expansion boom has brought with it a proliferation of new soccer facilities aimed at providing great fan experiences.
DSG Park now sits at a crossroads. The City of Commerce City owns DSG Park, leasing it to the Rapids’ ownership group, Kroenke Sports Enterprises (“KSE”), for $1 per year over 25 years. The City has accused KSE of failing to keep promises to develop the 917 acres appurtenant to the stadium.
With the City’s recent rejection of a land-swap proposal, KSE and the City have ponied up $25,000 apiece to fund a contest sponsored by the Commercial Real Estate Development Association in which Colorado college students will submit proposed plans to develop the land around DSG Park. The stadium itself has what the real estate industry calls “good bones” but, after 16 years, could use significant updating and attractions around it.
This comes at a time when the Rapids have a strained relationship with their fan base. Centennial 38, the franchise’s official supporter group, wrote an open letter to the Rapids’ front office in October 2023, taking exception with KSE’s management and operation of the team and facilities.
DSG “has been neglected, and without proper maintenance and periodic upgrades has become tired and run-down,” the group wrote. “While there are plans to address the stadium’s condition, these measures are long overdue and taking far too long to implement.”
Centennial 38 appears to be correct. DSG Park has lost its new-pitch feel and needs updates. Until the surrounding land is developed, soccer will be the only reason to come. Unless KSE significantly upgrades existing facilities at DSG Park, soccer alone likely won’t draw fans.
Food & Beverage 3
DSG Park’s dining and drinking options are in line with what a fan would expect to find at a professional sports stadium: burgers, hot dogs, pizza, chicken tenders, and nachos. Freddy’s has a location in the northwest corner of DSG Park, offering familiar items off its menu.
Biker Jim’s Dogs, a very good local hot dog stand, has a restaurant in Dale’s Bar at the stadium’s south end (along with a good selection of craft beer from the eponymous Colorado brewery). The Rapids serve Coca-Cola products in plastic bottles for those eschewing alcohol for aspartame and sugar. Additionally, a small food truck area is just outside Dale’s Bar, with a projection screen TV and picnic tables. All in all, DSG Park’s menu is about what you’d expect to find at an MLS venue.
DSG Park has entrances on the east, south, and west sides. Just inside, the concourse encircles the seating bowl below. Sight lines are good, as the facility was designed for watching soccer. Concourses are sufficiently wide to accommodate concession stand queues and fans finding their seats.
The stadium’s primary video board sits above and behind the north goal. However, the picture is noticeably poor; several squares in the video screen appear to be broken. The public address system might also need an update because there are several locations around the stadium in which that system is inaudible. The stadium could use a new coat of paint in several conspicuous places, as well.
The closer your seat to the centerline, the better. Corner seats do not offer good perspective when play happens at the far end of the pitch. Centennial 38 provides strong vocal and musical (drums and vuvuzelas) support. Visiting teams’ support groups take up the northwest corner of DSG Park, in Section 135.
The surrounding neighborhood has all the charm of a government campus – because that’s exactly what the surrounding neighborhood is. Commerce City’s town hall, fire department, and police station all sit just to the west of DSG Park, neighbored by the United States Postal Service’s Denver Bulk Mail Center. In other words, DSG has a great location for pulling a building permit, reporting a crime, or mailing merchandise catalogs, but not necessarily for a great fan experience.
Additionally, 23 full-size soccer pitches surround DSG Park. These serve national soccer and lacrosse tournaments well but to the exclusion of restaurants and bars for pre- or post-game meetups. If the Rapids can properly develop some of the surrounding acreage and provide reasons for fans to come to games early and stay afterward, this rating will improve.
The fans have stopped coming to DSG Park. In 2023, the Rapids ranked 28th out of 29 MLS teams in both average (15,409 per game) and total (261,953) attendance. Thus, only about 85.3 percent of the stadium is filled for the Rapids 17 home games. And when MLS enjoyed a 5 percent attendance jump from 2022 to 2023, the Rapids saw their home attendance remain flat.
Nonetheless, true dedication and a love of the beautiful sport still draw fans to DSG Park. Those in attendance are loud and enthusiastic. As Centennial 38’s open letter to KSE shows, the Rapids’ fan base is a spirited yet disillusioned one. Without upgrades to DSG Park, the Rapids may well lose that fan base to apathy.
Because of DSG Park’s location, most fans coming from in and around Denver will take Interstate 270. By any reasonable estimation, I-270 is a pothole-pocked, concrete ribbon that was designed and built by a misanthropic public works department. It’s that bad.
Parking is free – a good thing. But returning to the car after dark presents a challenge, as fans may have to navigate through unlighted fields. Much of the signage in and around DSG Park has faded in the Colorado wind and sun.
Public transportation could be an option, albeit a limited one. The nearest bus stop is approximately one mile away, at 56th Avenue and Quebec Street. Using public transportation to make the 10.3-mile trip to DSG Park from the Capitol in downtown Denver takes almost 90 minutes because of transfers and lengthy walks.
The Rapids do provide bike parking on the exterior of the stadium’s west side, in the Burgundy Bike Lot; however, only two bikes were parked there on a recent visit. A Rapids game at DSG Park requires both a ticket and an automobile.
Return on Investment 4
Statistically, a Rapids game is one of the most affordable in the MLS. The Athletic’s 2022 MLS Fan Cost Index rated the Rapids as the league’s fifth-most affordable experience ($264.22), comparing the costs of four weighted, non-premium tickets, combined with the lowest stadium pricing for four sodas, four hot dogs, two beers, two supporter scarves, and parking. Only FC Dallas ($201.44), Orlando City ($251.14), Vancouver Whitecaps FC ($253.64), and CF Montreal ($261.54) were more affordable than the Rapids.
Parking is free at DSG Park. So too are game programs. Hot dogs ($3), popcorn ($6), basic nachos ($3), and fries ($5) are surprisingly well priced. Premium beer cans, canned cocktails, and hard seltzer cans sell for $14. Domestic beer is $12 and wine is $10, while bottled soda is available for $5.50. Ticket prices average between $25-$39, a very good price range in the MLS.
Check out the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, located just to the north of DSG Park. It’s a three-minute drive, just over a mile away. It’s also free. The 25 square-mile refuge has more than 330 species of wildlife that include bison, deer, black-tailed prairie dogs, and raptors (many of whom like to dine on black-tailed prairie dogs). An 11-mile paved loop enables visitors to enjoy the arsenal without having to leave their cars and expose themselves to aggressive bison.
Right now, Gertrude Stein’s “there is no there there” seems an apt description of DSG Park: a pitch, without much else. DSG Park has great potential. Realization of that potential will require a vision, time, and money. The Rapids’ ownership needs to give fans a reason besides a game to come to DSG Park.