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  • Writer's pictureMeg Minard

Magness Arena – Denver Pioneers Basketball

Photos by Meg Minard, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.14

Magness Arena 2240 Buchtel Blvd Denver, CO 80208

Year Opened: 1999

Capacity: 7,200


Crimson and Gold

University of Denver (DU) Pioneers are more known for their ice hockey, lacrosse, and skiing teams; not so much their basketball team. That doesn’t mean a fan should forego attending a basketball game at the impressive Magness Arena which opened in 1999. The school colors of crimson and gold are proudly displayed in the arena and along the walkways outside the venue. DU Pioneer murals and banners are prominently hung along the concourse walls and from the rafters above the court.

Most of the banners and the history shown in the concourse (there’re many to see and view) are not of the men’s basketball program but from the other fine sporting teams and programs the University of Denver has developed. Take some time to stroll the concourse to see and read the DU Pioneers’ accomplishments presented here.

Beginning in 1904 the basketball team played at a regional level. After WWII, the team was in an NCAA Div 1 position until 1979 when they moved to Div II and NAIA levels. The Pioneers moved back up to Div 1 in 1998 and have been in the Sun Belt Conference, the Western Athletic Conference and are currently a member of The Summit League (beginning in 2013).

Food & Beverage 3

Although not all food concession stands are open for a basketball game at Magness Arena, there is still enough open for a snack or meal when attending a match.

Three choices of burgers with fries or a chicken finger basket go for $8.75, fish and chips are $9, pizza, bratwurst or a hot dog run $4.50 – $5.50. Snacks include popcorn, nachos, candy, and soft pretzels ($3.50 – $5.50).

Pepsi is the soft drink provider with drinks running $4.25 – $6.50. Bottled water and hot chocolate/coffee are also for sale ($4). Alcohol is served at Magness Arena. The concession stands offer the domestic Budweiser and Coors brands, while Shock Top, Canadian Molsen, and Colorado Native are available at some stands ($7.75). A separate cocktail kiosk offers hard liquor, beer, wine, hard cider, and margaritas ($7.50 – $9).

Visa, MasterCard, and cash are accepted at all stands.

Atmosphere 3

Magness Arena provides an enjoyable, safe environment in which to watch a game.

All seats are crimson colored and are either cushioned folding chairs or stadium-style, fold-down seats (cushioned as well). Most have cup holders and except for court side or handicapped sections, legroom is minimal. The seating area surrounds the court, however, for low attendance games, the end zones are blocked off with black curtains. Select seats in section 11 if wanting to face the logo center court and look at the player benches.

A four-sided, center hung video board televises the game live and the quality is pretty crisp and clear. Two LED video boards which display players on court and their stats (points, assists, rebounds, fouls, etc) are mounted in opposite corners of the arena and dot matrix scoreboards are in the opposite corners of the venue.

Cheerleaders and a pep band are present. Giveaways include things like T’s for 3’s or if the Pioneers get 80 points or more, everyone gets a coupon for a Smiling Moose sandwich. Half time entertainment at the game of this review was a basketball contest between two local elementary schools (always enjoyable to watch). The music is a tad on the loud side (sometimes can’t hear what the announcer is stating clearly) but for the most part is only played on breaks and at half time.

Magness Arena is kept chilly so remember to bring a jacket and gloves (yes, even to a basketball game).

Neighborhood 3

I did not notice a hotel within walking distance (1/2 mile) to the arena. However, there are many along the RTD light rail line. There’s a LaQuinta Inn & Suites one light rail station away (without light rail, it’s maybe a 1.2 mile hike to DU).

Many eating establishments are within walking distance (1/2 mile or less) of the University. Fast food chains of Qdoba, Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, Starbucks, Jimmy John’s, etc are close by. Two non-fast food places I can recommend are Crimson and Gold Tavern and Spanky’s Urban Roadhouse. Both are sports bars with 5+ TVs showing a variety of sporting events. Food and service is fine at both places, nothing fancy – a good salad or burger and a beer. Jerusalem Restaurant, an award winning Middle Eastern inn, is just a few blocks away and also worth a visit.

For those into craft brews, Fermaentra, a small, independently-owned brewery is also just a few blocks away and offers a variety of artsy, world class brews.

Plenty of sporting venues are in the Ritchie Center (the sports complex of the University of Denver – including Magness Arena) and surrounding area: lacrosse, tennis, gymnastics, soccer, and more. Take a stroll through the campus and neighborhood to see the playing fields and the buildings that are rich with beauty and tradition with 21st century buildings mixed with those built from the 1890s – 1950s.

The Pepsi Center is a little over 6 miles from Magness Arena (and accessible via the light rail) so if in town and a little Nuggets action is desired, take the E line down or head south on I-25.

Fans 3

Pioneer basketball fans are a delightful mix. The biggest fans are the players, cheerleaders, and pep band. Lots of families with children in tow are present. Some students attend – not many – I expect when the Pioneers play local rival Colorado College this may increase, even in basketball. Plenty of alumni and retired fans attend the games as well.

All fans are respectful of visiting fans, players and each other. It is a safe place to visit.

Access 4

Getting to the arena is extremely easy via either light rail or vehicle.

Light Rail lines E, F, H drop you off at the University station. The light rail fare went up on 1/1/2019 ($10.50 all-day pass) so it is actually less expensive to drive and park ($5) and since the basketball arena doesn’t fill up, it’s pretty easy getting out after a game. The arena is right off the I-25 / University Ave exit.

In addition, one can find neighborhood parking just two blocks away at no charge. Some close-by metered parking can be found which is monitored Mon – Sat; free on Sundays.

Denver International (DIA) is the closet commercial airport about 30 miles from the university.

The concourse does not get packed during half time so people movement is free flowing. Plenty of clean restrooms are handy with almost no lines.

Return on Investment 4

Individual tickets run $12 – $17, so it’s very affordable sports entertainment. With the ability to park for free ($5 at the most) and average concession prices, attending a game is worth the price. Hopefully the team will start winning more games and then the dollars spent will become an even better entertainment investment.

Extras 2

The court has a picturesque city skyline with mountain peaks in the background, quite fitting for Denver.

A small merchandise stand with clothing and trinkets is on right upon entering the west entrance (the side across from the soccer and lacrosse fields by the carillon tower).

Final Thoughts

Watching some basketball at the University of Denver offers an opportunity for fans of any age to enjoy college level play at very affordable prices. Minimal student influence deprives the game of some college atmosphere, but the experience is still a positive one.

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