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  • Matt Finnigan

Magness Arena - Denver Pioneers

Photos by Matt Finnigan, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.14

Magness Arena 2240 Buchtel Blvd Denver, CO 80208

Year Opened: 1999

Capacity: 6,026


Magness Mayhem

Since launching its hockey program in 1949, the Denver Pioneers have enjoyed 70 years of success. The team has won eight NCAA Championships (most recently in 2017) and has produced 47 All-Americans and 78 players who have played in the National Hockey League. The program’s success is reflected well in its rink, Magness Arena, which provides one of the country’s top college hockey experiences.

Magness Arena is part of DU’s Ritchie Center, the 440,000-square-foot hub of the school’s athletic and entertainment endeavors. All 17 Pioneer intercollegiate sports practice, compete and have offices in or adjacent to the Ritchie Center.

Fans attending a DU hockey game can also peek from Magness’s concourses into DU’s volleyball facility and the El Pomar Natatorium, the only Olympic-sized swimming pool in Denver.

In building the Ritchie Center more than 20 years ago, DU’s leadership obviously contemplated a facility that would centralize its athletic department. That design did not compromise the experience for Pioneer fans and students, who enjoy watching high-level hockey in a facility that both reflects and honors the program’s historic success.

Food & Beverage 4

Magness Arena offers a wide variety of quality food and drinks options at reasonable prices. Old favorites include three types of burgers (cheeseburger, bacon cheeseburger, and guacamole burger), with fries, for $8.75; a chicken finger basket for $8.75; pizza for $9; and fish and chips for $9. Additionally, made-to-order street tacos, including hatch green chile, pico de gallo, cojita cheese, and black bean and corn salsa, are available for $9. Other available snacks include bratwurst ($5.50), hot dogs ($4.50), and nachos ($5).

Beyond food, Magness has an impressively wide variety of beverage options. The arena features multiple, full bars that offer cocktails ($8) and margaritas ($8) with top-shelf liquor.

Beer drinkers can opt for any of at least ten different brews at Magness Arena, with craft beer ($9) and domestic ($8) available on tap and in cans. Available beers include Dales Pale Ale, Sandlot, Batch 19, Fat Tire, Sierra Nevada, and a variety of brews from locally based Breckenridge Brewing. White Claw Hard Seltzer ($9) and hard cider ($8) are available in cans.

Those looking for non-alcoholic drinks have their choice of Pepsi products ($5 per bottle) and bottled water ($4). Notably, DU has a coffee cart in Magness’s main lobby. Baristas serve lattes, mochas, cappuccinos, espresso, coffee, and hot chocolate for $4 per cup.

Atmosphere 4

Most fans enter Magness Arena on the building’s west side, directly beneath the 215-foot-tall, gold-spired Williams Tower. Ticket windows have been placed both outsides and inside the arena’s west entrance, where the Pioneer cheer squad welcomes fans into Magness Arena’s main lobby. From there, fans can circumnavigate the seating bowl through wide concourses that include concession stands, two merchandise areas, marketing tables, and kiosks for contests and creating signs.

Magness Arena does not have a bad seat. That said, the seats along the sideline opposite the team benches enable fans to be so close to the action that players can be heard shouting to one another on the ice.

A large, 360-degree scoreboard with video screens hangs over the center ice. It displays in-game promotions and replays clearly. A color scoreboard along each goal line provides team statistics throughout games.

DU honors its athletic history throughout its concourses, so a lap around the rink is advised.

Most notably, the school’s athletic hall of fame’s plaques adorns a wall on the arena’s west concourse. Fans can learn about the contributions of former DU athletes in all sports there. The school also displays its various trophies throughout the concourses.

Because DU built Magness Arena on campus, many students can walk to games. This means that the Pios routinely play in front of a lively student section, which includes the school’s pep band and cheer squad. On the night of this review, DU recorded a 7-2 win over Miami (Ohio) and gave frequent reasons for the 5,226 fans in attendance to cheer.

Neighborhood 5

The neighborhood surrounding DU features beautiful homes and gardens, along with a full range of dining and entertainment options. Restaurants and bars abound along South University Boulevard on DU’s east side and along Evans Street, which virtually bisects the campus.

The Crimson and Gold Tavern is .2 of a mile from Magness Arena and is a popular pre- and post-game meeting spot, with drink specials and a late-night menu. Jerusalem Restaurant serves some of Denver’s best Mediterranean and Middle Eastern Food and is a short drive from Magness. Plenty of fast-casual restaurants, including Mustard’s Last Stand (hot dogs and burgers) and the flagship Chipotle store, can be found near DU.

DU’s Campus sits among some of Denver’s most popular neighborhoods. The 155-acre Washington Park is less than two miles to the north, providing numerous recreation options and an adjacent neighborhood with bars, restaurants, and shops along Gaylord Street. Bonnie Brae is another well-established Denver neighborhood, north of campus along University Boulevard and includes one of the Mile High City’s favorite ice cream shops, Bonnie Brae Ice Cream.

Multiple hotel options exist nearby in Denver’s Cherry Creek and Glendale neighborhoods, both of which are just a short drive away from DU.

Fans 4

Students provide a sporting event’s energy and heartbeat, and a DU hockey game is no different. The DU student section, the “Pio Pit,” sits behind the goal at Magness Arena’s north end. Students pound on the glass, cheer against rival Colorado College (regardless of whom the Pioneers are actually playing) and taunt opponents with different messages written on a large dry-erase board that they press against the glass. One caveat: the students launch into off-color, though thoughtfully choreographed, cheers. Sitting at the opposite end of the arena will muffle the students’ sometimes ribald cheering.

In general, DU hockey fans are smart and conscientious. They pay close attention to the game and roar when the Pioneers beat the opposing goalie. Most fans appear engaged in the action on the ice and not in merely socializing. Accordingly, concession lines are at their longest between periods and during time-outs.

Access 5

The DU campus is situated in the heart of Denver. Public transportation options combine with a campus staff that knows how to manage traffic and parking to provide easy access to a game at Magness Arena. Light rail takes fans from throughout metro Denver nearly to Magness’s front door.

A light rail station, which services three different lines (E, F, H), sits across Buchtel Avenue from Magness Arena, enabling fans from Downtown Denver and Denver’s south suburbs to take light rail instead of driving. Fans can easily enjoy dinner or drinks in downtown Denver before taking light rail to DU from Denver’s Union Station. Denver’s Transit Authority, RTD Denver, has also placed bus stops along the campus’s south edge, on Evans Avenue.

For fans who eschew public transportation in favor of driving, DU has abundant parking and a skillful staff to direct fans. On the night of this review, one of the parking lots near Magness Arena had filled because of multiple, on-campus events; attendants opened a backup parking lot and provided clear directions not only on how to drive to the parking lot during the evening rush hour but also to walk back to the arena.

Once inside, Magness Arena has plenty of room for fans to navigate to their seats. The venue has 16 vomitory entrances into the arena, with an oversized vomitory in each corner. The concourses are sufficiently wide as to avoid traffic jams. Fans should not have to wait in lines for restrooms, which are clean and operable throughout Magness Arena.

Return on Investment 4

Ticket prices for a DU game at Magness Arena are quite reasonable, particularly in light of the Pioneers’ historic and recent success. The most expensive seats, along either side of the ice, sell for $35 and $30, while end zone seats cost $20. Fans who purchase tickets before the game day will save $5 off the price of any ticket.

Because public transportation is so convenient, it provides an easy alternative to driving. Those who do drive to a DU game can look for metered parking along the streets bordering campus, ideally along Buchtel Boulevard. The City of Denver checks meters until 10:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights, so fans will need to be careful should they choose street parking. Otherwise, abundant paid parking ($7-$12) is available on campus.

Food prices are reasonable, most notably the burger combos for $8.75.

Extras 3

Magness Arena earns one point because it has among the friendliest, most helpful staff of any sporting venue in Denver. From ticket takers to ushers to concessions staff, DU’s customer service representatives do their best to ensure that fans enjoy a great experience while watching Pioneer hockey.

Another point is earned for DU’s creation of a signature cocktail for Pios games, the “Hilltop” ($12). It’s a mix of Tito’s Vodka, lime juice, Solerno Blood Orange Liqueur, simple syrup, and grapefruit soda, garnished with a slice of grapefruit. The drink’s name is a nod to the name of DU’s former football stadium, which was located where many of the Pioneer’s sports facilities exist today. Although DU dropped football after the 1960 season, the Denver Broncos – playing the AFL – played their regular season openers at Hilltop Stadium in 1962 and 1963 because of scheduling conflicts at the old Mile High Stadium.

A third point goes to the free, high-quality game programs that DU provides for each home series. These programs are printed on glossy paper and include a fold-out poster of a Pioneer player. They are a nice touch that reflects the staff’s creativity and hard work.

Final Thoughts

A game at Magness Arena allows fans to enjoy some of the nation’s top college hockey at a reasonable price. From families with children to rabid hockey fans, a Pioneer home game provides a great, overall experience for everyone.

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