Updated: April 13, 2014 at 10:32 am
Denver - One thing's for sure, you can't beat the scenery from The Rooftop at Coors Field.
The Front Range, the Denver skyline. And of course there's baseball, if you're into that sort of thing.
"I've got a great view of the action," said Leonard Eilers, a retiree from Aurora who attended Wednesday's game between the Colorado Rockies and Chicago White Sox with his buddy Gary Brown, an Aurora business owner. A few innings in, Eilers and Brown were sipping beers at a shaded pub table near the Tavern bar on The Rooftop's lower deck. Eilers had scored a plum spot directly across from the stairs, with a perfect sight line to the pitcher's mound.
Yup. "Great views," Eilers confirmed, as a young woman in short shorts and an undersized Rockies T-shirt emerged at the top of the steps, adjusted her sunglasses and wove left through the crowd.
As if baseball alone isn't a good enough reason to play hooky from work on a sunny day. Now there's The Rooftop.
The 38,000-square-foot party space, which includes two craft bar-eateries and an urban garden-themed VIP cabana on two tiers, was created from the removal of 3,500 seats in the ballpark's upper right field deck. The $10 million project began at the close of last season and wrapped up just before the Rockies' home opener April 4 at Coors Field.
"They were pulling out seats when the last pitch was caught," said Jay Alves, the club's vice president of communications. "I think (Rockies owner) Dick Monfort really noticed the rooftop bars just outside the stadium around LoDo that were full of young people who'd then find their way to the game. Now this is a rooftop restaurant bar, inside the stadium."
The concept of a hip "party destination" inside a ballpark is one that more clubs are considering, catering to the craft beer/food zeitgeist and younger fans who seek a 360-degree social experience from their day at the park. The Rockies, said Alves, are ahead of the trend.
"Other clubs do have decks, but not to this degree. We just took it to the next step," Alves said. "This is by far the biggest and most impressive in sports. Some of the other teams are definitely paying attention to what we've done."
A few days into the season, the response from fans has been "phenomenal."
"I was just remarking last night, which was a cold night, how it was still packed. It's the new place to go," Alves said Wednesday.
Brown and Eilers were at the ballpark on opening day, the official grand opening for The Rooftop, and they weren't alone.
"It was a mad house," Brown said. "All the bars at The Rooftop were 10 people deep."
"But it was fun anyway," Eilers said.
The Tavern bar stretches more than 52 feet and has 52 taps with 20 types of beer, including many regional craft options. Oskar Blues' CHUBurger Restaurant sells premium burgers and upscale pub food. Rooftop bars open two hours before first pitch and offer pregame specials - $3 Coors and Coors Light and $6 craft beers - for those who arrive early. The Rooftop is open to all ticket holders; a special $14, standing-room-only ticket comes with $6 in concessions or merchandise credit.
As good views of the field are limited from most Rooftop spots, the action plays constantly on big screen TVs - of which there is no dearth. CHUBurger Restaurant alone boasts 48 50-inch screens.
Doug Ying flew into Denver from Washington D.C. on Monday for work and, thanks to a canceled meeting, found himself without obligations on Wednesday afternoon when temperatures in Denver were expected to hit the mid-70s. As the third inning played out on the field and the TVs around him, Ying checked his phone and enjoyed a pint of Fat Tire Amber Ale in the shade of the Tavern bar.
"Half the time at games, people aren't watching the game, they're having a good time enjoying beer and friends," the 31-year-old said. "The crowd will let you know when you need to pay attention."