While the last outdoor game for the Avalanche was seen as a failure for the fans, could there be another one in the future?
With the postponement of this year’s Winter Classic to 2022, the last outdoor game for the NHL was way back in February of last year – which seems like decades ago – between the Los Angeles Kings and Colorado Avalanche in Colorado Springs at the Air Force Stadium. For the fans attending the game, this was a drub: muddy parking lots, not a lot of bathrooms, long lines everywhere, no good ways in or through the stadium, and traffic was a nightmare. Obviously, the NHL got everything they wanted out of it: ticket revenue, promotions, and large TV audiences for the first game at a military site.
While Avs fans probably don’t like the idea of a possible outdoor game for the Avalanche due to the failure of the last one, it is still possible to host another in Colorado in the future. With the Avalanche looking poised to run for a Stanley Cup in the next few years, the NHL could use the popularity and team success of the Avalanche to promote them on national TV in an outdoor game. Colorado’s climate usually suits well for the ice to be outdoors due to the colder weather in the winter, and the NHL could use that to their advantage. With the NHL announcing that there will be a couple of outdoor games in Lake Tahoe this upcoming season, the Avs could host a scenic outdoor game somewhere in the Rocky Mountains with fans post-pandemic.
I’ll be going over four different stadiums in Colorado that could still host a future outdoor game for the Avalanche and ranking them at the end. I’ll be looking at when the stadium was built and renovated, seating capacity, and location. The four venues are Empower Field at Mile High, Folsom Field, Canvas Stadium, and Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
Empower Field at Mile High
Built: 2001 | Most Recent Renovation: 2013 | Capacity: 76,125 | Location: Denver
The home of the Denver Broncos in the NFL is easily the biggest of the 4 venues on this list. The stadium is a short hop over I-25 in Denver from Ball Arena, so moving the team operations would not be difficult to do. The stadium is easy to get to by public transportation and by car via the freeway as well.
For fans attending the game, there would be more modern services available like more bathrooms and concessions unlike at the Air Force Stadium. There would be more space for NHL’s promotions in the parking lots outside the stadium. The stadium is tall and upright, making it easier to look down towards the ice, rather than out towards the ice like at Falcon Stadium. This stadium is going to be one of the more likely options if the NHL ever does hold another outdoor game in Colorado.
Built: 1924 | Most Recent Renovation: 2016 | Capacity: 53,613 | Location: Boulder
Folsom Field on the campus of the University of Colorado in Boulder is another option if the NHL wanted to do an outdoor game in Colorado. Boulder is a short 20 minute drive from Denver and wouldn’t be too far for teams and fans to travel to. There’s also busses that run every 15 minutes from Denver to Boulder that could take fans to and from the stadium. The stadium also recently underwent renovations and upgraded.
However, at least from what I know/remember about CU Boulder’s campus, there would not be a lot of spaces for NHL’s promotional tents for the fans to walk through. There is Farrand Field and the Norlin Quadrangle but that is really it in terms of places for promotional tent locations on campus that are close to Folsom Field. Regardless, it is an option to host a future outdoor game.
Canvas Stadium, Fort Collins
Built: 2017 | Most Recent Renovation: N/A | Capacity: 41,000 | Location: Fort Collins
The newest stadium of the four listed is Canvas Stadium, home of the Colorado State University Rams in Fort Collins, and my current university (sko Rams!). Canvas Stadium is the furthest stadium away from Denver of the four, an hour drive North. Similar to the Air Force game, there could be traffic problems because of the freeway and how far away it is from Denver. There is sufficient parking on campus and around Fort Collins that could host that number of people, plus the public transportation in Fort Collins is sufficient to get people to and from the stadium.
With this stadium being the newest stadium of the four, all amenities are up-to-date and would be sufficient for those that attend the game if they were to host one. One of the major advantages of hosting the game in Fort Collins is connecting with hockey fans in Northern Colorado, specifically doing something in collaboration with the AHL affiliate Colorado Eagles, located 15 minutes away in Loveland, CO. Plus, there is plenty of space for the NHL to hold promotional events on the campus’ intramural fields across from the stadium. With lots of space, Eagles fans, and a newer stadium, Canvas Stadium could be a viable option for a future outdoor game.
Dicks Sporting Goods Park, Commerce City
Built: 2006 | Most Recent Renovation: N/A | Capacity: 20,000 | Location: Commerce City
The home of the MLS side Colorado Rapids is the fourth and final option for an outdoor game. Quite frankly, this stadium is a long shot to host an outdoor game due to the capacity of the stadium. There’s plenty of soccer field space where the NHL could have promotional events on, and parking lots surround the stadium. Getting in and out of the stadium with a full crowd is an issue that would come up if a game were to be held here.
The NHL has never held an outdoor game at a soccer-specific stadium. They could theoretically experiment with that and put the stadium in the history books as the first soccer-specific stadium to host an outdoor hockey game. The stadium is a short 15 minute drive from Downtown Denver and wouldn’t be too far for fans to get to and from in the Denver-Metro area. There is also public transportation that could get you to and from the stadium that could be useful as well. Overall, while it is a long shot, this stadium could still theoretically host an outdoor game in the future.
These four venues are generally pretty close and all of them could theoretically host a future outdoor game, post-pandemic of course. The NHL could also return to Coors Field or Falcon Stadium instead of trying out a new venue, or even experiment with another outdoor game similar to the ones this year at Lake Tahoe. However, focusing on the previous four venues, here are my final rankings:
4th: Dicks Sporting Goods Park: As mentioned earlier, this stadium is a long shot. There would not be a lot of people able to attend the game and would be similar to the number of people at Ball Arena on a given night. The NHL would want this to be a spectacle event, and unfortunately Dicks Sporting Goods Park is just not that spectacle of a stadium, despite its large fields outside the stadium for promotional events.
3rd: Folsom Field: Folsom Field only falls to third because of the lack of space for the NHL to have its promotional tents. The NHL would want to make sure that their sponsors get seen and heard and it would be difficult to do this in Boulder, despite Folsom Field having the 2nd largest capacity of these four venues and being closer to more people in the Denver-Metro area.
2nd: Canvas Stadium: There is only one reason why this stadium goes second on my list: fan experience. With the newest facilities, it would make the fan experience the best of the rest behind Empower Field. There can be a partnership with the Avalanche’s affiliate Eagles to bring the big leagues to hockey fans in Northern Colorado. Plus, there is plenty of space for the NHL to do its promotions on the campus’ intramural fields. Canvas Stadium and Folsom Field are very close and could easily switch positions on this list, but I give the edge to Canvas Stadium over Folsom Field.
1st: Empower Field at Mile High: This stadium by far is the most realistic choice for the NHL to host another outdoor game in Colorado. With a large capacity, easy access to and from the stadium, and enough space for promotional tents, it makes the most sense for the NHL financially and for fans that would want to attend the game.
Do you agree or disagree? What would be your rankings out of the four? Did I miss a stadium? Let us know in the comments!