Before we beginning profiling this team and venue, let us give you a perspective of how
this day went. It was early in the morning, the phone rang from Buffalo, and the news was
not good. The NHL was probably going to use their entire allotment of tickets, meaning we
were out of luck as far as securing seats for us. Undaunted, we headed over to the Pepsi
Center to see what was going on. No tickets on the street, fans waving signs pleading for
extras, and a small gathering of people awaiting a "lottery" beginning at 1 pm for a small
batch of standing rooms. We called our contact... nothing yet. We came back around noon,
figuring we'll call one more time, maybe get in on the lottery, and failing all that, just head to
the airport and fly home. We call Rob Winston of the Avalanche yet again...this time he says
"well we do have two tickets for you guys, but they are a bit high." Rob broke this news to
us with a twinge of apology in his voice... A bit high??? A BIT HIGH?!!! After finishing a
chorus of "yippees" and high fives (and catching a few stares from the local fans heading
over for the lottery), we ecstatically dashed over to will call, grabbed our tickets, and
prepared ourselves for an unforgettable evening of NHL Stanley Cup hockey...
Opened in 1999, the beautiful Pepsi Center is the home of the Colorado Avalanche and the
NBA Denver Nuggets, and replaces the old McNichols Arena which has since been
demolished to make way for the new NFL venue - Invesco Field at Mile High. The arena sits
just on the outskirts of downtown Denver, within easy walking distance of the LODO
entertainment district, and adjacent to a Six Flags Amusement Park.
Outside the venue
The center is easily served by an elaborate highway network, bringing in traffic from the
interstates as well as local streets coming in from downtown. Numerous large surface lots
surround the building, and are coded by letter for premium, season ticket holder and
general parking, as well as a media parking lot and a VIP parking lot offering valet parking
and a separate club entrance ($40 for VIP parking here, smashing the $30 record we
encountered at the Metrodome in Minneapolis!).
Otherwise, colorful banners and flags adorn each light post, and the building is attractively
landscaped and boasts a stunning appearance - red, copper and brown brick facades
interspersed with a massive glass wall which faces out onto the downtown side. It is this
glass pavilion which serves as the two entrances to the building, the main one opening
into a spectacular six story glassed atrium, which you access by walking through an
attractive plaza. This walkway's signature piece is a five piece sculpture, the centerpiece
being a pedestal and globe in the shape of the Pepsi logo. At night the four obelisk shaped
pieces beam lights into the sky, which meet high up and serve as a beacon to visitors and
Lastly, in addition to street vendors, people giving away pins and signs, and radio station
booths, just outside the main entrance is "Coors Meadow", an outside area cordoned off
and availing fans of pregame refreshments, entertainment, ice sculpting, face painting and
music. With the Stanley Cup Finals in full swing, you can add local, national and worldwide
media to the mix, and what you have is a community street party. Where else would one
The amazing and dramatic atrium lobby is just the beginning... off to one side is the "Pepsi
Center Trading Company", the official team store, and straight ahead are the escalators
taking you up to the main concourse... enjoying the view of the downtown skyline on the
ride up, of course!
All the concourses are bright, attractively decorated, and spit shined. Mosaic marble tile
flooring is illuminated not only with recessed lighting but also track lighting. The
concession stands have appealing marquees - bright and colorful. One can also find
scoreboard type marquees while walking around, matching up to the game clock inside and
also a bank of monitors so as not to miss a minute of the action.
To get you up and down there is one bank of four escalators on the atrium side of the
Until we walked into the seating bowl, the Pepsi Center was a candidate for our coveted 5
star award. But the seating bowl was somewhat disappointing. First... the positives. We
start, of course, with the 360 degree LED surround board which hangs from the club level
balcony. Dazzling, colorful, and compared to other setups we have seen elsewhere, we
have to commend the Avs for using the graphics and technology to the max! Constant
special effects, cool graphics and a show in itself!
The bowl is set up almost identically to ours in Buffalo and newer venues elsewhere -
lower, club and upper levels, and here there are two levels of suites, above the 100s and a
second ring above the clubs.
The deduction points - all the seats are colored dark brown, and this lends to sort of a drab
appearance. The scoreboard is a sharp four sided video board, and above the video
panels are four sided dot matrix boards that are one colored and grainy (Jennifer Smith,
former Sabres marketing guru whose career has since nosedived, must have consulted
the Pepsi Center on this one). Hanging high in each corner from the rafters are shots on
goal boards and stat boards that are mismatched and decidedly low tech - as if the Avs
bought these panels at the Three Rivers Stadium garage sale.
We didn't get access to club seating, and hope to have a report on this area when we
return to see the Denver Nuggets later this year. We do want to mention, however, that the
suites are not served by their own separate concourse, and in the case of the lower level
suites, their doors spilled right out in to the 100 level concourse, similar to Tampa's Ice
Here we have to speak of this venue in extreme superlatives... the food choices here were
overwhelming! As we walked the aisles, we had a hard time finding the same items at two
different places. Carved sandwiches, cheese curls, pot roast sandwiches, buffalo burgers,
fajitas. What was hard to find here was the standard ballpark dreck. hot dogs and nachos.
Each concession stand marquee was decorated with a sign featuring its specialty
item/theme. Best of all, for ballpark prices the food items here were comparatively
reasonable in cost. They have to be, for not much left in the wallet after shelling out those
40 beans to park, eh?
This is what made the evening magical.. Yes it is the Stanley Cup Finals, so how much more
jacked up can the fans be right? The Avalanche dimmed the lights at 20 minutes before the
hour, and began their elaborate music presentation, light show and highlight videos. We
had no connection to this team, yet the entire presentation gave us chills. We got choked
up as we reminisced at the excitement and giddiness we all felt in Buffalo when our Sabres
made their run to the finals just two years ago. The show here was reminiscent of the
crescendos in Buffalo, and here it reaches its exciting finale as a large rocky mountain is
dropped from the ceiling (a la oil derrick at Edmonton's Skyreach Centre), and the
Avalanche players skate out through the mountain and onto the ice.
Pyrotechnics, LED board flashing and pom poms waving. What a show!!! What a night!!!
Unfortunately for the home team, things went downhill from here, and the Devils played a
nearly flawless defensive game to upend the Avs 4-1. There would be no tipping over cars
or smashing storefront windows in LODO on this night.
The Avalanche display their division/conference and one Stanley Cup banner. The Nuggets
have retired four of their greats, some dating to their ABA days.
The Avs used a series of clever 10 second video clips of stars from the Broncos and the
Rockies, exhorting the fans to cheer, get crazy, get wild etc. These clips were used during
faceoffs and at strategic times. Might the Sabres recruit Bills and Bisons stars to do the
same? Mind you, these type of clips should be used sparingly - playoff games, or maybe
when the Leafs come to town.
The first THANK YOU goes to Ron Bertovich for getting the ball rolling for the tickets. From,
there, the roadtrippers acknowledge JOHN SINCLAIR, VP ticket operations for the Sabres,
and ROB WINSTON, Ticket Director at the Colorado Avalanche for securing us our tickets
and getting us into the building. We want to make this VERY clear - we are very much aware
of the demand for tickets and are very appreciative of the trouble that many people went to
on our behalf. We are pleased to announce that John Sinclair and Rob Winston have both
been inducted to the Ultimate Sports Road Trip Hall of Fame. THANKS TO EVERYBODY
FROM THE BOTTOM OF OUR HEARTS!
Fan Support 9
Concourses/fan comfort 7
Bonus: USRT assist 3
June 4, 2001
GAME 5 -