I am not much of an American Football fan. Certainly, I know about the sport and I know the teams and such. And yes, growing up in California meant that I had a choice of liking the San Francisco 49ers, Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders, Los Angeles Rams or San Diego Chargers.
There was plenty of football in the Golden State.
But it was never really my thing. I was, and still am, more into hockey and football/soccer.
And now that I have lived in the Centennial state for 13 years, it is pretty clear that this is Denver Broncos country and other sports are fighting for second place. I don't really follow the Broncos, but I had the chance to attend the Broncos vs San Diego Chargers game (see I said game and not match) this past Sunday with my buddy Larry, and much to my surprise--I had a hell of a good time.
As I was driving home from Sports Authority Field at Mile High (SAFMH) I started to compare it to Dick's Sporting Goods Park (DSGP) and my beloved Colorado Rapids. Now look, I am not comparing football to soccer or trying to convince you which one is better. This is just my observations and what I liked and what I did not like.
I am certainly spoiled at DSGP when it comes to parking. Parking is included in the cost of your Season Ticket, so there is never a need to pay to park. There are plenty of spots at DSGP and there is never an issue getting into the lot. Obviously, things are a bit different at SAFMH. The sheer volume of people in the park means that parking is going to be tough. But there are plenty of surface lots around SAFMH and parking was no issue. We arrived about two hours before kick-off and paid a respectable $15 to park.
The Tail Gate:
A confession, I have never been to a supporters tailgate at DSGP. It's not that I have anything against the tailgate that is put on, I just have not gone. But sitting in a lot drinking beers, eating food and hanging with your mates (or family) is about the best thing ever. And let's be honest--it's hard to say one place is better than another if your purpose is to eat food and drink beers.
The Walk Up:
This was quite a fun thing. We were about a 10 minute walk from SAFMH and walked with Broncos and Chargers fan. Everyone got along with both groups sharing some good natured insults, but nothing that was taken too far. Both groups of fans seemed to enjoy the walk and people were smiling and laughing. There were vendors selling knock-off Broncos gear, cheap water and cheaper snacks. Everyone was having a good time. It was the closest thing to a supporters walk that I had been in, save for the Tottenham Hotspur-Liverpool match I went to in 2012. The Rapids do not have this, and while that may not be the fault of the club, it is something that is lacking.
The number of people at a Broncos game (over 70,000) means that there are going to be lines no matter what. But the gate we went to was less than a five minute wait and the people checking us in were prepared, professional and courteous. I was stunned at this as my interaction with security and check in people at DSGP are very inconsistent in their professionalism and preparation.
Professional. Kind. Helpful. Consistent. None of those are something that you would attribute to the folks at DSGP. And ever since I have been going to matches at DSGP, it is clear there is some sort of disconnect with training or the hiring process. Or the folks at SAFMH just care more. Regardless, this one is no contest.
I purchased one beer from a vendor and had zero wait in line, which is not something that happens all that much at DSGP. And certainly the vendor was friendly and I have never had a major issue with this at DSGP, but I do like the beer selection slightly better at DSGP. But, and let's be honest here, all of us have missed the start of the second half a time or two at DSGP due to unbelievable lines and poorly staffed food booths.
Leaving the Park/Stadium:
The ease of getting out of DSGP can't be matched but that has more to do with 15,000 fans at a Rapids match vs 70,000+ at a Broncos game. It was efficient and easy out of SAFMH and Denver Police had their act together as we were leaving, but I have to give this one to DSGP.
So based on my math skills that makes it 4 for SAFMH and two DSGP with one push. But does that mean I will go back? Unknown, but it was a good enough time that if I were offered the opportunity, I certainly would consider it.
But the real lesson here is that Sports Authority Field does a hell of a good job getting tens of thousands of people in and out of a facility quickly, safely and efficiently. The people working at the park were professional and friendly and it made a Soccer Guy in Denver have a good time.
I imagine that running DSGP is a tough thing and can be quite stressful, but if SAFMH can do it, why can't we have the same level of service in Commerce City. The team is not playing very well, so it behooves the folks running the game day experience at Dick's to do their very best at making that experience as great as it can be.