WORLD SERIES: 2007 (0 W, 1 L) ALL STAR GAME: 1998
BEEN THERE, DONE THAT: Aug. 29, 1998 (CHC 11, COL 10); Aug. 9, 2009 (COL 11, CHC 5).
This is a mighty big stadium for a medium-sized city, but Coors Field was nevertheless routinely sold out in its early years when enthusiasm for baseball in Denver was sky-high. It is widely praised as one of the most aesthetically pleasing of the Neoclassical stadiums, with the added bonus of Rocky Mountain views, from the right field stands, at least. There is a tall, gaudy scoreboard behind the left field bleachers and an evergreen-landscaped replica of Rocky Mountain terrain in center field, with a fountain, of course. Overlooking that is the "Rockpile," an elevated bleacher section for budget-minded fans, adorned with team flags along the curved back side. Very classy. The grandstand is similar to other recent stadiums, with three main decks and one skybox level. In place of the mezzanine deck in the right field corner is a multi-story private club house. There is more overhang between the upper decks in right field, giving fans out there a somewhat closer view, at the expense of not seeing the outfield near the fence. The portion of the second deck in right field that is closer to the foul pole has eight additional rows, the views from which are obstructed by support beams, just like in the "good old days." About 75 percent of the cost to build Coors Field was funded with taxpayer dollars; a special regional sales tax was imposed, annoying some people who don't visit Denver very often. (That's why they are called the Colorado Rockies.)
Interestingly, the original plans called for a seating capacity of 43,800, but the huge crowds at Mile High Stadium persuaded the Rockies to add several thousand extra seats. For the first few years, their optimism seemed justified, as the Rockies drew well over 3,000,000 fans every year until 2002.
Situated at an elevation of one mile, the thin air at Coors Field allows for significantly longer flight trajectories. Dr. Robert Adair (author of The Physics of Baseball) estimates that a fly ball hit 400 feet near sea level would, if hit equally hard, travel about 420 feet in Denver. Thus, it is somewhat easier to hit a home run over the center field wall at Coors Field (415 feet) than at a typical near-sea-level stadium with a 400-foot distance to center field. The biggest impact on play, however, is not so much the greater number of home runs as the increased opportunity for doubles and triples, given the long distances to those corners.
The layout of Coors Field has only a modest amount of asymmetry, as the walls are angled only about 5 degrees from perpendicular to the foul lines. Among the other stadiums in its class, the shape of its outfield bears the closest resemblance to Comerica Park. The overall stadium structure is most similar to the Rangers' Globe Life Park (ex-Ballpark in Arlington), but with the grandstand wrapping around the opposite corner. The outside perimeter of the structure is a rounded square, fitting inside the street grid on the north (formerly run-down) side of downtown Denver. There is a wire mesh fence on top of the wall in left field, so as to cut down on the number of home runs. The outfield wall between the bullpens and the right field corner is rather high, 14 feet. (From 2000-2002 it was 17 feet.) This cuts down on the number of home runs by lefties. One of the nice touches (also present at several other Neoclassical stadiums) is the angle in the right field corner.
The Rockies were briefly pennant contenders after moving in to their beautiful new home, but their lack of good pitching prevented them from breaking through. When I saw them play in 1998, their lineup included Todd Helton (then a rookie), Larry Walker, Vinny Castilla, and Dante Bichette. The day before this page was first posted (July 3, 2003), an escalator went haywire at a Rockies game, and at least 32 people were injured. In 2005 two rows of box seats were added between the dugouts, reducing the distance behind home plate by about six feet. In 2007 the Rockies staged one of the most dramatic late-season surges in baseball history, capturing the National League pennant for the first time, and sparking fan interest in Denver once again. The Rockies lost to the Boston Red Sox in the World Series, however. This time their biggest sluggers were Todd Helton (again) and Troy Tulowitzki. In 2009, the Rockies reached the postseason as the National League Wild Card team, but went no further in the playoffs. Helton retired after the 2013 season, after spending his entire 17-year career with the Rockies.
After dropping below 2,000,000 in 2005, attendance at Coors Field has rebounded, but has not yet reached 3,000,000 again. Conceding to reality, the Rockies' owners decided to remove most of the seats and concrete risers from the upper deck in right field prior to the 2014 season. The adjacent profile shows the new configuration in right field. (A year later, the Indians did the same thing with Progressive Field.) In their place is a large concourse with several restaurants catering to various tastes. Officially, capacity at Coors Field remains at 50,398, but that includes standing room only tickets. It's a strange pretense that reminds one of the official capacity of 56,000 at Dodger Stadium. I estimate that 3,450 seats were removed, hence the note about the 47,000 estimated seating capacity above. Prior to the 2016 season, the outfield fence was raised from 8 feet to 13 feet in the left field corner, and from about 8 feet to 16.5 feet in front of the bullpens in right-center field, matching the height of the right field wall where the out-of-town scoreboard is located.
SOURCES: Pastier (2007); Lowry (2006); USA Today / Fodor's (1996); Rockies Official Scorecard Magazine (Aug. 1998)
FAN TIPS: Mike Zurawski