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Rockies unveil latest upgrades to Coors Field

DENVER -- Odd as it may seem to think of the Rockies' home ballpark as a relic among the games great cathedrals, Coors Field is actually the third-oldest National League ballpark behind Dodger Stadium (1962) and Wrigley Field (1914).

Two days after the 2013 season ended, the club began a six-month project to ensure Coors Field looks just as fresh for its 20th season as it did in its inaugural season in 1995.

"Every 20 years, you've got to freshen the place up," Rockies owner, chairman and CEO Dick Monfort said as he led a tour of the refurbished facility two days before Friday's home opener.

The Rockies have been working on projects every year to make sure they keep their park relevant as well as keep their fan base growing. The big investment this year was a $10 million makeover for the right-field upper deck, converting 3,500 seats into "The Rooftop" -- a festive standing-room area aimed at bringing younger folks to the ballpark and turning them into fans.

"I see these rooftops plugged full of young adults," Monfort said of the taverns neighboring Coors Field. "Baseball draws a lot of fans, but they're missing out on a whole group."

Taking note whenever he travels with his team to visit other ballparks, Monfort has tried to bring the best ideas he's seen on the road home to Coors Field, borrowing from the likes of Baltimore, Boston, Seattle and Washington.

The result is the biggest fan deck in sports, a 38,000-square-foot area decked out with comfortable couches and chairs, a fire pit, drink railings, a CHUBurger restaurant and the Tavern Ballpark, complete with a 5,280-inch bar that has 52 taps serving 20 varities of mostly local beers.

"I think it'll pizzazz the place up," Monfort said of The Rooftop. "I think it'll get a younger crowd. Let's get them up here where they're amongst themselves."

Tickets will cost $14-$26, depending on the game, and each ticket includes $6 worth of concession or merchandise credit. The Rockies plan to make 2,500 tickets available each game, with general-admission tickets allowing fans access to the entire lower and upper decks and room to settle on The Rooftop. Any fan with a ticket can go to The Rooftop for a mostly standing-room atmosphere, though there are 400 places to sit.

"People say it's not 'baseball tradition,'" Monfort said of The Rooftop's new appeal. "But a lot of people come to our games who aren't really interested in baseball. Maybe a 25-year-old comes to The Rooftop because that's where the girls are or that's where it's happening. All of a sudden, a tremendous roar comes from the stadium, and he turns around and sees the players celebrating and everyone high-fiving each other. He thinks, 'This is a good, fun place.' Maybe he finds someone and gets married, they move to the suburbs and he decides he'll bring his kids back here and let them have a chance to experience this place."

Kids are welcome at The Rooftop, but smoking is not. The idea is certainly to bring a festive atmosphere to what was an otherwise empty upper deck. With any luck, the place will teem with character, and the new crowd buzzing about the mile-high rafters will send some energy down to the field.

Monfort pointed out other new-and-improved features around Coors Field that should add to the fan experience:

• Rio on the Rocks has replaced the old Carmina Loft on the mezzanine level in center field. The newest branch of the homegrown Rio Grande restaurant chain brings its famous margaritas to the ballpark, and Rio Grande founder and president Pat McGaughran joined the tour to mark the occasion.

• 10,000 new seats have replaced some of the 20-year-old seats. "What was wrong with the old seats?" Monfort said. "If you happened to be sitting in the old seats, you knew what was wrong."

• A new 700-car parking structure for employees sits adjacent to Lot C, making up for the 700 spots that were lost when the Regional Transportation District cut into Coors Field lot to build a new light-rail line beside the ballpark.

• The main concourse has been enhanced, with brick facades added to many of the concession stands, new signage and lettering and an overall cleaner look.

• New decorative elements on the main concourse will celebrate the club's history, with National League pennants from three trips to the postseason hanging at the main entrance, and iconic photographs and memorabilia celebrating franchise milestones.

• New concessions like a frozen yogurt stand continue the club's move to add healthier offerings to its fans.

• The popular Helton Burger stand will remain the same, but at Todd Helton's request, the club will donate 50 cents of the proceeds of every Helton Burger sold to a charity of Helton's choosing.

"This stadium was built to stand the test of time," Monfort said. "It's in a great neighborhood. Of 30 stadiums, I can't think of one in a better location. We've got to keep it so we can play baseball here for 50 years. You have to change and keep up. These days, it can be easier to stay home and watch the game on TV. We want people to come to the ballpark. It's important for our competitive edge."

Owen Perkins is a contributor to
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