Folsom Field – Colorado Buffaloes
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Magic in the Mountains
Blending old and new can present a difficult challenge. Yet the University of Colorado has done so successfully with Folsom Field, the home to its football team and its live buffalo mascot, Ralphie. Opened in 1924, Folsom Field was built for $65,000 and had a capacity of 26,000 seats, all bleachers made of creosote-dipped California redwood. The subsequent nine decades have seen several expansions and a near-doubling of Folsom Field’s seating capacity. Updates to the Buffaloes’ football and athletics facilities that adjoin Folsom Field culminated after the 2015 season. These updates, which cost $156 million and include the Champions Center and an indoor practice facility, provide needed practice and administrative space for Colorado’s athletic programs and include club seating for football games.
Among Folsom Field’s timeless attributes are its location and setting. It sits more than a mile above sea level at 5,360 feet at the base of the Rocky Mountains. The stadium’s public address announcer heralds this fact to the Buffs’ opponent just before kickoff, with the admonition to “know your limitations and adjust your elevation.” The Flatirons rock formations sit just beyond the stadium’s west-side seats and give Folsom Field a unique and breathtaking feel. Folsom Field is also situated on the CU campus in Boulder, a unique town with robust nightlife and easy access to outdoor activities.
Perhaps most impressively, the Buffaloes take the field at the start of each half by running behind their live buffalo mascot, Ralphie. This is one of college football’s great traditions and it highlights the Folsom Field experience.
Food & Beverage 5
Folsom Field offers a good variety of food and drink options that exceed traditional stadium fare. The stadium has enough concession stands, supplemented with outside vendors, that lines are rare. Folsom Field has a wide variety of food options. Food prices may seem high but the quality of cuisine warrants such prices. Old standbys like hot dogs and hamburgers are certainly available. But Folsom Field also has a sausage shack where a jalapeno cheddar beer brat ($8) and Italian sausage ($8) are available. Apropos of the CU mascot, a buffalo beer brat, with jalapeno slaw and pepper jack cheese, is served on a pretzel bun ($12).
Kesitas, which operates out of an Airstream trailer-turned-food truck, offers hand-crafted Mexican desserts behind Folsom Field’s east stands. There, hazelnut ice cream ($8), Mexican coffee ($5), and horchata latte ($7) present unique dessert options.
Most notably, eight different beers are offered, including hometown favorite Buffalo Gold and four brews from local craft brewer Post Brewing Co. that include an English-style IPA, a pilsner, a mild American ale, and a mild ale (all of which are $7.25 per can). Beer sales and consumption are limited to areas adjacent to the stands.
Pepsi products are offered in both bottles and by fountain pour. Fans can purchase souvenir sodas for $7.25.
Very few college football venues offer beer, let alone a sampling of high-quality craft beers. These brews are a nod to the microbrewery scene that is thriving in Colorado and give out-of-towners the chance to taste some of the state’s best.
Folsom Field’s proximity to the nearby Flatirons creates a dramatic backdrop for those on the stadium’s east side. The stadium, as well as its expansions and renovations, have been built to match the large majority of buildings on the CU campus. Those buildings were built in the Tuscan Vernacular architectural style that features bricks, mortar, and masonry, aiming to replicate the feel of the Italian hill towns of Florence and Siena.
Folsom Field’s sidelines are narrow, as the distance from the playing field to the first row of seats is close. Seats are thus generally near to the field with good sight lines of the action.
The Golden Buffalo Marching band performs for fans inside Balch Fieldhouse, adjacent to Folsom Field’s west stands, before each game. The stadium has two high-quality video screens at either end and sound quality from the PA system is crisp and clear.
Folsom Field’s east stands provide the best views of the Flatirons and great views of the action. Although a setting sun may pose a problem for fans in those seats for an early evening game, glare is a temporary inconvenience. Covered seating areas are mainly reserved for donors but Balch Fieldhouse, on the stadium’s west side, is open to fans seeking cover from the elements with big-screen TVs and concession stands.
Folsom Field sits not only in an ideal campus location, but also near the heart of Boulder. Its surrounding neighborhood, teeming with students and full-time residents, presents several pre and postgame options for food, drink, and entertainment. Boulder Creek and its popular, adjacent path improve access to and from games. Fans have a seemingly endless number of restaurants within walking distance of Folsom Field. A short walk across campus to the west of Folsom Field is the University Hill neighborhood. The Sink (1165 13th Street) is the “Hill’s” most recognized resident. It has been serving great burgers and pizza since 1923 — a year before Folsom Field opened. Harpo’s Sports Grill (2860 Arapahoe Avenue) is just downhill from the stadium and has more than 25 televisions and a rooftop patio.
Less than two miles from Folsom Field is Boulder’s Chautauqua Park (Baseline Road and 9th Street). It offers some of Boulder’s best hiking trails, including trails that access the summits of the Flatirons, as well as rock climbing and a dining hall.
Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall is also one of the city’s highlights, offering shops, bars, and restaurants on a pedestrian-only stretch of Pearl Street in downtown Boulder.
Boulder has a full range of lodging options. For those wanting close access to Folsom Field, the Millennium Harvest House (1345 28th St, Boulder, CO 80302) is a four-minute walk on the Boulder Creek Path away. For those wanting to splurge, the St. Julien Hotel and Spa (900 Walnut Street) is a luxury hotel in downtown Boulder.
The Buffaloes’ resurgence has yielded a resurgence in attendance. Importantly, students are filling the stadium and bringing noticeable energy. Folsom Field is seeing capacity or near-capacity crowds, particularly for the Buffaloes’ Pac-12 Conference games.
The crowd is loud, engaged, and smart. Fans at Folsom Field know the players, the traditions, and the significance of plays. This creates an atmosphere that can be intimidating for opponents.
Because a two-lane highway links Boulder with nearby Denver, game day traffic presents a challenge for those traveling by car. Creative fans, however, can avoid this traffic. The regional rapid transit authority, RTD, operates Buff Ride for those in Denver and its suburbs. For $9 round trip, passengers can take a bus that drops them and picks them up just outside the stadium, at the corner of Colorado Boulevard and Folsom Street.
Parking is limited, but available for $25, on the CU campus. Alternatively, parking is also available for $10 at CU’s Research Park, east of Folsom Field on Colorado Boulevard. Folsom Field has several points of access to enter the stadium and fans can present a paperless ticket on a smartphone. Beginning the 2016 season, CU has adopted a “clear bag” policy akin to what the NFL has done. This can cause delays for fans who are unaware.
Although aisles and concourses in and around the seating areas are somewhat narrow, fans moving around the outer parts of the stadium bowl do so with relative ease.
Return on Investment 4
The cost to attend a game at Colorado is in line with other major college football programs. Ticket prices begin at $40 for a seat in Folsom Field’s south bowl and can exceed $200 for a luxury seat on the stadium’s east side. Food prices reflect higher quality concession offerings. That said, the overall experience is well worth these costs. Folsom Field features a rare, successful blend of history and modernization. Ralphie’s run at the start of each half is one of college football’s best traditions. And the Buffaloes are playing an exciting style of football that brings with it an energized crowd.
Extras abound for the Folsom Field game day experience. First, fans can walk down to field level before the game to get a close view of Ralphie as she awaits her pre-game run with the team. Second, the views from Folsom Field’s east stands are unparalleled. Third, CU converts its new indoor practice facility into a “fan zone” for each home game. Kids can play catch on part of the Buffs’ practice field, make signs to root on the Buffs, play cornhole, or get autographs from current CU athletes. Parents can enjoy concessions (including beer) while watching college football on big-screen TVs and peek into the new weight room. Fourth, CU pipes in its radio broadcast to concession areas so fans do not miss any of the action.
The university has succeeded in creating a game day experience that befits the beauty and history of Folsom Field. Though the stadium does not have the vast seating capacity that other schools have, Folsom Field has an intimate feel that does not disappoint.
Food and Drink Recommendations
St Julien Hotel & Spa
900 Walnut St
Boulder, CO 80302
Best Western Plus Boulder Inn
770 28th St
Boulder, CO 80303