Magness Arena – Denver Pioneers
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Denver College Hockey
Magness Arena, home to the University of Denver Pioneers ice hockey and basketball teams, was built in 1999. Magness is a part of the larger Ritchie Center, a complex that houses student gyms and basketball courts in addition to housing the Athletic Department. In a design novelty, glass windows built into the Magness concourses give looks into swimming and volleyball competitions happening simultaneously.
The hockey program at DU has helped put the university on the map. Not to be confused with the University of Colorado in Boulder or Colorado State University in Fort Collins, the private university just to the south of downtown Denver has won seven National Championships in ice hockey, the most recent being back to back titles in 2004 and 2005. The program has produced many NHL players and coaches throughout its history, including Paul Stastny, Matt Carle and Kevin Dineen. Bill Masterton, the namesake for the NHL’s Masterton Memorial Trophy, also played for the Pios in the early ’60s.
The university is centrally located in the Denver metro area. Located off Interstate 25 and the appropriately named University Boulevard, Magness Arena provides a high quality college hockey experience featuring excellent teams and affordable prices.
Food & Beverage 3
Magness Arena offers standard stadium food at prices slightly lower than you see at professional arenas. While there aren’t any truly unique food options, the quality is good for the price and choices are plentiful.
These options are located at several stands around the concourse:
Slice of Pizza $4.50, Hot Dog $4.50, Bratwurst $5.50, Nachos $4.50, Ultimate Nachos (piled high with shredded chicken or pork) $8.00, Pretzel with Cheese $5.50, Popcorn $4.50, Soda $4.25 (small) $5.00 (large), Bottled Water $4.00, Cinnamon Glazed Almonds and Pecans $4.50.
The following options are located only at the Crimson Club Grill, located behind the penalty boxes. Previously limited to fans sitting in the sections in front of it, this stand is now open to anyone in the arena:
Burger (Cheese, Bacon & Cheese or Guacamole) $8.75, Chicken Sandwich $9.00, Philly Cheesesteak $9.00, Fish and Chips $9.00.
The one unique food concession at Magness is the carving station located in the southeast concourse. They construct sandwiches with cheese and freshly carved meats and finish off the plate with a large helping of potato chips. The meat can sometimes be a bit too close to room temperature, robbing the sandwich of some flavor, but it is still fulfilling and unique enough to be fun.
Carved Sandwich (Turkey, Roast Beef or Ham) $10.00 Carved Salad (Turkey, Roast Beef or Ham) $10.00
The state of Colorado is well known for beer, both macro and micro, and fans of both have a large variety of options at Magness. Domestic options include Coors Light, Budweiser, Bud Light, and Coors Banquet. Craft options include Blue Moon, Dale’s and Mama’s Little Yellow Pils from Oskar Blues, Avalanche Ale and Vanilla Porter from Breckenridge Brewing, and even nitro-tapped Guinness. And as tribute to the contributions of Canada to the sport of hockey, Molson has a few taps around the arena.
Domestic Beer $6.00, Premium Beer $7.00, Cocktails $8.00.
Due to the game I attended being a long standing in-state rivalry, the arena was packed with both students and regular fans. The atmosphere was outstanding – lots of goals for the home team kept the students engaged. Some more reaction noise from the crowd to individual hits, passes and saves on the ice would be nice, but I can’t fault the fans – it just doesn’t seem to be part of the DU culture. And because Colorado College is only an hour away from the DU campus, a large contingent of visiting fans were present to ramp up the atmosphere.
In the past, I’ve attended games that took place during the university’s winter break, and that unfortunately leads to less students and even less total ambiance. If you put a premium on a true college atmosphere, try to attend while school is in session.
The DU band was out in force, adding a unique element if you are only used to professional hockey. It’s a shame that the stadium operations team plays typical arena rock celebration music after a goal, going toe to toe with the band belting out the DU fight song. I’d hope they would yield to the band on most nights.
There’s quite a bit of DU regalia around the arena. Most flat walls that are at least 20 feet long contain some sort of painting or mural of athletes competing or students cheering in the stands. The Gold Club, a club level-esque seating area at the top of the bleachers, has display cases showing trophies, medals and photos from all of DU athletics. You can even walk inside the impressive Ritchie Center clock tower and enjoy the beautiful architecture around the athletic department offices.
As a typical urban university, the neighborhood around DU has numerous options for food, drink and other entertainment. College town fast casual chains offer reliable eats – the flagship Chipotle location is a few blocks from campus – while a few specialty restaurants offer a unique treat. Jerusalem is a big favorite of the students who are looking for Middle Eastern food at all hours. The Stadium Inn offers the nostalgia of your favorite dive bar from college. And Fermaentra is a fine representative of the state’s booming and innovative local craft breweries. My top recommendation would be Park Burger on nearby Pearl Street – big juicy burgers and craft beer taps of the best in the state and around the country.
If you are looking for dessert, make the short trek north of Interstate 25 to Bonnie Brae Ice Cream. You can thank me by passing your newfound knowledge of the best selection of ice cream in Denver onto someone else.
Walking through the concourse at a Pioneer game reveals that the typical DU hockey fan spans many generations. It isn’t uncommon to see grandpa, dad and daughter all decked out in crimson and gold. These fans love hockey and enjoy taking their family out for a game in the local neighborhood. The fans aren’t very loud or boisterous at most of the games I’ve attended, but they cheer loud for Pioneer power plays and goals.
DU students in general tend to get a bad rap around town for their perceived demographical biases, but the ones who came to this game cheered loud for their team and stayed until the end. They even unfurled a small soccer-style tifo after each Pios goal which can be seen in the pictures at the top of the review.
Due to the university’s location in south Denver along Interstate 25, access is very easy for a large chunk of the Denver metro area. The typical Friday puck drop coming around 7:30 gives a chance for traffic to clear up and make any journey smooth and predictable.
Several parking lots and garages on the north half of campus are made available for hockey games. There are two pricing tiers – $7 and $12 – predictably separated by distance and the presence of a garage. It’s possible to find street parking 2 or 3 streets away from the campus, but expect a long walk to the arena.
If parking or driving aren’t your thing, or ample enjoyment of the local breweries is a prominent feature of your itinerary, you’re in luck – the E, F and H lines of the RTD’s Light Rail train system serve a station at the University of Denver. With more Light Rail stations and lines scheduled to open in 2016, more and more of the Denver metro area will be able to take advantage of affordable mass transit to get to the game.
Return on Investment 4
With the future of the CHL’s Denver Cutthroats in doubt, DU Hockey represents an affordable, high quality hockey alternative to the Colorado Avalanche. The Pios are in the NCHC, a high quality NCAA hockey super-conference that formed in 2013, so you are guaranteed to see future NHL talent on both the home and visitor benches. Due to draft rules and procedural wrinkles that you don’t see in college football or basketball, some of the elite players have already been drafted by NHL teams. For example, DU star defenseman Will Butcher has already been drafted by the Avalanche, so Avalanche fans get the added experience of scouting out a future player for their favorite team.
Due to Magness’ compact size and modern layout, there isn’t a poor seat in the entire arena. Even an upper level end seat, comparable to an end Club level seat at the Pepsi Center and other modern NHL arenas, costs between $16 and $20 and offers great views of the whole ice. Corner seats cost between $16 and $24, and center high seats between $21 and $24. A seat near center ice will cost close to $37 – but beware, college hockey players like to stand on the bench, and it is more likely your view of the action could be blocked if you sit too close behind the bench.
These prices remain consistent for most DU games. The only exception is when North Dakota comes to town. NoDak, essentially the Alabama or USC of college hockey, includes NHL superstars Jonathan Toews, TJ Oshie, and Zach Parise among their alumni. If you want to see a game featuring North Dakota in Denver, expect to pay a 25-50% premium when ordering tickets directly from the university, and possibly higher on the secondary market.
While not unique to DU hockey, I find it thrilling to watch players who have already been drafted by your favorite professional team. It’s nice to get a preview of what you can expect when that player joins the professional ranks.
Magness Arena is an intimate setting without a bad seat, something that is a nice contrast to the cavernous arenas used by almost every NHL team.
For season ticket holders who also donate a modest sum to the university, the Gold Club offers a club level experience, complete with an exclusive seating area and complimentary dinner before each game. Set at the top of the Ritchie Center, DU donors can check out the past trophies won by the university, as well as some impressive architecture under the clock tower. It’s a very cool setting and something I would personally consider joining if I was a DU season ticket holder.
If you live in the Denver area and have never been to a hockey game, professional or otherwise, I urge you to attend, whether it is a DU game or an Avs game. Live hockey is one of the best things to see as a fan, and the affordability and overall enjoyable experience that the University of Denver provides is the perfect place to witness it.
Food and Drink Recommendations
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La Quinta Inn
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Courtyard by Marriott Denver Cherry Creek
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