‘Denver Advantage’ short on Athletics Department improvements

We’ve shown you the three capital projects in Phase I that have been launched as part of the Denver Advantage. And, there is no doubt that a spectacular campus will benefit student athletes, recruiting, and student retention.

The crown jewel during Phase II (years 5-10) will be the redevelopment of the corner of Buchtel Boulevard and University. When visitors enter the University gateway off I-25, they will see a vastly improved campus. Visitors will be greeted by a hotel, ground level retail and a University welcoming center. Students and faculty will see new housing along University Boulevard extending all the way to Asbury Avenue. This 6 acres of the DU campus is currently unsightly and under-utilized. It would be difficult to argue against this  much needed improvement for both the University and the community.

Gateway Phase II

So, let’s start by recognizing what a solid decision this is for DU. But what are the plans for the highest performing division at DU – athletics?

The master plan is unusually quiet when it comes to Phase II improvements for athletics facilities. It is not until years 10-15 that there are thoughts of constructing a new Sports Performance facility to be located between Magness Arena and Buchtel Boulevard. The replacement of the on-campus Stapleton Tennis Center is seen as the only other future opportunity for athletics sometime after 15 years.

The Ritchie Center and Magness Arena were constructed between 1997-1999. At nearly 20 years old, the $84 million investment was one of Dan Ritchie’s biggest efforts to increase DU’s visibility and stature. But the facility faces heavy use while consumer tastes and athletic department needs are always changing.

The seating for hockey is heavy with end-zone seating and older concessions. The arena is too big for basketball and not an ideal venue for a crowd of 3,000 – 4,000 fans – and that is a realistic figure for men’s basketball, even with significant on-court improvement. We have written about expanding north side seating for lacrosse. While Peter Barton is an innovative ‘lacrosse specific’ venue, other schools have caught up and have similar stadiums along with indoor practice facilities for inclement weather. The soccer stadium is a bit awkward with a path, fence, and landscaping between the main bleachers and the field, leaving fans somewhat disconnected from the action.

To add to the complications, if DU ever ends up in a different athletics conference, they may be required to add additional facilities for softball, baseball, beach volleyball, cross country, etc.. While much of this could be done at local venues, a greater load would be put on student athlete training areas and athletic department staff and coaches on campus.

Not all of the news is bad for athletics. A beautiful campus will be a magnet for athletes. The Ritchie Center and Magness Arena are still great, if not state-of-the-art venues. Also, the Denver Advantage focuses on major capital projects and capital roadmaps are always subject to change. However, there is likely to be restricted capital for ‘non-strategic projects’ as DU pursues their aggressive 2025 Strategic Plan. Lets just hope that DU athletics are not just along for the ride and athletic projects and donors are allowed to cut the line if unique capital needs present themselves.

8 thoughts on “‘Denver Advantage’ short on Athletics Department improvements”

  1. I couldn’t agree more with this. The Ritchie Center, as great as it is, was built with a lot of limitations in order to shoehorn many facilities into an existing footprint, especially all of that drab end zone seating, which is not that optimal for hockey or basketball.

    The future likely will be about smaller public seating, more luxury seating, higher prices, and enhanced game experiences.

    If I were DU, I would be looking at adding more luxury boxes, a party deck/standing restaurant/club to Magness, and enhancing the student section by making it bleacher seating to pack in more bodies and since they stand anyway, and upgrading concessions. Also adding more history and tradition to the outdated, uninspiring concourse displays there now.

    The soccer stadium should add a roof structure to keep people dry, and I’d build a special student party deck/section behind the south goal to build a student presence at soccer games.

    The tennis courts should become a multi-sport practice indoor practice facility, since they are so underused today.

    Long term, a second seating deck over the current Barton seating area or a large standing/party deck over a new student section on the East Hill attached to the Ritchie Center is a good option to get at least another 1,000-2,000 extra seats or more.

    If DU was really thinking strategically, there are more options for cooperative facilities at South High School beyond the current tennis facility. Baseball and softball facilities already exist there, as well as a 4,000 seat multi-sport stadium for DPS. These could all be upgraded and maintained for D-I purposes with DU money in return for priority usage. However, if DU is serious about using these as spectator venues, a footbridge over the I-25 highway will need to be constructed. This would offer amazing branding and campus gateway possibilities for DU, with millions of cars flowing beneath, and would connect South High School with DU.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t understand why a D1 college program wants to be associated with a high school. It doesn’t make sense to me and I question whether students will walk, drive to get to an event at a high school across the highway.

    I also think 3,000-4,000 for the men’s basketball program is a bit ambitious.

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    1. Maps:

      DU has no room to grow it’s landlocked campus. South High offers physical sports space that DU doesn’t have. Granted it’s not an ideal scenario, but it does offer the sports facility upgrade opportunities without having to buy more land in Denver, which is expensive. I think students would walk across a nice footbridge if it were a 5-more-minute walk from wherever they are, and especially as part of a game day experience with food, band, pre-gaming on the bridge, etc.

      As for 3,000-4,000 being ambitious for hoops, DU was averaging 3,300 back in the 2012-2013 era when DU was a 20-win team. Granted some of that crowd was papered with “rising star” kids and their families, but it was atmosphere. If Billups can get DU back to 20+ wins per season, more fans will come out. If DU makes it to the dance, I think 3,500-4,000 becomes a standard-issue DU hoops crowd, with more fans for big games or recognizable opponents.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Separate subject…I tried to have sweatshirts printed, with the Boone logo, for my family…and when the shirt company reached out to DU for permission, DU denied it. So much for the prior promise of letting the public use the image.

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    1. DU does not own the image – it was never copyrighted by DU. Some printers are reluctant but there are plenty you can find on-line. If you have a problem, drop us a note and we will find you a vendor.

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