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LoDo living with the sound of baseball on the first “normal” opening day at Coors Field in 3 years

For Jeff Young and his 7-year-old son, Noah, Fridays meant memories.

That’s why the elder Young concocted a fake doctor’s appointment to get his son out of school for the afternoon. The two cycled from their Lakewood home to Coors Field for the Colorado Rockies’ opening day.

It was the first opening day game together.

“Look around you. It’s amazing,” Young said as the pair walked up the stairs to their seats in the Rockpile section in center field. “Spring is in the air. Life is back to normal. We have lemonade.

“And a popcorn,” Noah interjected, carrying a large bag of snacks. “Best day of my life.”

Life may not have fully returned to normal. A handful of stadium employees and others around the Lower Downtown were still wearing masks, a visual reminder of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

But after a shortened 2020 season in which the stands at Coors Field were empty and a 2021 home opener limited to just 42.6% capacity, Friday’s packed house of more than 48,000 was particularly festive. – even if the Rockies would end up losing 5-3 to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The main hall was packed with fans ahead of the first pitch of the game, hometown purple drowning out splashes of blue from the visiting Dodgers. On the street, street musicians added a thrilling soundtrack to a buzzing LoDo of energy.

“For me, opening day is Denver’s Mardi Gras,” Robert Phifer, 51, said as he stood near the corner of 20th and Market streets.

Phifer was hanging out with his nephew, brother and son, Dominic Phifer, who recently left the Marine Corps after five years of service and was spending his first day on the job at LoDo. The group did not have tickets for the match. They planned to bar-hop and soak up the atmosphere.

“The vibe here is great. There’s nothing like it,” Robbert Phifer said. “That’s why I wanted to experience it with my son.”

LoDo is a different place than it was before the pandemic. Old neighborhood staples like El Chapultepec jazz club closed while new things like Dierks Bentley’s Whiskey Row megabar opened.

Friday was the first day open since McGregor Sqaure’s development was completed last summer. The megaproject covering blocks just across 20th Street from Coors Field was developed by Rockies co-owner Dick Monfort and is designed to be an extension of the stadium experience, showing the action of the game on a screen giant above its central square.

Darius Johnson, 27, came to McGregor Square to hang out with friends before the game, joining the fray in the square. For Johnson, who has a YouTube channel called “SportsBS,” Opening Day ticked an important box on his fan list.

“I’m from Colorado, so from the day I was born until the day I died,” Johnson said of his Rockies fan.

Alix Finnegan, also from Denver, recently returned to Colorado after a decade away, allowing her to continue her tradition of attending Opening Day games. Logan Thurnauer, who moved with Finnegan to Denver at the start of the pandemic, was more enthused by the high turnout and crowd excitement than the game itself.

“She’s a baseball fan,” Thurnauer said of Finnegan as the two hung out in the noisy plaza.

By the time the game began with fireworks and a military flyover, many residents of McGregor Square were visibly inebriated. Others, like Jaime Lopez, enjoyed a more family-friendly opening day.

Lopez, who flew in with his wife and twin daughters from Phoenix for the weekend, has a tradition of taking his 5-year-olds to a home opener for different major league baseball teams each year.

“This past year they really started to enjoy ballparks and games in general,” Lopez said. “Now they can sit still for a whole match, whereas before it was a bit difficult to keep them still.”

On Friday, family traditions were on display all over LoDo.

Hyoung Chang, The Denver Post

Baseball fans line up on Opening Day at Gate E outside of Coors Field in Denver, Colorado on Friday, April 8, 2022.

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