Stanley Cup Final a win for Avalanche fans and downtown businesses
Watch parties on the Auraria Campus near Ball Arena provide a boost for MSU Denver-affiliated brewery and hotel.
The Colorado Avalanche’s home-ice advantage for the Stanley Cup Final couldn’t have come at a better time for Denver. But the Avalanche’s recent success has Denver business owners straddling the line between their fandom and increased revenue.
As an Avalanche fan, Tivoli Brewery Operations Manager Chris Thibodeau wants Colorado to win the best-of-seven-games series in the minimum of four games. But as an operations manager, he hopes to extend the watch parties on the Tivoli lawn for as many games as possible.
“I’d love to see the (Avalanche) sweep,” said Thibodeau, a graduate of Metropolitan State University of Denver’s Brewery Operations Program. “But from a business perspective, I’d like to see it go seven.”
Scott Gladney, hotel general manager at SpringHill Suites by Marriott Denver Downtown — which is owned by MSU Denver — is in a similar position. The hotel is across from Ball Arena and was at full capacity for Games 1 and 2, but a sweep would end its chances of additional guests during the Stanley Cup Final. Games 3 and 4 will be at the home of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Both managers are happy to see their favorite team in the final series of the NHL season, but they are much more focused on ensuring that their businesses exceed customer expectations throughout the watch parties.
Wednesday’s watch party attracted roughly 6,000 Avs fans, but Saturday’s watch party could bring twice that many. Thibodeau said the Tivoli brought in about $70,000 in sales during Game 1. To continue to meet the expected demand, the Tivoli has almost doubled its servers and cooks, strengthened the Wi-Fi for credit-card readers and has ordered $100,000 worth of product to keep on site, compared with the usual $5,000.
“It was crazy,” Thibodeau said of the watch party for Game 1. “We had a lot of people here, and since it was a (Wednesday) night, a lot of people were still at work. It was very energizing and exhausting. But it was incredible. I would have loved to be in the arena, and I talked to some friends of mine who said it was incredible inside, too.”
Gladney’s mission differs from Thibodeau’s because of the type of service the hotel provides. With no vacancy at the hotel, Gladney’s goal is to ensure excellent service to guests, especially considering hotel rates are at their highest daily average.
After being named Denver Hotel GM of the Year, Gladney vowed that the hotel would come back “stronger than ever” after the pandemic. At the time, SpringHill Suites was listed as the No. 7 Denver-proper hotel on TripAdvisor. Now, Gladney has helped move the hotel up to No. 2 and knows the influx of reservations during the Stanley Cup Final is going to be vital in keeping the hotel at its current status.
“That means finding opportunities to exceed at every opportunity and every crossroads,” said Gladney, who recently earned his master’s in Business Administration at MSU Denver. “We have guests coming in from all over the world. As professionals, when people travel to your place, you want to disarm them from the stresses of travel. And the way you do that is to provide a memorable service experience that makes them want to come back.”
For the hotel’s restaurant, Degree Metropolitan Food and Drink, Gladney hopes to bring people in from the Tivoli lawn who need a sit-down break from the heat or a place to wind down after the game is over. Gladney’s team created over 1,000 promotional cards offering two free beers with the purchase of an entrée and created an Avalanche Jell-O shot.
However, his allegiance to the Avalanche still comes first.
“We’ve had such a successful year, so all of this is just the icing on the cake,” Gladney said. “We’re really proud of our overall profitability this year. Do I want it to go to Game 7 for revenue? Not necessarily. I’m more of an Avalanche fan now than I’ve ever been before, so let’s get it done.”
Of the thousands of fans at Wednesday’s watch party, most were hoping to see their favorite team win its third Stanley Cup and its first in 20 years. Some were just happy to be a part of the experience for the first time.
Phil Vonhake has been a fan since the team came to Denver and has seen it all. He remembers being at McNichols Arena in 1996 to watch the Avalanche defeat the Detroit Red Wings in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals. He was also in the building for a watch party and saw the Avalanche finish the sweep against the Florida Panthers by scoring the game’s only goal in triple overtime.
“The place went nuts,” Vonhake said. “The video went out the instant they scored and didn’t come back until the guys came out with the Cup. So the place went nuts all over again. It was wonderful, and the parade was great.”
Kelly Lawless has lived in Denver for about 18 months and is taking it all in for the first time. One of the reasons she moved to Denver was because of the number of professional sports teams, and she joined the Avs faithful because her boyfriend is a lifelong fan.
“I will say sports is one of the big reasons I moved to Denver,” Lawless said. “It’s fun being here and just experiencing all the energy of the city and the excitement of the Stanley Cup. We have been to a lot of games this season, and they’re an awesome team.”
Watch parties will continue throughout the Stanley Cup Final on Saturday, Monday and Wednesday and could continue June 24, 26 and 28. For more information, visit the Auraria Higher Education Center website.