Sports Biz: The Rockies’ castle in the sky

A view from the party deck

The Colorado Rockies executed one of the more brilliant business ideas in the recent history of American sports. Unfortunately, it had no effect on the product on the field.

Still, Rockies ownership and management deserve credit for recognizing an opportunity to turn around a floundering part of their business. For years, the seats in the upper deck in right field at Coors Field were mostly ignored, only used for popular games such as Opening Day or fireworks nights around the Fourth of July.

Then between the 2013 and 2014 seasons, that area of seating was torn down – 3,400 seats total — and replaced with two levels of bars, food vendors and cabanas. Called “The Rooftop,” it has since come to be known by regulars as “the party deck.”

These days the 38,000-square-foot rooftop is generally brimming with activity no matter the opponent, and it hasn’t seemed to take away from the experience around the rest of the stadium. Rooftop tickets are deemed general admission, and spectators can decide to spend time at the ballpark there even if tickets are for seats elsewhere in the park.

The brilliance of the concept is that it brings mild baseball enthusiasts and even disinterested folks to Coors Field to hang out with friends. On The Rooftop you can be completely disengaged from the sport while still at the game.

The Rockies were not even halfway through last season’s home schedule when the team reported it had already sold 60,000 tickets for The Rooftop, which was equal to the number of tickets sold for that seating area in the entire 2013 season.

Fans pay $14 for a Rooftop ticket and receive a $6 credit toward food and drinks. It’s cheaper than a movie ticket and tub of popcorn – and much more social.

Other Major League teams have studied the model and are considering similar social sections in their parks. Atlanta, which is building a new stadium to replace Turner Field, and the Chicago Cubs, who are in the middle of a massive project to update Wrigley Field, were among them.

 It’s a good thing the Rockies unearthed a new draw to the field regardless of whether the team is winning or losing, because the team has been doing a good deal of the latter.

Yet, as savvy as Rockies executives seem when it comes to making decisions to enhance the fan experience at Coors Field, they can’t seem to get it right when it comes to making the most important decisions of all: building a contending team.

The Rockies haven’t finished above .500 or been to the playoffs since 2009. Their recent seasons have made the 2007 World Series season seem like even more of an anomaly than it did when the Rockies went 20-8 in September and won 15 of 16 down the stretch.

The club has had 16 first-round draft picks since 2000. You would expect a handful of those players to be thriving at the big league level and some well on their way to memorable careers by now.

It may be unfair and premature to lose hope for the three players collected over the past three years, but the only player who fits the description among the rest of the group is shortstop Troy Tulowitzki.

Something is clearly flawed in the approach the franchise has taken in acquiring and developing talent. The Rockies need to switch things up in that aspect of the business because there are no more Rooftops to build.

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