Stanley Cup Final a win for Avalanche fans and downtown businesses

The Colorado Avalanche’s home field advantage for the Stanley Cup Finals couldn’t have come at a better time for Denver. But the recent success of The Avalanche has had Denver business owners crossing 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 at least four games. But as operations manager, he hopes to extend the watch parties on the Tivoli lawn to 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 to seven.”

Scott Gladney, general manager of the hotel at SpringHill Suites by Marriott Denver Downtown — owned by MSU Denver — is in a similar position. Located across from the Ball Arena, the hotel was at full capacity for Games 1 and 2, but a sweep would end its chances of extra guests during the Stanley Cup Finals. Games 3 and 4 will be played at the home of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Both managers are excited to see their favorite teams in the final series of the NHL season, but they’re much more focused on making sure their deals exceed customer expectations during watch parties.

Wednesday’s watch party attracted about 6,000 Avs fans, but Saturday’s watch party could attract twice that number. Thibodeau said the Tivoli brought in about $70,000 in revenue during Game 1. To continue to meet expected demand, Tivoli has nearly doubled its servers and chefs, boosted WiFi for credit card readers, and kept $100,000 worth of products on-site when ordered, compared to the usual $5,000.

“It was crazy,” Thibodeau said of the Game 1 watch party. “We had a lot of people here, and since it was (Wednesday) night, there were still a lot of people at work. It was very stimulating and exhausting. But it was incredible. I would have loved to have been in the arena and I spoke to some friends of mine who said it was amazing inside too.”

Gladney’s mission differs from Thibodeau’s because of the type of service the hotel provides. With no vacancies at the hotel, Gladney’s goal is to provide guests with excellent service, especially considering that hotel rates are at their highest daily average.

After being named Denver Hotel GM of the Year, Gladney vowed the hotel would come back “stronger than ever” after the pandemic. At the time, SpringHill Suites was listed as the #7 hotel in Denver on TripAdvisor. Now, Gladney has helped propel the hotel to #2 and knows that the influx of reservations during the Stanley Cup Finals will be critical to keeping the hotel in its current state.

“That means finding ways to excel at every opportunity and at every crossroads,” said Gladney, who recently earned his master’s degree in business administration from MSU Denver. “We have guests from all over the world. As a professional, you want to relieve people who travel to you from the stress of traveling. And the way you do that is by providing a memorable service experience that will keep them coming back.”

For the hotel’s restaurant, Degree Metropolitan Food and Drink, Gladney is hoping to bring in people from the Tivoli lawn who need a sit-down break from the heat or a place to relax after the game. Gladney’s team created over 1,000 promotional cards offering two free beers with the purchase of an appetizer and created an Avalanche Jell-O shot.

However, his allegiance to the Avalanche still comes first.

“We’ve had such a successful year, so it’s all just icing on the cake,” Gladney said. “We are really proud of our overall profitability this year. Do I want earnings to go to Game 7? Not necessarily. I’m more of an Avalanche fan now than I’ve ever been, so let’s do it.”

Of the thousands of fans at Wednesday’s watch party, most were hoping their favorite team would win its third Stanley Cup and first in 20 years. Some were just happy to be part of this experience for the first time.

Phil Vonhake has been a fan since the team came to Denver and has seen it all. He recalls 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 wrap up the win over the Florida Panthers by scoring the only goal of the game in triple overtime.

“The place has gone crazy,” Vonhake said. “The video went off as soon as they scored and didn’t come back until the lads came out with the trophy. So the place went crazy again. It was wonderful and the parade was great.”

Kelly Lawless has lived in Denver for about 18 months and is taking it all with her for the first time. One of the reasons she moved to Denver was the number of professional sports teams, and she joined the Avs fans because her boyfriend is a lifelong fan.

“I’ll say exercise is one of the main reasons I moved to Denver,” Lawless said. “It’s fun to be here and just take in all the energy of the city and the excitement of the Stanley Cup. We’ve been to a lot of games this season and they’re a great team.”

Watch parties will continue during the Stanley Cup Finals on Saturday, Monday and Wednesday and could continue on June 24th, 26th and 28th. Visit the Auraria Higher Education Center website for more information.

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