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FILE PHOTO: Linda Ragland poses in her homemade Rockies dress on Opening Day at Coors Field in Denver, Friday, April 5, 2019. It's been three years since an Opening Day brought thousands of fans and partygoers downtown. 

A sea of purple, black and silver will wash over downtown Denver on Friday as bars, restaurants, coffee shops and, of course, Coors Field celebrate Opening Day as the Colorado Rockies host the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Baseball fans are not the only people excited about Friday’s party. Many downtown businesses are elated that most COVID-19 restrictions are gone. They’re looking forward to the first “real” Opening Day since 2019.

“This is huge for us,” said Chris Fuselier, the owner of Blake Street Tavern. “Opening Day is traditionally our busiest day of the year, so coming off of COVID and all the devastating consequences from that, this is like the shot in the arm we’ve been waiting for.”

Business owners who spoke to The Denver Gazette said Opening Day is one of their busiest days of the year, if not the busiest. Fuselier said Blake Street Tavern generates between $125,000 and $150,000 worth of sales on the Rockies Opening Day.

Frank Bonanno, the owner of the Denver Milk Market, said he was not sure if this year’s Opening Day will generate as much revenue as previous years because so many people are working from home instead of downtown. But he expects it will be a great weekend regardless.

“We had to rent a refrigerated truck to (store everything) over Opening Day weekend (in 2019),” Bonanno said. “I don’t think we’ll get to that level, but baseball’s the national pastime and a lot of people celebrate Opening Day, so we’re expecting a big push in business and a great weekend.”

The new president and CEO of the Downtown Denver Partnership, Kourtny Garrett, said she’s looking forward to her first Opening Day in Denver — and the crowds it’s expected to bring.

“I absolutely see this as one of the great moments of celebration for downtown,” Garrett said.

She expects the crowds to top 2019's Opening Day.

“We expect more than 100,000 extra people downtown for Opening Day,” Garrett said. “We think, perhaps, there’s a little more pent-up demand to get out and have a good time in the heart of the city.”

The partnership has data management equipment downtown that can track pedestrian traffic.

It is hosting an “Opening Day Block Party” from noon to 2 p.m. Friday at Skyline Park. Plans call for food, music, games and a “showcase of local artists who will be creating banners for our Brighter Safer Streets Initiative.”

Bars and restaurants are not the only businesses that benefit from Opening Day.

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“The great thing about Opening Day is all of our businesses do well and it’s not just the bar,” said Brandon Hanson, the food and beverage director for Denver’s Union Station. “Our coffee shop is busy, and people want ice cream from our ice creamery. It’s just an outstanding day.”

And while these businesses and their owners are elated for the return of Opening Day, one month ago all their planning and preparations for the big day were in question as Major League Baseball was locked out over a labor dispute.

Fuselier hired more than 30 employees in preparation for baseball season, but because of the lockout was unsure how he was going to find enough work for all those new employees.

“We based the hiring off a six-month baseball season, and I was thinking to myself, ‘What in the world am I going to do with these extra people if there’s no baseball?’” he said. “I was doing cartwheels that they had come to an agreement.”

Jessica Chapman, the general manager of Kachina & Poka Lola social club, bar and restaurant, said Opening Day is the “gateway to summer” and increased traffic will help an industry that was arguably hit the hardest by the pandemic.

“This is really a lifeline for our industry,” Chapman said.

Business officials hope Opening Day and baseball season will be a driving force that brings people back to downtown at pre-pandemic levels.

“We’ve really seen that demand for events ramp up significantly,” said Garrett. “Especially in the last couple of months. The Parade of Lights on New Year’s Eve saw well over 200,000 people downtown. While I don’t have the numbers for St. Patrick’s Day yet, we know it was a phenomenal turnout.”

The numbers show daily pedestrian traffic is returning to pre-pandemic levels, she said, which was about 250,000 people per day. Levels now are nearing 200,000 each day.

“We’re doubling down on the downtown environment, sending the message it’s clean and safe,” Garrett said. “We’re starting to program a lot of activities and returning to a lot of events.

“It’s a lot of reminding people what they love about downtown, the restaurants, retail, arts, culture and everything that’s so great about center city.”

Hanson believes baseball and Opening Day are exactly what the industry needs. He looks forward to what he described as the change in attitude in patrons during this time of the year.

“Opening Day is the kickoff to warm weather, patio season and people being outside,” he said. “People’s emotions and attitudes begin to switch into summer mode and there’s nothing better than that.”

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