Exclusive: Q&A With New Colorado Rapids Stadium Development Director Mike Rock

COMMERCE CITY (Exclusive to ColoradoRapids.com) - This week Rapids.com had the opportunity to sit down with Kroenke Sports Enterprises' Senior Director of Development Mike Rock for an exclusive one-on-one interview regarding all aspects of the construction of the new Rapids stadium and the entire Prairie Gateway complex.

Rock is currently leading the KSE Development Team in building the new Rapids stadium and Prairie Gateway Complex in Commerce City. He is responsible for overseeing the entire project including construction of the new Rapids stadium and practice field 23 youth soccer fields and all associated parking lots. Another important element in the project is approximately one million square feet of commercial and retail development.

Named to his present position in March of 2005 Rock possesses a familiarity with the operations of the Kroenke Sports Enterprises organization having previously overseen event coordination concessions guest services and security operations as the Senior Director of Event Operations for the Pepsi Center.

Prior to joining KSE in 2001 Rock developed his experience as Director of Guest Services for the Colorado Rockies Baseball Club from 1995-2001 assisted in the opening of Coors Field and served as Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum and Arena's Event Manager and Event Coordinator from 1988-1995.

Rock took the time off from his busy schedule to discuss the impending Rapids Stadium and Prairie Gateway complex and to give Rapids fans his exclusive insights into the progress of the construction to date.

Rapids.com: Mike thanks for taking the time to sit down and talk with us today we know you're very busy working on the Prairie Gateway complex! We wanted to provide the platform for Rapids fans to get an exclusive inside look about how the new Rapids stadium is progressing right from the man in charge. So we'd like to hit you up with some questions that we know Rapids fans are interested in hearing the answers to.

Rock: "No problem I'm happy to!"

Rapids.com: American soccer fans over the last few years have seen the maturation of the soccer-specific stadium in the USA. What has your team learned from the constructions of Columbus Crew Stadium the Home Depot Center and Pizza Hut Park?

Rock: "Well we've learned a lot. Our development team has spent time touring each venue in person most recently at Pizza Hut Park during the 2005 MLS Cup and seen what works great at some of those venues as well as figuring out what we'd like to see be made priorities at the new Rapids stadium.

"One thing that comes to mind that we've learned is to make sure we get the parking done right. There is a real need for close-in parking for fans as well as the need to develop an efficient layout for parking at both Rapids games as well as for games at the adjacent youth soccer fields. Positioning of parking areas and planning for traffic patterns are two areas we are currently heavily involved in many meetings about right now to make sure we make it as painless as possible for fans to access the stadium and its fields park and then exit as easily as possible.

"Another thing we also have learned is that we want to correctly plan for drainage at the field level. Bowl drainage setup is critical for soccer stadia and we've taken steps with our construction company to make sure that issue is adequately dealt with.

"Some of those teams have already found out they've had to go back and make changes after their stadia were completed. Based on some of their revisions without naming names we have learned the importance of making sure to have a variety of things taken care of as a priority...examples? Things such as a service track around the perimeter of the pitch to make sure we're not dragging equipment around on the grass. We learned that it's important to plan for how camera positions around the stadium are going to affect seating behind those areas. We're going to put an emphasis on making the press box as convenient and comfortable as possible for media members. We're making sure to have the locker rooms as convenient to the pitch as possible for the teams.

"So really it's a ton of things we've learned from what some of the other teams went through when building their venues and what obstacles they had to overcome. A lot of it is stuff that might not be obvious or noticeable to the general fan but luckily we have some other MLS teams that have gone through this process and they've been gracious enough to host us and share with us their experiences so that we're ahead of the game going in."

Rapids.com: What are the Rapids doing to make this construction project environmentally friendly?

Rock: "You name it. The whole project itself is completely unique and one of the most environmentally-friendly projects anywhere. I mean one-half of the whole project is open space......acres of wild prairie that will never ever be touched or developed. There will be huge ponds just north of the stadium in the middle of all this and we're looking at even installing binoculars for fans to view all the wildlife right from the stadium concourse!

"Both KSE and Commerce City are committed to making Prairie Gateway as environmentally friendly as possible. On the project we are currently recycling all of our wood paper and steel and there's tons of recycling going on.....46% of our waste has been recycled. Also in the works as a collaboration between Commerce City the Audobon Society and the US Fish & Wildlife Dept. is a Prairie Gateway Visitor's Center just down the road from the stadium that will have all kinds of information on the open space and wildlife and that will serve as a link to the natural wonders that will surround the project with everything from nature walks to bike paths.

"There's really nothing quite like what the Prairie Gateway project will be anywhere in the world with over 450 acres of open space which includes native remnant prairie grasses....it's one of the most unique public/private partnerships in all of sports."

Rapids.com: A lot of fans are excited about the planned Rapids pub that will be part of the stadium. How cool will that be?

Rock: "It's going to be great. Our plans for the yet-to-be-named Bar & Grill are for it to be attached to the south end of the stadium. It will be a great gathering place for pregame events breakfasts special events watching other games corporate parties you name it.

"The current plan is for the restaurant to be able to accomodate 300 people: 100 inside 100 on the patio outside the stadium for special events and an additional 100 on the concourse side. We're even looking at putting in some cool garage-door style windows that will be able to roll up and give the entire place an open-air feeling which will be fantastic in summer!"

"Overall it will be a great design have an fantastic view of the field an open-view grill area featuring exhibition cooking so fans can see their food being prepared a bunch of TV's some cool patios and a very cool industrial-style decor. Fans are going to love it."

Rapids.com: One thing that fans are looking forward to is the installation of a webcam on the construction site that fans can check in on by visiting the Rapids' website. What's the progress of the proposed webcam?

Rock: "I know that's one of the things our fans are looking forward to. One of the reasons it's taking longer to install one was that we didn't even have was electricity out at the construction site until just recently....everything out there was having to run on generators. Obviously that webcam would need to run off power not a generator which would screw it up.

"So now that we have power out there our next step is to install a webcam on a 30-foot pole we're building that should be read to go in early January.....Our webcam will be in as soon as we go vertical with our construction. Hopefully we've got something up and ready in mid-January."

Rapids.com: Some fans who may not be so familiar with Commerce City are unsure of how the new stadium's location might affect their commute. What can fans realistically expect driving-wise?

Rock: "To be honest it depends where you're coming from. Obviously for some people it'll be easier to get to for others maybe a bit longer of a drive.

"But overall it's not going to be much different than your average fan's drive to Invesco Field. I've timed it....I do the drive from the Pepsi Center to the new site all the time. From Invesco Field to the new stadium total drive time is 10-12 minutes. The stadium is located right at I-70 and Quebec Street. Literally the new stadium is 3 minutes off of I-70 and it doesn't get much better than that for access."

Rapids.com: Give us the inside scoop. What's your favorite feature of the entire stadium?

Rock: "My one favorite part? I'd have to say the stadium's roof structures. They are going to be so iconic. When fans see them when they're actually done how they so mirror the Rocky Mountain Range that can be seen west of the stadium. People watching games there on TV will instantly say 'That's the Rapids stadium'.

"The roof structures will also help us attain that European-style intimate seating and atmosphere which will be reflected throughout Prairie Gateway. The fact that we are also replicating that roof design all over the complex on everything from signage out at the youth fields to light poles all over the complex is really going to make it all tie together design-wise to achieve a very cool effect."

Rapids.com: Is the construction process on schedule?

Rock: "It sure is. We're even a bit ahead of schedule. Even though we had two cold snaps here in Denver over the last few weeks things are going great. Our structural steel erection is scheduled to begin next week which is one week ahead of schedule. The field wall and concrete pours are all going well.

"Our construction teams are out there all day every day and it's going to be a very busy January. Then it's full-out ramped-up activity out at the site during the summer months when things are really going to take shape. Overall things are progressing great and we will be ready to be open for the Rapids' Home Opener in April of 2007!"

Rapids.com: Last question: why should Rapids fans be excited about the new stadium project?

Rock: "It will be great for the Rapids to have a home of their own. Think about it....it's like the difference between renting an apartment and owning a house.

"The Rapids will have the ability to pick and choose the dates and times they have games. We'll have all kinds of concerts and special events with the Rapids controlling their schedules and managing the events. We'll have soccer as it's meant to be with great atmosphere and great sightlines. We'll have great practice fields for the team and tons of youth soccer events going on right at our facility. That's unbeatable.

"Really it all comes down to pride in ownership. The Rapids are going to have one of the premier facilities in the world to call their own and it's the fans that are going to reap the benefits right along with the team!"

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