Q&A with Rapids General Manager Pádraig Smith and UCHealth's Manny Rodriguez

What excites you the most about this partnership between the Colorado Rapids and UCHealth?

Smith: Where do you start? I mean, there's just so many things to be excited about here. If I boiled it down to just a couple of things, it's who we're partnering with, and what the potential is for what we can do together here. I think for us, UCHealth is a name that's synonymous with doing good for the people of Colorado, bettering their lives, improving their lives. And that's something that really matters to us. They're a part of a massive presence in the state of Colorado, and they want to help the people of Colorado. For us, we want to be the heartbeat of sport in Colorado, and the heartbeat of our organizations, of course, is our fans, and they're part of that community.

When you think about the UCHealth logo on the front of the Rapids kit, what comes to mind?

Rodriguez: Being on the on the jersey of an MLS team, there is a sense of pride in that. I think the rapids are poised to make a lot of noise, right? It's an exciting time, the growth of this team and where they're headed, is part of the trajectory we want to be part of. As you look at a World Cup coming to the United States a couple of years from now, that's also something we're very excited about. But more importantly, it's the grassroots nature of this. There's over 100,000 kids in the state of Colorado playing this game, tens of thousands of adults, and it really is a game of the people, a game of a grassroots initiative that we can really partner with and jump on and really help make Coloradans healthy. I think every time somebody sees the jersey and sees our logo, or wears the jersey and wears our logo, it's a reminder of what we're trying to do. It's a reminder of that we want to help the people of Colorado, be healthier and stay healthier and be fit at the end of the day. We're a healthcare organization and we care about your health.

As you continue to grow the Colorado Rapids on and off the field, what does a partnership like this say about the current and future state of the club?

Smith: I kind of feel in many ways this was a partnership that was always destined to be. We're proud to have UCHealth be a part of the larger KSE family and because of that, we've been able to get to know the people here at UCHealth over the last number of years. We understand their love for soccer, we understand their love for helping the people of Colorado. And that's something that I think led to this and put us in a position where this just made so much sense; to bring these two great organizations together for the betterment of the health and well being of Coloradans and for the growth of the sport of soccer. We want to be the heartbeat of sport in the state of Colorado. And ultimately, we want to bring an MLS Cup back here to Colorado. And I think to do that you have to have strong partners with you, you have to have individuals and organizations that are going to help drive you on and help you reach the goals that you have as a club. So for us, I think this initiative is perfectly timed. I think you see the growth of MLS and you see how strong it's becoming not just domestically, but actually globally, you think about things like Leagues Cup, and what we're doing with Liga MX, these are really incredible pathways forward for the sport of soccer, for MLS and for the Colorado Rapids. To do that, you need strong partners there with you, you need people that are going to help you have the reach that you want. So that you can affect the real change in your community, but also on the field.

What is UCHealth's vision for Ready. Set. CO.?

Rodriguez: Our goal is really around, "How do we make Colorado be the healthiest state in the country again?" We were once the healthiest state, we're now somewhere ranked between seventh and tenth. And our goal is to really create a platform that encourages, motivates and challenges the people of Colorado to not only get healthy but to stay healthy. And part of that is how do we help them by providing them tools by providing them opportunities to stay healthy by providing them venues to challenge them and make exercise and make health fun.

This partnership will see the UCHealth as the Rapids’ official jersey sponsor through the 2029 Major League Soccer season. What do you envision for the future of MLS, the Rapids, and the partnership in that time?

Smith: This is not a short partnership. I think that was a really important part of this for us to make the lasting changes that we really want to make here. I think you have to have a partner that's in it for the long haul, a partner that shares your values, but also understands that those changes won't come overnight. We've got a collective goal here of making Colorado the healthiest state in the country and that's something that is going to take time. But when you can combine the resources of two organizations like the Colorado Rapids and UCHealth, I think you can really make progress in that area. We look at the growth of MLS, we look at the growth of soccer in this country, we look at the World Cup that's coming to the United States in 2026, and we just see that as an incredible opportunity to grow the sport, but to also use the sport as a wonderful vehicle for real change. I think about it day to day with our team, about how do we make sure our team are prepared, how are their bodies and minds prepared, I think about what we've all gone through over the last number of years with COVID and the other challenges that we've faced and I look around and see a partnership with UCHealth as being a way to not only improve the lives and improve the physical quality, but help us challenge issues like mental health and make sure that that everybody is looking forward to a brighter day and looking forward to really improving their lives and putting themselves in a position to succeed.