Long lines, hot weather hinder home opener

The home opening-day crowd of 4,850 at the Grand Junction Rockies game Saturday enjoyed promotions such as the “Beer Batter” and the Daylight Donut $20,000 donut-hole dunk, and they got a 10-6 win over Idaho Falls to boot.

Now they just need more opportunities for water. And beer.

Lines of what seemed like more than 100 fans clogged the mezzanine section and left some fans with what they estimated was a 45-minute wait in weather that hovered around 100 degrees.

“I don’t think we hit a home run tonight, so we’re disappointed,” Rockies General Manager Tim Ray said. “We need to add more points of sale, especially for beverages.”

Ray said that could include tubs of ice filled with bottled water for sale, as well as other beverage stations.

Nevertheless, fans reportedly had fun and remained calm, according to Grand Junction Police Department officer Gage Wright, who oversaw one of the lines that consistently began in line with first base, then curled and ended somewhere even with shallow right field.

“People behaved pretty well considering the conditions, the long lines and the hot weather” Wright said. “We only had a couple skirmishes that resolved themselves.”

Fans are allowed to bring one sealed bottle of water per person inside Suplizio Field. There is a double-nozzled water fountain on the northwest side of the mezzanine behind home plate, near the restrooms. Aside from a possible trip to the bathroom sinks, fans had to wait in line for water.

Amber Newitt of Grand Junction was at the end of one of the concession lines.

“I’m just trying to get a diet Pepsi or Coke for my mom and dad,” she said. “Maybe nachos. I’ll get hungry by the time I get there.”

Newitt said her father is diabetic.

“So, I’m getting him something to drink just in case,” she said.

One family who purchased beer, nachos and other items estimated they waited 45 minutes.

In Section O, an elderly woman passed out midway through the game because of “heat issues,” Ray said. She was placed on a stretcher and taken to an ambulance.

The heat situation won’t improve any for today’s 2:05 p.m. start. The forecasted high is 101 degrees.

But heat issues and long lines didn’t completely dismay some fans.

“This team is good for the town, and I hope they maintain this feel and enthusiasm,” said Paul Gray, 43, who said he has been living in Grand Junction since the mid-1970s. “The newness tends to wear off like anything in life.”

Gray, who bought a single-game ticket for Saturday’s game, said he’ll return.

“I’ll come back and bring my daughter,” he said. “Hopefully more people bring their families.”

And just when the beer line couldn’t become any longer, Rockies pitcher Brian Rike struck out Idaho Falls batter Jin-Ho Sin, the “beer batter” for the day, in the top of the sixth inning. But there did not seem to be masses from the crowd rushing for $2 beers for the 10 minutes after the strikeout.

At every home game, one opposing player will be selected as the “beer batter.”

Jen Clement, for one, scored a pair of bottled Coors Lights.

“This is great,” Clement said of the beer-batter promotion. “It’s not great for the other batter, but whatever. It’s about us, the fans, and when the crowd gets behind the pitcher, they seem to throw better.”

In one of the deepest parts of the park — left-center field — there is a Daylight Donuts sign that stretched some 25 feet in the air. If a ball is hit through the donut hole, a selected fan wins $20,000.

The winner was in Section O, Row J, Seat 5.

Luke Murray, however, did not end up with 20-grand. Murray is 6.

When the seat was called, Jerry Murray held his son in the air, showing off the winner to the crowd.

Later, a man in a white Fisher’s Market hat said: “I think I heard his wife is going shopping.”

To which Jerry Murray said: “We haven’t won yet, but we went ahead and spent it.”

Of course, Murray said the odds of a ball going through the hole is one-in-a-million.

Promotions and heat and long lines aside, the atmosphere was electric.

“It was awesome,” said Jeff Miller, 45. “You get to see first-round draft picks play like that (David) Dahl kid. He’s 19, and I heard he has 2.3-million dollars in the bank. I’m going, ‘Alright ...’ ”


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