Hospitality & Tourism  March 8, 2022

It’s Madness: Sports bars expect the crowds

They call it March Madness for a reason other than crazy upsets, last-second shots and busted brackets. 

The NCAA basketball tournament is one of the busiest times of the year for sports bars, casinos and other fun places to go to watch a game or 16 (and yes, there are 16 games those first couple of days).

Colorado is actually a fairly hot place in March, even if it is the snowiest month of the year, with four teams that have a shot at making the Big Dance. This year, both Colorado State and the University of Colorado have legit chances to make it in, and the University of Northern Colorado could make it with some luck. 

Here are some recommendations for places to cheer on a tiny team upsetting a giant. If your team is a giant — I’m a University of Kansas alum myself — you may cheer for yet another mosquito to be squashed at watch parties in bars throughout the Front Range and Northern Colorado. 

Black Hawk 

Sports betting is now legal in Colorado, and Black Hawk casinos are gearing up for the action. But many places also use the games as a draw, including the Monarch Casino, Black Hawk’s newest and perhaps swankiest addition. Monarch’s renovations opened in November 2020 after nearly a decade of preparation, and even though the casino has a cushy new poker room and slots and table games, the goal was to offer a place that may attract non-gamblers as well.

“For anyone who has a deep love of college basketball, we want to make sure they have access to the best space in Black Hawk to bet on and cheer on their team,” said Nick Epstein, sportsbook manager for Monarch. “This will be the first NCAA tournament (under the new renovations), and we expect it to be as packed as the NFL playoffs. Guests have long been drawn to other areas of the resort, and we’ve seen only more people explore it since our resort expansion opened.” 

Monarch offers single TVs for small groups at the sports book as well as 20 large community TVs to watch games and a VIP area for small groups to watch a specific game, in addition to “very comfy chairs.” 

Other places to go: 

• Ameristar at Black Hawk — The Ameristar added the Barstool Sportsbook when sports betting became legal in 2021. Sportsbooks are fun places to watch even if you aren’t betting on a game. 

• The Lodge Casino — SuperBook Sports, the “most decorated” sports book in Las Vegas, now runs a sportsbook on the second floor of The Lodge. 

• Century Casino in neighboring Central City — The Tipico Sportsbook is a new addition to the Black Hawk area, and Colorado is only the second state to host a Tipico, along with New Jersey. 

Front Range sports bars

The two busiest days are those frantic 16-game marathons at the start of the NCAA tournament on Thursday and Friday, said Jeremy Malone, owner of the Sportsbook Bar and Grill in Washington Park.

“We will be a packed house from Thursday and Friday at 10 a.m. until 10 p.m.,” Malone said. “The other days do slow down a bit. But it’s still crazy.” 

Sportsbook has three locations, in Greenwood Village (DTC), Washington Park and Highlands Ranch and has more than 40 TVs at each spot, with an 8-foot-tall video wall at Highlands Ranch. 

Sportsbook does have watch parties for Iowa Hawkeye fans at the Greenwood Village and Washington Park locations, and Highlands ranch is an Ohio State bar. This means during those games you can expect rowdy, loud fans cheering specifically for those teams. If that sounds fun to you, many bars in Denver offer havens for specific teams throughout the tournament. Check your alumni association for watch parties and plan to arrive early: The best seats for the tournament are usually taken a couple hours in advance. 

Other places to go: 

• C.B. & Potts — This Fort Collins mainstay with killer nachos offers a southern-facing patio for sunshine and propane heaters, so even if your team gets cold during March, you can stay warm.

• Pumphouse Brewery in Longmont — Specialty beers and specific times and hours designed to watch sports in its Red Zone area, with 33 TVs (just ask them to switch to your game if it’s not on) and audio boxes so you can hear the game at your table. 

• The G.O.A.T. Sports Bar is Greeley’s newest and one of the nicest in the region, with 36 TVs and patio seating for high-energy fans. 

Las Vegas 

The Venetian resort is attempting to stand out among the dozens of places where you could watch a game in Vegas, with a 10,000-foot sportsbook and more than 100 seats next to a massive video wall. The tournament, along with any other major sports event, gets so busy with bets on game days that William Hill, which runs the book, now has its own mobile app (as do many of the major casino operators such as MGM and Caesars). 

However, the sportsbook is just the start, not the centerpiece, as it is at many other casinos. The Venetian also offers the Electra Cocktail Club with a giant 40-foot digital screen (and 70 million pixels, a spokeswoman pointed out), which covers an entire wall, and the resort’s Moon Palace offers a “March Mayhem” package, which includes a bottle of spirits, a bucket of beers, three Red Bulls and bites. Finally, the resort offers suite experiences with decor of team colors and dining menu for a private viewing experience, just in case you’re one of those fans who stress a little hard over your team. 

Other places to go: 

Blondies Las Vegas — It’s not quite what you think. The wait staff dresses in ref gear, and the bar, in the Miracle Mile shops in Planet Hollywood, offers 60 TVs, including at least one with a 12-foot screen, along with an all-you-can-drink happy hour for $20, which is cheaper than many cocktails. 

Montecristo Cigar Bar at Caesars Palace — This offers a bit more of a dignified experience, but it’s casual enough to shed a stuffy label. 

Chickie’s and Pete’s — What many call the number-one sports bar in North America helped add some juice to the Sahara, a fading light on the bright Las Vegas strip. First-come, first-served but offers some booking options for big events and sells tickets to parties as well. 

They call it March Madness for a reason other than crazy upsets, last-second shots and busted brackets. 

The NCAA basketball tournament is one of the busiest times of the year for sports bars, casinos and other fun places to go to watch a game or 16 (and yes, there are 16 games those first couple of days).

Colorado is actually a fairly hot place in March, even if it is the snowiest month of the year, with four teams that have a shot at making the Big Dance. This year, both Colorado State and the University of Colorado have legit chances to…

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Dan England

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