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Denver should buy the naming rights to Mile High Stadium

Colin D. | January 11, 2018

“Do the Broncos fear that in the absence of a new naming rights partner that people will begin to refer to it as “Mile High Stadium” again?”

 

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North of the outer walls of the stadium the Broncos play in, an edifice that Colorado taxpayers provided $300M to build, sits a tiny replica of the one it replaced, the original Mile High Stadium. Dubbed “Mile High Monument” the miniature stadium was built to roughly ⅛ the size of the old one. It’s capable of holding around three hundred people; season ticket holders on game days and folks who have rented it out for private events and it made its debut prior to the 2016 season.

By the time the miniaturized Mile High was announced the Broncos’ second naming rights partner for the full-sized football stadium had gone under.

When the new complex opened prior to the 2001 Broncos’ season it was named for Invesco Funds, a national seller of financial products. Some in the Denver media vowed not to honor Invesco by recognizing its naming rights arrangement. The Denver Post explained to readers that  ”listening, hearing, understanding” public sentiment, the newspaper would use ”Mile High stadium” or ”new Mile High” in most references.

Ten years in to its thirty year naming commitment Invesco entered into bankruptcy proceedings (from which it would later emerge) and was forced to surrender the naming rights to Colorado’s Sports Authority, a sporting goods retailer which had once absorbed Denver’s Gart Brothers.

In 2016 Sports Authority also entered bankruptcy and liquidated its remaining assets in a sale to Dick’s Sporting Goods, it’s major rival. Needless to say, Sports Authority was subsequently released from its arrangement with the Broncos, famously leaving the Broncos with no naming rights partner at all.

In a rather bizarre twist, however, the signage touting the stadium as “Sports Authority Field at Mile High” remained on the structure throughout not only the 2016 season but the 2017 season as well. The apparent reason? The Broncos didn’t want the media and / or the fans to revert to calling it “Mile High Stadium”.

Today those signs are finally being taken down. Joe Ellis announced in the Broncos’ post-season press conference that removal crews were finally being dispatched. Ellis also asserted, however, that the team would continue to refer to the stadium officially as “Sports Authority at Mile High” until further notice citing upcoming events that have already been scheduled for the facility under that name. But are upcoming events really the reason the team is temporarily retaining the name of a non-existent company or is there another motivation?

Do the Broncos fear that in the absence of a new naming rights partner that people will begin to refer to it as “Mile High Stadium” again?

My guess is yes. It’s a pretty safe assumption that the team does not want that. The more fans and the media grow accustomed to the old familiar Mile High moniker the less value the next naming rights partner will perceive and the less they will be willing to pay.

So far the Denver media seems to be honoring the Broncos’ wishes by not uttering the phrase “Mile High Stadium”. Instead, outlets are referring to it as such things as “the stadium the Broncos play in”. I have been told that there have not been specific instructions levied by the Broncos toward outlets in terms of what the stadium is to be referred to but a glance around the local media landscape would tend to refute that. There seems to be a conspiracy to keep the old name off people’s lips.

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The value of the stadium naming rights can be debated but based on similar arrangements they’re probably worth about $30M over a ten-year deal. That’s about ten percent of what the taxpayers of Colorado kicked down to build the stadium in the first place. Maybe the City of Denver should offer to buy the naming rights back and return the stadium to the Mile High name. One would think that there would be value there for a tourism-driven place like Denver.

Of the 32 NFL Stadiums only seven remain without naming partners:  Soldier Field, Arrowhead Stadium, Paul Brown Stadium, the Georgia Dome, Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. Two of those are soon to be replaced. The Rams and Chargers will move into Stan Kroenke’s “LA Stadium at Hollywood Park” and the Raiders will be moving to the new “Las Vegas Stadium”. Notice that both of those new facilities are named for the cities they will reside in? Why shouldn’t Denver’s stadium be the same?

Stadium naming rights lead to clunky sounding lame names like “First Energy Stadium” (quick, name its city) and “M&T Bank Stadium” (where’s that one?).  Who needs it? Do Broncos fans want to say out loud “I Heart Radio Stadium at Mile High” or do they just want to call it “Mile High Stadium” again?

Joe Ellis claims that he remains optimistic that the team will find a new partner soon and that such a partner is needed to keep up with the costs of maintaining the stadium. But that stadium belongs mostly to us. Rather than encouraging the press to continue referring to it by the name of a defunct company he should appeal to the voters of Denver to buy the name back.  Lord knows our fine town has spent $30M on stupider things. Green roof initiative, anybody?

Written by Colin D.

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