DENVER — Broncos Country is experiencing a bit of change. New coach, new quarterback and, soon, new ownership.
With the Broncos changing hands for the first time in decades, it raises the question: Is it time for a new stadium?
“It’ll be the No. 1 decision the new owner will have to make,” said Broncos President Joe Ellis. “How are we going to proceed long-term when it comes to the stadium? There are all kinds of things that go into evaluating a new stadium. From a big picture perspective — that will be issue No. 1.”
That statement got Broncos Country fired up.
“If one is built, it needs to be retractable roof,” commented one fan on Twitter.
“I’m sick of owners telling us (it’s) out of date when it’s 20 years old,” said another Twitter statement.
Either way, it brings up the question: With the Broncos sale and some amazing off-season acquisitions, is a new stadium part of the deal?
“It does make things interesting,” said Zach Bye, co-host of Stokley and Zach on Denver sports radio station 104.3 The Fan.
Bye said a new stadium comes with a lot of perks, including the possibility of a retractable roof and Denver hosting its first-ever Super Bowl.
“I think it’s incredibly reasonable to believe that if the new Broncos ownership wants to build a new stadium, not long after it's built, the Broncos would have a Super Bowl,” Bye said.
“Of course you get a Super Bowl every time you build a new stadium,” said Darrin Duber-Smith, economics and marketing expert at Metropolitan State University of Denver. “The league awards you with a Super Bowl — that’s part of the deal.”
Duber-Smith said building a new stadium could come with a huge price-tag.
“It’s estimated at $2 billion and the estimates never come in,” he said. “And you’ve got all these environmental inputs with inflation and supply chain issues, raw materials. So this thing is going to cost quite a bit more than $2 billion.”
Many believe a remodel is certainly in order at Empower Field, but a new stadium is not.
“It’s just not necessary and it’s not necessary for a team like the Denver Broncos that’s already a very valuable team,” Duber-Smith said. “You’ve got a facility that probably needs remodeling, but certainly doesn’t need to be knocked down.”
Many fans agree.
“I’m looking at it right now — it’s a beautiful structure. It’s a beautiful place,” said a Broncos fan named Lucia as she stood outside the current stadium. “I say that if it’s the ownership's money, they can do whatever they want, right? Can’t tell them what to do or what not to do. But, if it has to come from taxpayers, that’s a whole other conversation that we need to have because where is that money going to come from?”
“The current stadium is not all that old, and I would question the need for a new stadium,” said Andrew Goetz, planning expert and professor at the University of Denver.
Goetz works on city planning issues and said from a taxpayer perspective, there are much bigger priorities.
“There are many needs we have as a community,” Goetz said. “We’re facing an incredible affordability crisis in terms of housing. There are things we could do to improve that. There are things we could do to improve our public transit system.”
But others argue a new stadium could also generate new revenue.
“I’d love to see it,” said Daniela Robles, manager at Cilantro Denver, located at 17th and Federal, directly across the street from Empower Field.
Cilantro opened its doors three years ago, survived the pandemic, and would likely expand if a new stadium were built.
“It would be like a dream for us, as a business,” Robles said. “I think it would be great for the neighborhood. I can see a pretty big impact for our business here at Cilantro. We’ve even thought about expanding our business and doing a rooftop.”
A new stadium might also spur condo, retail and restaurant development around the stadium — something the city talked about years ago, but never came to fruition.
“You see some of these other teams, and it’s almost like villages built around these stadiums,” Bye said. “It’s a sprawling layout. Not just to watch football and stand in a parking lot and tailgate. It’s just more than that in 2022.”
Fans like Jessie Leyva favor that.
“New changes, new looks, everything’s modern,” Leyva said. “I always love that.”
There is certainly a risk in some markets of not funding new stadium projects, at least partially, with taxpayer money.
“The threat in the marketplace is that if your facility runs down, you run the risk of losing your team moving to another city that might want to build a facility," Duber-Smith said. "Buffalo is a good example. They would be Canada’s first NFL team. It’s not a high-income market, they don’t attract the big sponsorships, they don’t get the big television audience.”
The Bills had threatened to move to Toronto.
“I think if you don’t build a facility in a place like Buffalo, then you’re going to lose your team,” Duber-Smith said.
Denver, is of course, a different city than those more economically challenged examples.
“I don’t think Denver is that place,” Duber-Smith said. “Denver is an economically vibrant place. We’ve added a million new people in the last 10 or 15 years.”
“Existing facilities, especially if they’re in a really good location have a lot of value to them,” Goetz said.
“Could the new owner stomp his feet and say, ‘Oh really, I’ll take the team elsewhere,” Bye said. “You think it could never happen, especially in a place like Denver, where the Broncos have been such a pillar, or a ‘blue-blood’ organization that has won Super Bowls and had real success. You would think there’s no way the team could ever leave Denver, and while I agree that is highly, highly unlikely, to think that it is impossible is probably a little bit naïve because there have been other markets who thought, 'There’s no way the league would ever let this happen,' and then it happens. And then you’re without a team.”
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Should they build it? You respond as Broncos president floats idea of new stadium with new ownership
And finally, there’s an off-chance a new stadium could be built somewhere other than downtown — say DIA for example — but most experts agree that’s a long shot.
“You’re going to create a lot of transportation problems,” Goetz said.
“I think it would be easier to build a stadium in the parking lot, which has happened dozens of times across the country,” Duber-Smith said.
“If they build it in the parking lot, we would be overly excited,” Robles said.
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