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Woody Paige: If Broncos and Denver host NFL draft, thank Brittany Bowlen

Posted at 4:24 PM, Feb 16, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-16 18:33:03-05

DENVER -- The potential managing general partner of the Broncos’ ownership was a principle reason Denver is a finalist to host the 2019 or 2020 draft.

This story never has been told.

The three-day late April “NFL Woodstock” is the prize plum Denver can pick.

The metropolitan area and (This Space Available) Field at Mile High Stadium never will be the site for the Super Bowl because the facility is not domed, and Denver is considered a “cold-weather” stadium. Temperatures the first weekend of February sometimes can be pleasant, but, more likely, could be dicey or icy.

When the state legislature began in the mid-1990s discussing and researching the possibility of a new stadium to replace the original Mile High Stadium, a proposed bill included a “retractable dome.” As one representative said then, a domed stadium would provide the city with the opportunity to be the location for the Super Bowl, an NCAA Final Four, a Big 12 championship game (when Colorado was in that conference), winter concerts and other major events that would produce tens of millions of dollars in new revenue.

However, Broncos owner Pat Bowlen, who was agreeable to putting up to $100 million into the investment, opposed a dome stadium – because of more than double the cost (perhaps to $400 million). Bowlen had made veiled threats that if the old edifice, which truly was costing tens of millions in upkeep and was in danger of severe structural issues (because of the weakening steel), wasn’t replaced, he would have to consider other options. Then-Gov. Roy Romer was favor of a new stadium, but said, “Take the roof off,’’ meaning he, too, was against a retractable dome.

Eventually, in 1998, a six-country metro-area ballot measure was passed – extending a sales tax (10 cents on $100) that had been approved by voters to construct what became Coors Field for Major League Baseball.

It was the Stadium John Elway built. Coloradans were euphoric over the Broncos’ first Super Bowl victory in early 1998 (following the ’97 season), and Elway, of course, was not only the team’s star player for 15 years, but the spokesman for the pro-stadium campaign.

After winning another Super Bowl title, Elway retired in 1999 – before the stadium with an obscene corporate name was opened in 2001 (to an Eagles concert, then the football season).

Even though the Broncos bid on a Denver Super Bowl a couple of times, the owners were not about to let the event happen without a dome here. Sure, there have been Super Bowls in cold-weather cities (Minneapolis for the second time this month, Detroit and Indianapolis, and even Dallas and Atlanta -- which had low temperatures during Super Bowl weeks). But they share a common bond – domed stadiums. And Super Bowls were promised if those places did raise the roof high.

The other NFL prime event is the NFL Combine, which annually is held in Indianapolis and won’t be moved.

But the college draft interest became so extreme the league decided to take it on the road away from New York City, where it had been held in hotel ballrooms (the New Yorker Hotel, where I would much later appear on a daily ESPN program, and for years at the Marriott on Times Square.) The draft became so popular it moved to Radio City Music Hall, but another event displaced the vent.  Chicago took over two years, then Philadelphia last April. And the Draft Party during the three days of selection has become a Big Deal.

This year it will be staged at AT&T Stadium outside Dallas.

The league announced on Wednesday that the finalists for 2019 and 2020 are Denver, Cleveland-Canton (Canton because of the Pro Football Hall of Fame), Nashville, Las Vegas and Kansas City. Vegas is highly likely to be the site in ’20 because the Raiders will be transferring to the new stadium there that season.

So, Denver has at least a 25-percent chance for next year.

While everybody in Denver sports and politics seems to be taking credit for the city being on the short list, there is one person who deserves the most credit.

Brittany Bowlen.


Brittany is the third oldest of Pat Bowlen’s four daughters (and there are two sons). She and older sister Beth Bowlen Wallace, who both have worked for the Broncos in the past, are the prime candidates to eventually assume the leadership role of the Broncos. Beth earned her law degree at the University of Denver, and Brittany is in the MBA program of the Fuqua School at Duke. She has interned in the "junior rotation” program with the NFL at the league office in New York, and with McKinsey & Company, an international corporation that serves as consultants for a multitude of new and established businesses. McKinsey has a Denver office.

Two years ago, when Brittany served as a business analyst with the Broncos, she was put in charge of developing and designing the franchise’s presentation to attract the NFL draft to Denver.

According to those who know, she did an exceptional job on the bid. It apparently was impressive enough that the NFL will bring the draft, which could be attended by 100,000 fanatics, tourists and looky-loos, to Denver next year or in the next three or four years.

You can thank her later.

Obviously, Brittany Bowlen is on a track to have an important role in the Broncos’ future.