DENVER - As fans raced through the gates at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on Saturday for the annual Summer Scrimmage, they likely missed improvements to the lower concourse.
But after bursting through the tunnels leading to the lower-level seats, it's hard to imagine they missed the monstrous new scoreboard gracing the south end zone.
At 222-by-40 feet, the board built by Daktronics is three times the size of the original and the third-largest in the NFL behind boards at Houston and Dallas. Two additional wing boards constantly displaying in-game statistics, fantasy statistics and updates from around the league flank the uniquely concave main board.
"Aside from winning games, Pat Bowlen's top priority is improving the fan experience," Broncos senior vice president of business development Mac Freeman said to the media during a tour.
Along with the main end zone display, two new 62-by-30 foot boards are mounted in the northeast and northwest corners of the stadium. An upgraded LED ribbon display also rings the lower-level bowl and two 50-foot ribbon displays sit above the 50-yard-line with a constant game statistics feed.
To manage the new technology, the Broncos brought in Sony to revamp the control room. A staff of 35 is required to run the scoreboard control room on game days. The room now has the latest high-definition technology and has capabilities to analyze four times the number of camera angles for instant replays.
"We're producing our own broadcast every game," Freeman said. "Everything originates from here."
The on-field boards are just part of the revamping of Sports Authority Field. Nearly all static signage was replaced with dynamic video boards, including digital menus in the food vendors on the main concourse. All concourses received improvements, but the difference is the greatest in the main concourse. New lighting increased brightness by 40 percent in the formerly dim cave.
"For the first time it doesn't feel like a dark basement," Freeman said. "We've energized the area."
Fans will also notice enhanced cell phone service as Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint have strengthened networks within the stadium. AT&T is in the process of installing similar technology to be up and running by November. Verizon has also enhanced WiFi for subscribers within the stadium.
As a part of improving the fan experience, the Broncos are implementing the new leaguewide bag policy beginning with the first home preseason game Aug. 24 against the Rams.
The policy mandates that fans may bring bags into the stadium, but they must be clear, plastic, vinyl or PVC material and no larger than 12 by 6 by 12 inches. Fans may also bring belongings in a one-gallon plastic freezer bag, or a clutch approximately the size of a hand. Exceptions will be made for people who need to bring in medically necessary items.
Season ticket holders will receive an approved clear bag embellished with the team logo in the mail.
The new measures are meant to expedite the bag check process, but the organization is encouraging fans to arrive early for the first few games.
"What this ideally will do is help us speed up the security screening process at the gates," stadium general manager Andy Gorchov said. "In addition to being a safety policy, this will ideally help improve the experience as well."