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Woody Paige: With rights talks stalled, Broncos saddled with no-name stadium

July 23, 2017 Updated: July 24, 2017 at 7:17 am
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The Broncos and Chiefs football game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on Sunday, November 27, 2016. Photo by Stacie Scott, The Gazette

"I've been through the desert on a horse with no name."

- Dewey Bunnell of "America"

The Broncos will play through the season in a stadium with no name.

The appropriate name is obvious. But not "Cannabis Field Forever", "Edifice Rx Stadium" or "The Denver Dispensary @Mile High".

The company that did own the naming rights, Sports Authority, went belly-up a year ago this month and defaulted on $19.2 million in payments due over five years. The disreputable name was removed from 462 stores, but the name's signage outside the football stadium, mostly funded by taxpayers in the seven-county metroplex area, remains - like a dreaded dead Denver doornail.

Colorado has No Name Creek, No Name Canyon and No Name Exit off I-70 near Glenwood Springs. And now No Name Stadium.

The reason the company name hasn't been eradicated from the stadium is simple: $400,000.

According to a source not affiliated with the Broncos, that's the removal cost for the massive sign behind the South Stands' "Bucky The Bronco" and the multiple massive logos on the stadium sides.

I thought the project would require two guys with a set of pliers.

"We're not going to rebrand the stadium until we get a new sponsor to assume the stadium naming rights," Broncos CEO/president Joe Ellis told me. "We have better uses for that money."

As in contracts for personnel - including one rather famous name.

The Broncos have eliminated most of the references to the defunct company from inside the stadium and the team's website.

Problem is, Ellis and others admit no major corporation has agreed to a long-term expenditure for the naming rights.

There is a lack of serious interest despite the Broncos' recognition quotient, a Super Bowl championship just two years ago, the regular appearance in nationally televised games on Sundays, Mondays and Thursdays and the tradition as one of the league's most successful teams over four decades.

When the Colorado-based sporting goods company floundered (partially because of its financial commitment to the stadium) and didn't make a $3.6 million payment due in 2016, the Broncos assumed control of the naming rights from the Metropolitan Football District board because of the negative experiences with the two corporations that slapped their names on the stadium.

The first, when the stadium was completed for the 2001 season, was a money management corporation with headquarters in London when it bought the naming rights. The company was charged with improper trading practices by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the attorney generals of New York and Colorado, and settled for a $450 million fine. The company begged out of its Denver Folly.

The Broncos have hired a New York firm to broker a naming rights deal - marijuana stores need not apply - and hoped the stadium would have a new name by the team's first game on Monday night, Sept. 11, against the Chargers. No chance.

Ellis was very forthright in addressing the stadium predicament with The Gazette: "I'm not setting timetables any more. We want the right deal."

The Broncos and the Stadium District have split rights fees, to pay for upkeep and improvements. An original 30-year estimate was approximately $350 million.

"We've had to revise and increase that figure to $760 million, so we must chip away with a number of revenue streams" Ellis said.

The Broncos have produced a plan to develop a sizable section of land adjacent to the stadium and sell corporate gate sponsorships.

Forbes recently placed the Broncos' value at $2.4 billion.

Ellis believes corporations "seemed more enticed with new stadiums."

The Vikings' contract with a bank for its new domed stadium is for a about $20 million a year, while the Cowboys' deal is approximately $18 per. The Jaguars get $620,000 annually and a few other teams $6-8 million. The Rams, it has been reported, seek $600 million over 30 years for their future stadium.

To offset the stadium upkeep-improvement price tag, Denver's football stadium would require a similar corporate contract. The Broncos will have to settle for much less.

And they are stuck now with A Horse Stadium With No Name.

Alas, the best ol' name never is coming back.

But it always will be Mile High Stadium to me.

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