After the Denver Broncos won back-to-back Super Bowl victories under quarterback John Elway, voters in the metropolitan Denver area approved construction bonds to finance a new $400 million football stadium. But that was before Elway retired and the Broncos turned in two mediocre seasons. Oh, fans took it in stride, all right.
But now they're crying foul over what they see as a betrayal and an insult to their civic pride: The Metropolitan Football Stadium District has decided to sell naming rights to the new tax-funded stadium to Invesco Funds Group Inc., a Denver-based mutual-fund company. The new name: Invesco Field at Mile High. The stadium is scheduled to be completed in time for the fall 2001 football season. But Denverites overwhelmingly prefer the old Mile High Stadium name.
There's good financial reason to sell the name, of course. Invesco will pay $120 million for the rights, and half that amount will go to pay off taxpayers' indebtedness. The Broncos get the other half, which will be paid over a 20-year period and applied to cover such expenses as in-stadium advertising, tickets, and suites.
"WHAT THE VOTERS WANTED."
A state legislator says metropolitan Denver ought to get all the money, however. Colorado Representative Dan Grossman, a Democrat who represents part of the city in the state legislature, argues the law enacted to float the stadium bonds makes it mandatory that "all proceeds go to pay off the bonds. To use the money to enrich [Broncos owner] Pat Bowlen and the Broncos is not what the voters wanted."
Grossman is co-sponsoring a resolution calling for a hold on construction while the district gets legal advice on where the money goes. He also wants fans to have a say in the stadium's new name. Meanwhile, John Hickenlooper, owner of Wynkoop Brewing Co. and founder of Friends of Mile High, is looking into filing an injunction against the name change. "The public is paying for the stadium," he says. "Now they're being told they never had a voice in the name."
It's an uphill battle. Republican lawmakers, who control the House, have shown scant interest in Grossman's resolution. They say the Denver government has the right to choose any name it wants. Even Hickenlooper wonders if citizens can do anything, except refuse to call it the Invesco Field. In the meantime, wags in the Denver area say the melee inadvertently may have given the city a new way to raise money: It could sell the naming rights to other civic assets. How about the FedEx City & County Building?
By Sandra Dallas in Denver