The Denver Broncos have played our first game in what is being renamed Sports Authority Field at Mile High, and this is a good thing for everyone.
Sports Authority is a Colorado company which has its headquarters, 32 stores and 1,700 employees with in our state. The company donates one million dollars annually to local sports-oriented foundations, and part of the agreement will include Sports Authority giving money to enhance the Broncos’ stadium through both interior and exterior improvements.
And what Colorado organization is more fitting for Sports Authority sponsorship than the Denver Broncos?
The Broncos are the soul of the city, the face of the time zone, in the most popular game and pro sports league in American history.
This assures that a state of the art stadium will stay state of the art for many, many years, and my own gut feeling is that local fans like the idea of a local firm in partnership with a local team, for mutual local benefit.
Fans who have driven by the stadium can see the cranes taking the old name down, getting ready to put the Sports Authority Field at Mile High moniker up in time for the Monday Night Football home opener against the Oakland Raiders on September 12.
And speaking of opening games, and the Raiders, and stadium, the very first regular season home game in Broncos history was a 31-14 Denver win over Oakland on October 1, 1960. The Broncos kicked off their first season with three straight road games, but the Raiders were indeed the first home opponents.
In fact, the Broncos played all five preseason games on the road to begin their history—playing in Providence, Rochester, Houston, Little Rock, and Los Angeles before ever putting a cleat into the home sod.
And when the Broncos did come home, it was to Bears Stadium, built in 1947-48 as a home park for the minor league baseball Denver Bears.
It seated 18,000 in its initial configuration, but Bears owner Bob Howsam built the south stands, which brought the seating capacity to 25,000, for his and Denver’s anticipated entry into the Continental Baseball League, which was to be a third major league, following the abandonment of New York by both the Giants and Dodgers in 1958.
Following came expansion in baseball, no third major league, and a white elephant stadium expansion in Denver. Then along came Lamor Hunt and the American Football League, and the Broncos played in 35,000-seat Bears Stadium in 1960.
They played a few games at the University of Denver’s Hilltop Stadium in the early 1960’s, then the city took over Bears Stadium and changed the name to Mile High Stadium in 1968.
The old minor league park became a stadium, with annual capacity beginning at 18,000 in 1948 and growing to 35,000 in 1960, then to 50,000 when the Broncos entered the National Football League, then to the eventual capacity figure of 75,000 with which fans are most familiar.
The Broncos played the first game at Invesco Field at Mile High on a Monday night the eve of 9/11, and now the stadium and city will settle in for a very long run playing at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
As any bride can tell you, a decision is often made on a new last name, but the people and the relationships are all the same.
So too is it for sports teams and the houses in which they play.
The Broncos and the Metropolitan Football Stadium District have approved a tentative deal with Sports Authority, an exceptional local firm, for naming rights to the stadium. It is a great deal all the way around.
But whether the label is Bears Stadium, Hilltop Stadium, Mile High Stadium, or the brand new logos that soon will adorn Sports Authority Field at Mile High, the game’s the thing.
The partnership extends beyond Sports Authority, the Broncos and the stadium district.
It includes the fans, because the fans have a pulse and so does the team.
The Broncos have a new team, new management and coaching, and an aggressive attitude that was on full display Saturday night against Buffalo.
The identity that will be forged on the field is one that the Broncos, the multitude of fans that comprise Broncos Country, and Sports Authority can combine to make it a perfect symbiotic relationship for many years.