DENVER — For the next 21 years, the Denver Broncos will be playing at the newly named stadium of “Empower Field at Mile High.”
The Broncos and Greenwood Village-based Empower Retirement formalized an agreement late Tuesday night that will place the name of the nation’s second-largest retirement plan provider on the face of the team’s stadium through the 2039 season.
Empower's financial commitment is close to $5 million per year, sources tell 9NEWS, with $3 million annually allocated to the Denver Metropolitan Football Stadium District and the Broncos getting close to $2 million.
Send those game programs to re-write. The Broncos will be officially playing at Empower Field at Mile High for their home opener September 15 against the Chicago Bears.
“Great company, local company with about 3,000 employees,’’ Joe Ellis, the Broncos’ chief executive officer and president, said in a joint 9NEWS interview along with Empower CEO Ed Murphy III. “Very forward thinking, very innovative. Wanting to be, as Pat Bowlen once said, the best at everything. Took a while, obviously, to get to this point, but we found the right partner and I’m really excited to have Empower Retirement come forward and we’re looking forward to having the name Empower Field at Mile High in lights on September 15 when we open up against the Bears.’’
Let’s start with that name. As football stadiums go, “Empower Field” is as strong as it gets.
“It got our attention, there’s no question about that,’’ Ellis said. “There were a lot of people involved and the first thing everybody said, ‘Wow, that’s a great name.’ And it is. It exemplifies something that is emblematic of pro football, so we’re very fortunate.’’
The Broncos had been looking for a stadium name sponsor since Sports Authority filed bankruptcy in 2016. The temporary name of Broncos Stadium at Mile High was used last season and during the recently completed preseason. Temporary signs of “Empower Field at Mile Stadium” will go up immediately.
The stadium district owns the stadium and must sign off on the deal between the Broncos and Empower, but that will be a formality. A board of directors manages the stadium on behalf of taxpayers in Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Denver, Douglas and Jefferson counties. The Broncos lease the stadium from taxpayers.
The City of Denver must approve the permanent Empower signage.
WATCH: Looking at the terms of the new Empower Field at Mile High contract
While the Broncos held discussions with several companies about becoming a stadium naming sponsor after the collapse of Sports Authority, it helped that the Broncos already had existing relationship with Empower, which had been a team sponsor since 2015.
“No question about it,’’ Murphy said. “We started off in 2015, and obviously it was [a] great year, a terrific time to become engaged with the Broncos. We’ve had a loyal following for some time. We’re 6,000 employees across the country with the headquarters here in Greenwood Village and nearly 3,000 associates. So we wanted to get involved.
“And quite honestly, it’s done wonders for our brand. We’re a young brand. We’re a company that basically came together five years ago for all intents and purposes. We’re No. 2 in the market today and growing at a good clip, which is important. We’re excited about this partnership.’’
The stadium in which the Broncos have played since 2001 was initially named Invesco Field at Mile High.
Sports Authority became the stadium’s name from 2011 until it folded in 2016. The retailer paid roughly $6 million a year on average – the stadium district getting roughly $3 million a year and the Broncos getting slightly less.
The team picked up the payments starting in 2016, yet decided to extend the “Sports Authority” moniker through the 2017 season before temporarily renaming it Broncos Stadium at Mile High last year.
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Patience seems to have paid off.
“That’s the whole thing: We found the right partner,’’ Ellis said. “We found a great partner. They’ve always been a great partner since 2015 and for them to step up this way – it’s not a relief. It’s just exciting and it’s something the fans deserve. They deserve to have the right name on this building and now they’ve got it.’’
Since the advent of stadium naming rights sponsors some 25 years ago, results have been mixed. The sponsored names have not always been durable as the Broncos’ venue is near the norm with Empower becoming its third naming sponsor in 19 years.
Murphy was well-aware of the history, yet committed to a deal so far in the future, Broncos’ quarterback Joe Flacco will be eligible for the 55-and-over senior discount at Denny’s before it expires.
“You don’t enter into a long-term agreement without confidence in your long-term commitment,’’ Murphy said. “ We’ve built a very good business, a sustainable business. And we’re continuing to grow. We continue to hire more and more employees in Denver and around the country.
“And so building a brand takes time. We’re a young brand and we know it will take years to build a brand that is truly viable across the country.
“Frankly, we could have made a lot of different decisions in terms of what is the best way to deploy that capital. And we felt the best way to deploy it was is in the community that we call home and to make a commitment to this community and this organization. I have complete confidence that Empower is going to be around for a long time with the Broncos and the Denver community.’’
According to its website, Empower administers $638 billion in investments for 9.2 million participants for 38,000 organizations. Only Fidelity has bigger numbers. In Colorado, Empower serving 212,000 residents within nearly 5,000 plans.
Empower has 2,700 employees in its Greenwood Village headquarters and 6,200 employees across 40 offices in the United States and India. A subsidiary of Great-West Lifeco Inc., Empower has volunteered more 20,000 hours in community service for nearly 1,000 non-profit organizations, including nearly 500 in Colorado.
Although naming rights represents a small piece of the Broncos’ overall revenue, nearly all of it is allocated towards stadium maintenance. Since the stadium opened in 2001, the Broncos and Stadium District have spent nearly $100 million in upgrades, according to the team.
The second most significant aspect of a stadium naming rights deal is its far-reaching visibility. Besides hosting at least one game before a nationally televised audience each year, the stadium holds nearly 275 non-Broncos events each year from Garth Brooks and Rolling Stones concerts to soccer games and monster truck rallies to weddings, luncheons and private parties.
Securing the naming-rights deal finishes off a big week for Ellis. The Bill Bowlen lawsuit against Ellis and two other trustees of the Pat Bowlen Trust was dismissed “in its entirety” by an Arapahoe County District Judge. And now “Empower” headlines the team’s stadium name.
”No, a sense of excitement,’’ Ellis said. “I’m thrilled to be able to go into the season with the commitment Ed has made with Empower Field at Mile High and optimistic about what the future holds for the team.
“Coach Vic has done a good job coming in and being very steady for this team. I know our fans are excited to see how we do on the field. Ed talked about the long-term commitment – his commitment allows us to have a long-term commitment to this building.
“That was a big part of our discussion. From Ed’s standpoint he asked a lot of really good questions: ‘How long is this building going to be here? Are you guys really going to stay in this stadium for the long term?’
“And I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t at all. It’s a great venue. It’s a real part of our cultural fabric here. And now we have the right partner with the right name. So we’re going to be here a long, long time.’’
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