DENVER — When Greg Penner was introduced back in August as the Denver Broncos' new co-owner and CEO, he said he would explore all options regarding the team’s home stadium that is Empower Field at Mile High before making a decision on how to proceed.
That process is about to begin.
The Broncos have teamed with Legends, a sports advisory and planning firm, to conduct an extensive research project on their stadium and the entire game-day experience.
Beginning next week, select season-ticket holders, suite holders, fans and corporate partners will receive invitations to participate in focus groups, interviews and surveys, Broncos president Damani Leech confirmed to 9NEWS.
The market research and analysis are expected to be completed by April. It is the first step of a long process with no set timetable in helping Penner and the Broncos’ ownership group in determining the future of the Broncos' stadium.
All options — from a reimagined Empower Field at Mile High to a potential new stadium — remain in play.
Simultaneously, a $100 million renovation project — the largest in the stadium’s history — has begun at Empower Field with upgrades to be completed by the start of the Broncos’ 2023 season.
“We’re going to use this as an opportunity to really listen and learn from our fans,’’ Leech said of the stadium market research project in an interview Monday with 9NEWS. “I think it’s pretty consistent with what you heard from Greg from Day 1: Take a close look at the stadium game-day experience through data, listen to our fans, use that information to make really, smart, strategic decisions.”
Empower Field at Mile High: Home of the Denver Broncos
Invitations will go out to fans, suite holders and sponsors this week so that Legends and the Broncos can put together about a dozen focus groups. Each focus group will consist of 12 to 15 fans who will be brought in for interviews approximately 2 hours in length starting in February at the team’s facilities.
Topics presented to the focus groups will include parking, seating, concessions, game-day entertainment, the stadium’s location – basically a fan’s journey from driveway to driveway on Broncos’ game day. Surveys dealing with similar game-day topics will go out to thousands of fans in late February/early March.
The modern sports term for “reconstruction” or “remodeled” is ‘’reimagined.” Could the Broncos reimagine their current stadium with a covering or roof attached to the top? And regarding the possibility of a new stadium, perhaps the biggest issue or concern frequently stated among the fan base is its location. Will it be in the same area of the current stadium? If not, will it stay downtown or move to a site near the airport or a suburb location?
“Those topics along with many others will be covered,’’ Leech said. “What I would say is, nothing’s been decided with regards to the future of the stadium. All of this research is a first step in what’s going to be a long process. This is where Legends is really good at what they do in drafting questions. They don’t presuppose anything. They don’t lead the witness in any sort of way.
“But those topics will be covered among many other topics like parking, and how you feel about escalators versus elevators. All those sorts of things. They may not necessarily ask specifically about a roof. They may ask, ‘How do you feel about protection from the elements? How do you feel about the importance of having direct sunlight?’ Those are the types of things we’ll ask that will lead us to a certain conclusion.”
In November 1998, Denver’s six-county area voters approved an extension on the Coors Field 0.1% tax increase to fund 75% of the $400 million in construction costs to build the Broncos a new stadium that opened in 2001 under the name Invesco Field at Mile High.
Broncos owner Pat Bowlen footed the bill for the other 25%. (Rising construction costs eventually created a 70-30 split between taxpayers and Bowlen).
The stadium was later renamed Sports Authority Field at Mile High. In 2019. it was renamed again to the current Empower Field at Mile High.
It has been suggested that in the 25 years since the voters agreed to replace the old Mile High Stadium with the team’s current venue that the game-day crowd has shifted from a beer-and-a hot dog fan base to more of a wine-and-cheese gathering.
In other words, Broncos fans preferred to watch their team play in the outdoor elements when they approved the new stadium, but today's fans increasingly seek modern comforts with their in-stadium viewing.
“I don’t know that to be the case, but that is primarily why we’re doing this research effort,’’ Leech said. “We’re going to ask fans what they like, what they prefer and let that inform us.”
While the market research project focusing on their fans will serve as a guide for the Broncos’ ownership group, it should be noted the human condition often resists change. The Broncos’ new bosses reserve the right to make a decision on their team’s stadium independent of the research project.
“We’re always going to listen to our fans and value their opinions while we’re doing this research,’’ Leech said. “But at the end of the day the ownership is going to make the decision regarding the stadium. We’ll certainly consider the feedback from our fans as part of that process but ultimately ownership will make that decision weighing a variety of factors.”
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