ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Eventually, Greg Penner hopes to fix the team.
Until he figures that out, he’s focusing on structural aspects of the team’s stadium that he knows with certainty money can fix. Concerned with the potential player safety and aesthetics of the Empower Field at Mile High playing surface the past two home games, Penner, the Broncos’ CEO and one of the team’s primary owners, ordered a complete replacement of the grass field.
Moreover, the order came with a tight deadline. The project was to be completed in time for the final home game Sunday afternoon against the Los Angeles Chargers.
It cost an estimated $400,000 to resod Empower Field for literally one game. In part because of an entertainment-packed calendar of events during the offseason, the playing surface will again be completely resodded before the start of the 2023 season.
This on top of a $100 million stadium renovation project that will begin next week and is to be completed by the start of next season.
Fixing a Broncos’ team that will carry a miserable 4-12 record and seven-year playoff drought into its season’s final game is another matter. Penner is simultaneously leading a committee to find the Broncos a new head coach after he fired Nathaniel Hackett two weeks ago.
Empower Field’s playing surface looked immaculate through the Broncos’ home preseason games and half the regular season but that was before Colorado was struck by a run of winter weather extremes and the stadium hosted two state high school football championship games.
Despite incredible work by the stadium grounds crew, bare spots were visible for all to see in the middle of the field for the Broncos’ two December home games against the Kansas City Chiefs and Arizona Cardinals. The Broncos’ ownership group of Penner, his wife Carrie Penner and father-in-law Rob Walton spend an hour pregame on the team’s sidelines from where they had a close-up view of the potential player safety hazards on the surface. From on high in their owners’ box during the game, they could see the unsightly bare spots on the field.
While many a football game has been played on dirt over the years, the Walton-Penner group is demonstrating it expects its $4.65 billion franchise to meet a higher standard. Bermuda grass sod -- as opposed to usual Rye/bluegrass blend – was trucked up from an Arizona turf farm, which also supplies the surfaces used at the stadiums for the Arizona Cardinals and Las Vegas Raiders.
Then in May, Empower Field will host a Supercross motorcycle event followed by a summer concert series featuring shows by Illenium; George Strait/Chris Stapleton/Little Big Town; Taylor Swift/Muna/Gracie Abrams and Ed Sheeran & Khalid.
Penner can only hope his freshly renovated stadium and playing surface will host a much improved and refurbished Broncos’ team for the 2023 season.
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