SBJ/May 4 - 10, 1998/No Topic Name

Broncos may delay stadium vote

After lobbying diligently to secure state authorization for a stadium bond issue, the Denver Broncos say they won’t attempt to have the $266 million issue placed on the November ballot unless they’re able to negotiate a "mutually satisfactory" agreement on the proposed facility’s revenue flow.

"It would be a waste of time, I think, because the voters would be passing a deal that we couldn’t live with," said Porter Wharton III, chief political consultant to the Broncos.

Under their agreement at Mile High Stadium, the Broncos receive "nothing from advertising, concessions and parking," Wharton said. And the Broncos are competing with other NFL franchises that are netting $20 million or more annually on such items, he said.

Bronco owner Pat Bowlen is said to favor a deal like the one the Colorado Rockies enjoy at Coors Field. Under that agreement, the team receives most of the revenue generated at the facility.

If Bowlen doesn’t get a deal he’s confident that the Broncos will be able to strike an agreeable deal with the Metropolitan Football Stadium District, that the bond measure will eventually pass, and that the team will stay in town.

Colorado Gov. Roy Romer in late April signed a bill to put before the voters a measure that would extend an existing 0.1 percent sales tax in the six counties surrounding Denver through 2012. The tax would fund a $266 million bond, which would be used to pay up to 75 percent of the cost of a new stadium. Bowlen would pick up the remaining 25 percent of the tab.

Supporters of the bond measure must gather 35,000 signatures before it can go on the November ballot.

The Broncos lobbied hard for the bill because Mile High Stadium is one of the oldest stadiums in the NFL and because the team is one of two that does not receive any revenue from its stadium, Wharton said.

"Mr. Bowlen is not willing to move the team," Wharton said. "But he is unwilling to continue the status quo if this is voted down because it would mean the deterioration of the franchise'’ competitiveness."

Meanwhile, a grassroots group led by Denver lawyer Bill Schley, who said that taxpayers could end up paying more than $400 million, opposes the measure. That figure includes the interest payments on the $266 million bond and an additional $75 million if there are cost overruns on the project.

Wharton acknowledged that taxpayers could pay an additional $75 million if there are overruns but said it is unfair to include the interest payments over the lifetime of the bond as an upfront cost. Wharton added that taxpayers could pay substantially less than $400 million.

Schley believes it is likely that taxpayers will be on the hook for the maximum amount and that the Broncos’ proposal is one of the costliest to taxpayers of any of the recent stadium deals. He noted, however, that his group is facing the well-heeled and well-liked Broncos.

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