When you ask Broncos lifer Ryan Medina if he’s got any words of advice for new Broncos owner Rob Walton, he smiles. Then he reaches down, deep into his heart, through four decades of orange, and pulls out one.
“Keep the stadium right here. Please,” Medina, a Denver native, offered about 90 minutes before the Broncos’ preseason opener against the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday.
“Keep it here in the city. There are rumors of it going out east or wherever. For someone who’s lived here his whole life, I’m a big Bronco fan, I would love for the stadium to stay here in the city. It belongs here. I mean, there’s so many cities that move their stadiums out of the city. And I would love for my team to stay here.
“I don’t know how they’ve got to do it or what they do, but my advice to them, please keep the stadium here.”
With that, Medina looked lovingly at the stadium down the hill — Empower Field at Mile High turned 21 this past Thursday, it’s finally old enough to order drinks — and let out a sigh.
The new owners of the Broncos, ratified by the NFL this last Tuesday and introduced to the masses Wednesday, have said all the right things. But in the NFL, actions are a three-TD favorite over words. And profit remains unbeaten over all.
All politics are local, but Rams owner Stan Kroenke and Cowboys poohbah Jerry Jones have set the bar for everyone else. NFL stadiums are properties on a Monopoly board. Once your palace is rocking, you start building hotels around it. Around Stadium Circle in Denver, at the moment, space for hotels — or restaurants, or bars — is relatively limited.
“I’m kind of on the fence, still, about a new stadium,” said Richard Schippers of Highlands Ranch, a Broncos season-ticket holder since 1995. “They need to keep it in Denver, and close to a freeway exit and entrance and whatever … I wouldn’t want to go all the way (to the airport area), that far north. You know, I’m 20 minutes away from here and it’s a nice little ride.”
New owners. New coach. New quarterback. New juice. New hope. Everything’s fresh off Bryant Street, it seems, save for the stadium the Broncos call home.
Greg Penner, who gave a ceremonial wave early in the first quarter on Saturday night, reminded everybody that stadium speculation is just that, and a decade remains on the team’s lease.
“They can break contracts,” Broncos fan Jim Arroyo of Brush noted. “Or buy them out.”
Arroyo said he wouldn’t mind seeing the stadium move, but he was in the minority Saturday.
I polled a dozen folks, informally, around the parking lots before Broncos-Cowboys, Game 1 (ish) of The Russell Wilson Era. The results:
Stay downtown, no matter what — 5
Stay but make improvements — 3
We’ve got no control over it, owners can do what they want — 2
Absolutely move it to where there’s more space — 2
So downtown and tradition win, with eight out of 12. Healthy margin yes. Landslide, no.
Both sides of the argument made valid points. Often in the same tailgate.
“Don’t move it to the airport,” Mike Anderson of Golden said.
“Move it to the airport,” his pal Jeff Gaines of Parker walked over and countered. “I think it’d be bigger. Nicer.”
“It’s (21) years old,” Anderson replied. “We don’t need a new stadium.”
“Well, I think if they develop this area (here), we’re going to lose a ton of parking,” Gaines rebutted. “And then we lose all the tailgating, which makes this not as fun.”
“If they can build it downtown and keep the parking and all the tailgating and all those possibilities, then yep, build it downtown,” Gaines continued. “But I just don’t see it. This real estate’s too much in demand.”
Taylor Benbow stirred a simmering pot in a Bradley Chubb jersey two hours before kickoff. He’s stirred the pot at home in more ways than one. His parents were Chargers fans in Kona, Hawaii. Worse yet, they tried to raise him as one.
No chance. He rebelled.
“So this was a bit of blasphemy for them,” Benbow laughed.
For many, moving the Broncos out of Denver feels like blasphemy, too.
“You know, we were actually having this conversation earlier,” Benbow said. “And I think we love the fact that it’s here, it’s so close to the city. I mean, the whole maybe moving into the (airport) area might be nice, you know, the parking lot (space) increasing … just with all the development that’s going on out there may not be terrible in the sense of, you know, traffic in the city.
“I think Broncos fans are going to stay loyal and stay committed. They’ll fight the traffic (downtown) if they have to. We’ll do what we need to and make the best of it.”
Medina will ride in orange and blue to Wiggins, if that’s what it takes.
But he’s begging you, Mr. Walton, Mr. W.
Don’t make him.
“I love driving through the city. I work in the city,” he said. “And I love seeing our stadiums here — Coors Field, Ball Arena, Mile High. I just think it’s beautiful here. I mean, if they move it out east, it would be pretty heartbreaking.”