DENVER -- Former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb has written an open letter voicing one thing he wishes he had done differently during his term: Not having the city's football stadium be named after a corporate sponsor.
Webb, who served as mayor from 1991 to 2003, is also asking for a gift for the community and the fans of the Denver Broncos.
"Once the first cooperate sponsor came in, offered money, I said, 'Everything should not be for sale because you never know how long a corporate sponsor is going to last,'" Webb said. “Local taxpayers have paid for the stadium. You know it’s their stadium so I just think, let’s give them something back."
In 2000 when taxpayer dollars paid for the Broncos' new home, Webb said he should have stipulated that the name Mile High Stadium remain.
"It was a legal mistake because we never dreamed that the name would be changed," Webb said. "Teams ought to come in and play at Mile High, not the new corporate entity that has money temporarily to put their name on a billboard."
Now, Webb said with Sports Authority's recent economic woes, Denver has an opportunity to get it right.
"Local taxpayers have paid for the stadium," Webb said. "It's their tax money that paid for it, so let's give them something back.
"This is Mile High. This is the city of Mile High. This is Mile High, Denver. This is Mile High Stadium."
Sports Authority pays around $6 million a year for naming rights, which is evenly split between the Metropolitan Football Stadium District and the Broncos. There are five years left on the contract unless Sports Authority's financial issues force the company to break the contract.
Webb's open letter reads:
Give back the Mile High Stadium Name to the City and Broncos Fans
By Wellington E. Webb
There were very few times during my 12 years as Denver’s mayor that I wished I would have done something differently. But when the Metropolitan Football Stadium District was forming to use tax dollars to build a new home for the Denver Broncos, I should have stipulated that the “Mile High Stadium” name had to remain on the new venue.
Before the stadium opened in 2001, the stadium district members and the Broncos were not happy with me. I called a brew pub owner at the time, John Hickenlooper, who was helping to lead those opposed to selling the naming rights, to meet in my office. We jointly lobbied to keep the Mile High Stadium name when the district and team were recruiting businesses for the naming rights. This was a time when naming rights on public stadiums were garnering millions of dollars. But our argument then – and now – is the “Mile High Stadium” name is priceless for the city, region and even the team.
That tagline is our identity and our pride, not unlike New York’s “Big Apple” and Chicago’s “Windy City.”
Now, after 15 years of having a corporate name on the stadium it’s time to get back to our civic roots.
Remember, that stadium was built with tax dollars. It is not a private stadium. Local taxpayers built that stadium and I believe we should have a say in what it is called.
Like the Denver Post at the time, I refused to call the new stadium “Invesco Field at Mile High.” When Sports Authority purchased the naming rights after Invesco dropped the rights, I still called it Mile High Stadium. Many old-time sports announcers also continued to refer to it as Mile High Stadium. I take no joy in Sports Authority’s current economic woes but I see it as an opportunity for the stadium district and team to give the fans and the city a gift.
When the Broncos General Manager John Elway says Denver Broncos fans are the best in the world, reward that by giving us back our stadium name.
An estimated 1 million fans showed up for the Super Bowl victory parade in February. We’ve stood by our team through thick and thin, through Super Bowl losses and wins.
Reward those million fans and millions more around the country and the world. When the first game of the 2016 season begins this fall, let’s have all of the sports announcers proclaim:
“Welcome to Mile High Stadium!”