May 17, 2023 - News

Future of Denver Broncos stadium splits mayoral candidates

Empower Field at Mile High in Denver. Photo: Timothy Nwachukwu/Getty Images

The future of the Denver Broncos' stadium will land on the desk of the city's next mayor. And it's an issue that's splitting the two runoff candidates.

Why it matters: The team's new owners are considering building a new stadium in the Denver suburbs, a move that would leave a major economic and development hole in the city.

State of play: The prospect is a major test for the next mayor, who will begin negotiations on the Empower Field lease, which expires in 2030. The cost β€” and who pays for it β€” is also expected to generate major controversy.

What's new: Kelly Brough, the former Denver chamber leader, is open to a new stadium within the city β€” but made clear she'd fight a relocation elsewhere. "It's not Denver without the Broncos, and it's not the Broncos without Denver," she told us.

  • She also would consider supporting the use of taxpayer dollars or incentives to keep the team. If city money is involved, however, the question would need to win the public's consent at the ballot, she said.

What she's saying: "I'm open to what might work for the city and the Broncos," she said in an interview.

The other side: Mike Johnston, a former state senator and nonprofit leader, is less accommodating: the stadium should stay on Denver's west side, and the owners need to pay for it themselves, he says.

What he's saying: "The No. 1 priority is to keep them in Denver. But I think in addition to that, the priority would be to keep them in west Denver," he told us. "I think the economy and identity of the west side is so connected to that."

Of note: Johnston's view on incentives has shifted during his campaign. He previously said he was open to government subsidies for a stadium, but now after reviewing recent deals in other cities, the new "structures are much more solid without requiring taxpayer incentives."

  • "My belief is it's a great business without subsidies," he explained

Context: The Broncos owners hope a $2 billion, state-of-the-art stadium with a retractable roof would help lure the Super Bowl and other major entertainment events.

  • Denver metro taxpayers covered 75% of the $400 million cost to build the stadium and the team paid the remainder as part of a deal crafted in the late 1990s.

Of note: In the meantime, the team is starting more than $100 million in renovations this summer, including new video scoreboards, concessions areas and other upgrades.

  • The spending is the largest construction project at the stadium in its 22-year history.

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Denver.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Denver stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Denver.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more