The Denver Broncos have admitted they face a “real challenge” in getting Empower Field at Mile High back up to full capacity for the start of the 2022 regular season, after last week’s fire at the home of the NFL American football franchise caused more damage than originally thought.
Investigations were launched after the fire broke out on March 24, affecting the stadium bowl and corporate areas of Empower Field at Mile High. While the incident was quickly brought under control by Denver Fire Department, it led to around 1,000 square feet of the stadium being affected.
Stadium officials said the blaze occurred in a “construction zone” near the East Club Lounge at Empower Field at Mile High, adding that area of the stadium was quickly evacuated as a precaution and there were no injuries sustained.
The Denver Fire Department said the incident was accidental, with further details due to be released following an investigation. The 2022 NFL regular season will commence in September, with the full schedule set to be confirmed next month. Broncos president and CEO, Joe Ellis, has called the fire “a significant event”, adding it is doubtful repair work will be concluded for the September kick-off.
“At first glance, you would’ve thought it wasn’t really much of a big deal, and then after going down and seeing the damage, witnessing it in person, spending some time with fire inspectors and people from our stadium and the reclamation team that came in, it was a significant event,” Ellis said, according to the team’s official website.
“We lost a couple hundred seats, (12) suites were affected. It will be a real challenge to get those back up and available for the regular season, I think.”
Ellis noted that the stadium’s steel risers buckled from the heat, with global supply chain issues set to impact the Broncos’ ability to replace those risers. “It will take some time to get those replaced,” he added.
Ellis also addressed the ongoing process to secure a new owner for the Broncos. The process commenced on February 1 after a trust for late team owner Pat Bowlen announced it would be selling the franchise. Ellis described the team’s long-term stadium plans as “the No. 1 decision the new owner will have to make.”
He added: “I will tell you this: There’s a tremendous real estate opportunity in the south end of the stadium, which has a masterplan that’s been, at one point, approved by the city to move forward and do a significant mixed development of office, retail, housing, possibly a hotel, maybe some small entertainment venue stuff — things along those lines — that can really bring some vibrancy to that area.
“I believe the stadium’s in good shape. We believe there are some significant upgrades that need to be done and can be done to improve it, to keep up with many of the others around the league. Will it ever be SoFi (Stadium) or Allegiant (Stadium)? Probably not. So that’s something a new owner has to look at.
“But there’s all kinds of things that go into evaluating a new stadium… and the most important is, ‘How much is it going to cost and what does my investment mean in terms of return when I do that?’ If you look at the cost of these stadiums now, we built, collectively with the Football Stadium District, Empower Field at Mile High for somewhere around $450m (£341.9m/€404.4m) to $476m.
“Add another $1.6 to $1.7bn to that and maybe you’ll get a new stadium in Colorado. I think it’s a challenge.”