Bowlen desperately wants a special election next May on the stadium question, says Wharton. But the Broncos will need to get permission from the legislature to hold an election any time other than November 1998. And Coffman, who was a Marine captain during the Gulf War, says the team will get a May election "over his dead body."
Coffman says the Broncos want the vote held in May because a special election will bring out only Broncos fans, whereas a general election would draw many more voters to the polls. "It's one of the fundamental things I believe in: The whole basis of democracy is broad participation," he declares.
Wharton counters that recent special elections in Seattle and San Francisco over stadium issues had high voter turnout and adds that the only reason the franchise wants to speed up the election is to make Bowlen more "economically viable."
Coffman says he's glad to hear Wharton acknowledge that the real issue is Bowlen's pocketbook. In the early days of the stadium discussion, he recalls, Wharton talked about a need to replace Mile High because it was "unsafe."
And if Bowlen's financial health is the prime consideration, Coffan adds, the team owner should be willing to open his books to the public and explore ways of improving his economic position without building a new stadium. "I want the Broncos to stay," says Coffman. "But I'm not yet convinced that the team needs this massive infusion of taxpayer money."
Polls now show the public is against subsidizing a new stadium, and Wharton says Bowlen's job is to educate the public about the Broncos' situation. Coffman says if Bowlen can pull off that feat, he'll stand up and applaud. "If he can convince the public despite what I think are some pretty smelly numbers," says Coffman, "then he deserves to win.