Keeping Score

Think the Broncos want the kind of lease that made the Rockies rich? You're in the ballpark.

"We want to make sure it's very difficult to try to break this lease," adds Orr.

It's already assumed that the Broncos will get the lion's share of revenue from parking, concessions, luxury boxes and advertising at the new stadium. Suplizio wants the team to agree to provide $2 million to $3 million per year from those sources to pay off the taxpayers' debt on the facility. After that, he'd like to see the money go back to the community.

"Something like that could be used, after the debt is paid, for high-school sports programs," says Suplizio, noting that the Broncos could generate $30 million or more a year in revenues from the stadium.

The Broncos aren't saying much about what they want to get out of those current negotiations. The team is being represented by Steve Farber, the politically well-connected Yber-mensch whose law firm, Brownstein Hyatt Farber & Strickland, lobbied the legislature hard on behalf of Pat Bowlen this spring. Farber also represented Ascent Entertainment Group in its negotiations with Denver over construction of the Pepsi Center.

Bowlen has freely admitted that the team's push for a new stadium is motivated largely by the multi-million-dollar salaries now commanded by football superstars. To pay those salaries, the Broncos say they need the cash that would come from a state-of-the-art stadium that includes lavish concessions, club seating and dozens of luxury boxes. "Our whole reason to do this is to get the stadium revenues," Broncos spokesman Porter Wharton told Westword earlier this year. "It's increasingly difficult for us to maintain a competitive franchise at Mile High."

One source who has been working with the team says the Broncos want to make sure they'll be in the same financial league as the Dallas Cowboys, who reap a startling $40 million per year from Texas Stadium. "What the Broncos want," he says, "is a lease that will put them in the upper tier and allow them to compete."

Williams and Macey are watching this fight from the sidelines. Williams is trying to win a seat again in the Statehouse, which she left in 1990, while Macey is focusing on his real estate business. Still avid scorekeepers of political games, they're predicting that the three-way negotiations now under way on a new Broncos lease will be difficult.

"It will be a really tough negotiation," says Macey. "Bowlen has to have enough on his plate to make it worthwhile. You may see all three groups at one time or other standing up and saying, 'We can't go any further.'"

As negotiations shift into high gear, the groups may form strategic alliances. "Any two parties could gang up on the other," Williams says.

And even after the Broncos have gotten their lease, they'll still have to win over voters. Williams thinks that will be a tougher job. For one thing, hardly anyone actively campaigned against the baseball proposal.

"We didn't have an organized opposition group," says Williams.
By contrast, the Broncos already have a vocal group of opponents: Citizens Opposing the Stadium Tax, or COST. While Broncos boosters may spend millions pushing the stadium proposal and will undoubtedly outspend opponents of the plan by as much as 100 to 1--their campaign committee raised more than $250,000 in June alone, including $100,000 from Bill Daniels--COST has managed to get its message out.

Bill Schley, president of COST, predicts the Broncos' new lease will pad the team's profits with public dollars. "When Mr. Bowlen's people negotiate the lease, they'll refer to other leases in the NFL," says Schley. "The last five NFL leases gave almost everything to the teams. Pat Bowlen looks at Dallas and says, 'Why should I give any parking revenues to the stadium district?' The taxpayers build the parking lots, and the team gets all the revenue--and it's called a public-private partnership."

The rhetoric will grow more harsh as the election nears. Whether the euphoria over Denver's Super Bowl win will carry over into the voting booth is anybody's guess, but Williams sees trouble ahead for the proposal.

"Baseball," she says, "was easy compared to what this will be."

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