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Brighter lights at Sports Authority Field have neighbors burned up

Tim Tebow lit up Sports Authority Field at Mile High on Sunday, but plans to upgrade the corporate signage at the stadium are causing some sparks.

Although the original comprehensive sign plan is still in effect, the stadium's governing body, the Metropolitan Football Stadium District, is pushing the city to approve an amendment that would allow for larger and brighter Sports Authority signs on the venue's exterior — a result of Sports Authority's $150 million deal to replace Invesco as the sponsor. But the idea isn't scoring any points with neighbors, which is why a final vote on the amendment has been rescheduled at least three times: late last week, the board decided to move the date back more than a month, to February 15. The same goes for the deadline for public comment, which had been slated for January 9. City officials estimate the public comment period will now remain open until February 6.

There's still a lot left to be said. Residents believe that light pollution will keep them up at night, that property values will decline and that views will be impacted; they're circulating petitions and holding neighborhood meetings on the subject. They've also created a couple of anti-sign websites (the most notable is stopsportsauthoritysigns.com).

"People don't want to rent or buy apartments with this giant sign looming over everything in the background," Chad Reischl, co-president of the West Colfax Association of Neighbors, tells Westword's Kelsey Whipple. The group recently sent a letter to the city's Community Planning and Development department asking it to kill the amendment. "The signage spoils the view. With all the delays in the decision, my gut feeling is they started to get some opposition and felt the need to investigate this more."

Rafael Espinoza, an architect who lives 1,389 feet from the stadium, compares the proposed signs to those at the IKEA store in Centennial. According to his calculations, each proposed Sports Authority sign has the furniture mecca beat, at 4,782 square feet compared to 572. "That's huge," he says. "And that's scary."

But Denver planning and development spokesman Julius Zsako stresses that the district only wants to update the sign plan, not replace it. The stadium district insists that any changes will not affect the existing view plane, and a study the group presented to city council last week suggests that the signs won't keep property owners up at night.

"We recognize there are concerns about actual negative impact versus the more common subjective complaints just about how the signs look," says stadium district general manager Andy Gorchov. "When it comes to opinion, that's where we've got to get a better sense. But I can't say exactly whether there's room for compromise."

Both the city and stadium district remain mum on whether the deadline extension will bring any changes to the proposal, but it does indicate a willingness to listen.

"The stadium's a very high-profile building in the city, and obviously, there's a strong emotional attachment to the Broncos," Gorchov says. "We knew there'd be a lot of public interest, and it's a public's building. We're not talking about something the people don't have a stake in."

Reischl, who lives about twelve blocks from the field, isn't sure the meeting will make a difference. "I don't know if it would change our position much," he says.

If there's any relief to be found in the meantime, it's that the stadium is finally paid off — as of just this week. This news comes with the end of more than two decades of paying for it, via the Metropolitan Football Stadium sales tax, the ten cents residents have paid on every $100 since 1990.

"The good part is that we avoided the economic challenges and maintained adequate reserves," says Ray Baker, board of directors' chairman for the Metropolitan Football Stadium District. "Compared to other municipality issues, you just kind of count your blessings and move on down the road."


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