Thinking Outside of the Box

Get me rewrite! Denver loves beating dead horses -- especially dead Broncos.

That's what the city's been doing all August, ever since the Denver Post decided to rewrite history by calling the team's new pigskin palace "Mile High stadium" -- despite the fact that there's a perfectly good, if defunct, Mile High Stadium standing right next door; despite the fact that the sale of the naming rights to Invesco Funds Group is a done, if dumb, deal; despite the fact that the Post's linguistic leap has been mocked from sea to shining sea (one East Coast weatherman suggested that it was going to be hot in Denver, unless you read the Denver Post, in which case it would be a pleasant 78 degrees); despite the fact that, had the Post had taken the same position a year ago rather than on the very day the paper reported the dedication of "Invesco Field at Mile High," Invesco might have thought twice about buying naming rights that did not extend to Denver's largest daily ("Flush With Success," August 9).

(When drunken CU/CSU fans -- those who can afford to sit in the suites, that is, since they're the only places liquor will be allowed Saturday -- start rioting, want to bet the Post will report that the police were called to Invesco Field? Which, by the way, is what the Denver Police Department calls the new stadium.)

But if Denver really wanted to resurrect the dead, to beat that nag long after it had been sent to the glue factory, we'd return to the legislative session that produced the law setting up the Metropolitan Football Stadium District, with its appointed board and its too-vague mandate to consider "public sentiment" (and then ignore it) regarding the sale of the naming rights. We'd go back to the city's negotiations with the Broncos that let them out of their 25-year-lease at the city-owned Mile High, where the city had a suite, and, at the very least, secure an official Denver box in the new, MFSD-owned stadium, whatever it might be called...and however much the other counties in the district might protest. That would have saved Mayor Wellington Webb -- not to mention his successors -- a few headaches.

Our wayback machine should also make a stop in 1998, when the city finally got around to registering the Mile High Stadium name -- and then only after a reporter asked who happened to own the trademark. If the city had requested a valuation of the trademark then, or the next year, or even last summer, we might have been spared the spectacle of the ludicrous, and now rescinded, trademark/ suite swap for a box that the Broncos had already offered the city for free. A year ago, the group fighting to save the Mile High name got an unofficial estimate of between $50 and $100 million as the value of that name to the city; last month, the city attorney negotiated a deal that would have exchanged the trademark for use of an $85,000 suite over twenty years, putting the trademark's sales tag at $1.7 million. Had the city already priced the value of the Mile High trademark, Invesco might have had another reason to think twice about buying the naming rights. (Of course, it also might have decided to simply chop the final moniker down to Invesco Field.)

Instead, this week the city embarked on a quest -- many days late and many millions of dollars short -- to determine how much that trademark is worth. In the meantime, we're left with the unappetizing prospect of Citizen Wellington Webb, a man who just a few days ago was talking about how rarely he attends football games, now throwing in with a few of his buddies to buy a box at the stadium (a box that costs about the same amount as Webb earns in a year from the city), carting in their illegal snacks and conducting whatever business they want behind closed doors. Because, as Webb pointed out, if it's his box and not the city's, "it's really nobody's business who's in there."

Doesn't that Box o' Good Ol' Boys look like the sort of cozy setup our new ethics policy was supposed to prevent? Wouldn't it have been easier for Webb to ask the ethics board for a waiver so he could accept that free suite on behalf of the city in the first place?

Even Susan Barnes-Gelt, the councilwoman who pushed through the ethics policy and has been merciless in her recent ribbing of Webb, would have supported that. "No rules are so hard and fast that there aren't exceptions," she says. "Especially for the mayor."

But now if the ethics board comes knocking, Webb will close the door -- and the books. The horse is out of the barn.

Strolling Thunder: The Broncos' equine mascot took things slowly Saturday night, leaving fans to wonder if Thunder had been warned to talk a walk on the mild side and protect the new turf.

Certainly his owner, Sharon Magness, has taken her sweet time ponying up the $100,000 she promised the city for last year's New Year's Eve celebration -- a donation that bought her lots of ink last October, but also brought some unwelcome planning pains with the city. Although the Magness money is still among the missing -- Magness didn't return calls, and the children's task force that reportedly was designated as a substitute beneficiary has yet to see a dollar -- the party will go on.

John Hickenlooper, he of last summer's campaign to save the stadium name, and other downtown hospitality businesses are joining together to promote "Denver's Big Bang," set for downtown on December 31 ("Watch the Fireworks," July 5). The $250,00 bash is now in the hands of a professional event planner, but hotels have promised to chip in up to $70,000, downtown restaurants will add their share, and the city's on board. "We're creating a new universe," says Hickenlooper.

At least, that's the Big Bang Theory.

A bang-up job: Expect plenty of fireworks in Jefferson County District Court on August 31, when Fleet White is scheduled to explain to a judge why he shouldn't be in contempt of court for failing to show up when subpoenaed.

White could be the only person connected to JonBenét Ramsey who ever sees the inside of a jail -- not because he committed the murder (a former friend of John Ramsey's, he was with JonBenét's father when they found the body and is one of the few people officially cleared by the Boulder Police Department), but because he told a judge he didn't think it would be good for the investigation if he testified at the trial of a man accused of trying to broker the ransom note to the Globe. White, of course, was one of the first to see that note, which later was leaked around the actual globe; he'd been called to testify in the trial of Tom Miller, who was acquitted by a Jeffco jury earlier this summer ("What a Circus!" July 26).

And on September 7, former Boulder police detective Steve Thomas is also set to appear on a contempt-of-court charge; he claims he was never subpoenaed in the first place. Thomas's original hearing was scheduled for late last month but postponed when the lawyer representing the alleged subpoena servers withdrew at the last minute.

Globe editor Craig Lewis had also been charged in connection with the incident; the tabloid bailed him out by agreeing to donate $100,000 to the University of Colorado journalism school. According to assistant dean Stephen Jones, interest on the money will pay for an adjunct professor to teach ethics at the j-school this fall.

That professor just happens to be Sue O'Brien, former associate dean at the j-school; the fact that the Globe is paying for her to teach the same curriculum she's taught twice before came as news to O'Brien.

But then, she now works at the Post.


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