Watch the Fireworks!

First things first: The new Broncos stadium does not look like a diaphragm.

A spaceship, maybe. A bedpan, sure. But a diaphragm? No way -- unless it's a diaphragm that's just gone through your washing machine's spin cycle, an activity not recommended by its manufacturer.

The new Broncos stadium does not look like a diaphragm, but presumably once the largely taxpayer-funded facility opens in August, it will prove a useful piece of equipment. Like a diaphragm -- which is not a "vulgarity," but a birth-control device.

At this point, a little self-control would come in handy.

It certainly would have helped the blabby Invesco Funds Group employee who handed Denver Post sports columnist Woody Paige a business card and a mother lode of quotable comments regarding Invesco's purchase of the naming rights to the new Broncos stadium, which this employee -- called a "key executive" by Paige -- likened to "a diaphragm."

Never mind that the new Broncos stadium does not look like a diaphragm. The encounter looked like an easy column to Paige, and his piece, "Stadium's New Name Laughable," appeared in Sunday's paper. Actually, Paige's column first appeared on the Post's Web site Saturday, inspiring a flurry of outraged phone calls from Invesco executives, key or not, to the Post and just about anyone else they could reach.

According to Invesco, Paige's printed column differed substantially from what was originally posted. The comments from Mark Williamson, chairman and CEO of Invesco, were new; other changes are tougher to determine, because the version now posted on the Web is an exact match of the printed version. (Paige is in England covering Wimbledon, which doesn't look like a diaphragm, either; Post editor Glenn Guzzo did not return a call.) But whatever changes might have been made to the column, they weren't enough of a morning-after pill to assuage Invesco: Later that day, the company announced that it would pursue filing a lawsuit against the Denver Post and Paige. "The comments attributed to the 'key executive' featured by Mr. Paige in his column this weekend as reflecting the daily conversations and feelings of our firm and employees are categorically untrue. No member of senior management has ever referred to the new stadium as was suggested, or heard anyone do so. To imply otherwise is reckless. The vulgarity suggested and further developed by Mr. Paige is unconscionable," Williamson said in his company's release.

After noting that Invesco "has serious doubt whether these comments were ever made to Mr. Paige" (it shouldn't, as there was a witness to the conversation who knows both men and introduced the Invesco exec to the columnist), the release added that "even if one employee did make them, it is simply outrageous to say that the comments of one person are evidence of the views and sentiments of our company. We believe the Denver community has the right to expect higher standards of journalism from the Denver Post and Mr. Paige."

Which shows how well Invesco knows Mr. Paige, the Post and, for that matter, the Denver community it hopes to woo with its $120 million naming-rights deal at the new Broncos stadium.

I do not agree with much that Paige has to say, and he doesn't have much good to say about me. (I know this because a cell-phone call in which he voiced his opinion, along with a few real vulgarities, was inadvertently recorded on my voice mail. It happens.) But as a columnist for the Post, he had a perfect right to opine on his encounter with the Invesco employee. (Make that former Invesco employee: After he identified himself to Invesco as the source of Paige's piece, he was disappeared from the company.) Had Invesco not reacted so strongly, Paige's column would have disappeared almost as soon as the ink was dry, as his columns usually do. And with it would have gone any thoughts of the new Broncos stadium looking like a diaphragm, which it doesn't. Besides, no football fan would call the stadium where his beloved team plays "a diaphragm."

Nicknames don't last long in this town. Colorado was once known as the "Highest State" -- and the WPA guide produced in the '30s was even named that -- but the moniker was "hushed up" when drugs gave it a bad name, says University of Colorado at Denver history professor Tom Noel. The Queen City of the Plains didn't stick, either, not after an Englishman visiting in the 1870s quipped that the "Queen City of the Plains was more plain than Queenly." Even the old Broncos stadium -- Mile High to all of us, forever -- never had much of a nickname, unless you count "Donkey Flats." By the way, Noel doesn't think the new stadium looks like a diaphragm. "From my window," he says, "it looks like an extension of Elitch's roller coaster."

And the ride's not about to end.

The lawsuit threat gave Paige's column legs. It ran all over local TV on Monday -- Channel 4 made an impromptu stop at Westword after filming an actual diaphragm (!) at Planned Parenthood headquarters across the street -- then landed on the national news Tuesday, getting prominent play in the Washington Post. I don't know if Williamson's chest-beating made him feel better ("We have said everything we're going to say about it," an Invesco spokeswoman said Tuesday), but it sure moved the story.

Ironically, Invesco's actions landed the naming-rights deal back in the news just when the controversy had quieted down. Although there's still a lawsuit to stop the deal, the judge may not rule on either side's motion for summary judgment before the new stadium opens for an Eagles concert next month. In the meantime, the media has been very dutiful about calling the new stadium Invesco Field at Mile High. Often, reporters even drop the "Mile High" -- as Mile High fans had feared.

Invesco may have made a good investment when it bought those naming rights; the Metropolitan Football Stadium District followed the letter of the law in selling them, taking seriously the enabling legislation's charge that the district minimize taxpayer liability. And the taxpayers who'll pony up over $300 million for Pat Bowlen's new pigskin palace were saved $60 million.

But Invesco fumbled, and fumbled badly, when it threatened a lawsuit. This was the public-relations bungle of the decade, and an excellent argument for elocutionary abstinence.

Now that the naming-rights lawsuit is languishing in court, beermeister John Hickenlooper, who fueled the campaign to save Mile High's name with plenty of suds, has energy to devote to other projects. Making sure the city gets to party hearty on New Year's Eve, for starters.

On Tuesday afternoon, a group of downtown businesspeople met at Hickenlooper's Wynkoop Brewing Company to discuss forming a nonprofit that would take over much of the planning and fundraising for a downtown party on December 31. The city's already promised "to come to the table with typical services," according to Andrew Hudson, spokesman for Mayor Wellington Webb. Some of the money would come through outright donations and sponsorships, the rest through a small surcharge on drinks and rooms at downtown bars and hotels that night. "I learned a long time ago that if you're going to ride the train, you're going to have to pay the conductor," says Hickenlooper.

Last year, Denver threw quite a party -- a half-million-dollar bash that drew a quarter of a million people downtown. At two bucks a head, even Invesco would agree it was an excellent investment in goodwill and great fireworks.

But putting on a party isn't easy, and the city would happily hand over responsibility -- even if the party rated a mention in the mayor's State of the City speech on June 18. "Our city is more than buildings," Webb said. "It is a New Year's Eve party attended by a quarter of a million guests. It is Cinco de Mayo, Jazz on the Rocks, Juneteenth, the Greek Festival and the Cherry Creek Arts Festival... It is outdoor cafes, bike stations and doggie clean-up bags."

It is overheated public disputes about diaphragms and stadiums old and new.

Hey, how about blowing up the old Mile High Stadium for some real fireworks on New Year's Eve?

The new stadium's already blown wide open.


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