Sports Authority Field at Mile High tax ends, stadium finally paid off

Last week marked the end of the Metropolitan Football Stadium tax, the ten cents residents have paid on every $100 since 1990. With the sales tax's end comes the news that Sports Authority Stadium at Mile High is officially paid off. But it hasn't reached the end zone quite yet: As the January 9 deadline to decide on plans for large corporate signage at the newly renamed field approaches, area neighbors are growing increasingly concerned and motivated in their attempts to kill them.

In the meantime, stadium officials see the end of the one-tenth of 1 percent tax as a symbol of a job completed successfully and on deadline, despite one of the most challenging financial eras in recent history. "Technically, all the bonds are extinguished on January 11, but for all practical purposes, they're paid off," says Ray Baker, board of directors' chairman for the Metropolitan Football Stadium District. "The good part is that we avoided the economic challenges and maintained adequate reserves. Compared to other municipality issues, you just kind of count your blessings and move on down the road."

But that road is still rocky. Stadium neighbors like Rafael Espinoza find little relief in the end of a tax that supported a stadium that isn't supporting taxpayers' concerns.

"There is direct relief in that we're not getting that sales tax on everything we purchase anymore," he says. "But the burden of having to deal with the game-day traffic and trash and public urination doesn't go away just because the tax does. The same thing goes with towing costs and just the stress of living in the area. There's a financial burden here."

The MFSD tax officially began on January 1, 2001, as a means of funding the building work involved with the stadium's former identity, Invesco Field at Mile High. It came as a replacement of the Denver Metropolitan Major League Baseball Stadium District sales tax after Coors Field was completed.

When asked if taxpayers could potentially vote to reinstate and extend the tax -- say, to fund a new stock show -- revenue and treasury officials say the option is possible, if not probable. During its decades in effect, the stadium tax changed targets as taxpayers voted to amend its intentions. However, it is now both financially and legally finished. Any attempts to create a similar tax for a different application would require fresh voting and legislation in support of a different purpose.

"A new piece of legislation would have to be introduced to cover whatever that cause is, because this tax is over," says Ro Silva, a spokesperson with the Colorado Department of Revenue's Division of Taxation. "When the community got the idea to raise money for a football field, the baseball-stadium tax was already in effect, so we could basically just piggyback off of that. But we can't use this tax anymore for any other purposes.

"It's done."

More from our Business archive: "Neighbors of Sports Authority Field at Mile High worry about light pollution."