Broncos Won't Consider Pot Business's Mile High Stadium Name Bid, Source Says

In May, as we reported, O.penVAPE, a Colorado-based manufacturer of vaporizer devices, cartridges and other marijuana-related products, announced that it had "submitted a proposal to partner with the Metropolitan Football Stadium District, home of the Denver Broncos, to sponsor Denver's landmark stadium."

The company stressed that "the proposal from O.penVAPE states that the company has the financial means to assume the obligations of the current naming agreement, which may cost more than $6 million annually, in a deal expected to last until 2021" and even created video animation showing what the stadium would look like with signage identifying it as O.penVAPE at Mile High; the clip is on view below.

But it is not to be. While the Broncos are communicating with companies that may be interested in buying stadium-naming rights, a knowledgeable source reveals that O.penVAPE's proposal is not among those in the running.

This came as news to O.penVAPE. When contacted by Westword about the development, O.PenVAPE CEO Ralph Morgan issued a statement that begins, "This is the first we've heard that our bid is not being considered."

The stadium name is up for grabs after the demise of Sports Authority, which held naming rights related to what is presently known as Sports Authority Field at Mile High.

Earlier this year, the company revealed that it was headed for bankruptcy restructuring, leading to speculation that the stadium could be renamed. After all, Sports Authority's contract called for it to pay $3.6 million by August 1 to keep the moniker — something that was hard to imagine under its financially distressed circumstances.

We responded with suggestions of five new names for Mile High Stadium, including this one:

At first, Sports Authority publicly insisted that its survival remained a possibility. But on May 16, the firm filed paperwork confirming that it would be closing every store across the country after failing to find a white knight to buy the brand.

Meanwhile, the Broncos made their own filing in regard to Sports Authority's bankruptcy, arguing that the team must give written approval before selling the stadium naming rights or its sponsorship of the franchise.

The resolution of naming rights for the stadium awaits final rulings from the bankruptcy court. But last week, Mac Freeman, the senior vice-president of business development for the Broncos, told the Denver Post that the team was in discussions with "at least a dozen companies — some current partners, some not — to gauge their interest in the naming rights."

This week, we checked in with Erich Schubert, senior manager of media relations for the Broncos, to see if the franchise was ready to share the names of any businesses in the running for stadium naming rights. The answer: no.

"We are exploring several opportunities as we monitor the bankruptcy proceedings and respect that ongoing process," Schubert writes via e-mail. "We don’t have a time frame at this point, but we are looking forward to its resolution."

When we specifically asked about the O.penVAPE proposal, Schubert declined to comment, as he did about any other potential stadium-namer.

However, a source within the organization confirms that the O.penVAPE submission isn't among those the Broncos are mulling.

In his statement to Westword, O.penVAPE CEO Morgan portrays the proposal as successful despite this development.

"The process of seeking the naming rights has already drawn attention to the serious problem of opioid addiction," he maintains. "It has strengthened our partnerships with some NFL players who share our commitment to research the benefits of CBD as a safer alternative to pain medication. As a company, O.penVAPE will continue to invest in science to discover and produce the safe and beneficial products that can be derived from cannabis for medical patients and recreational consumers.”

Right now, marijuana remains a banned substance for NFL players, although in 2014, the threshold for a violation was raised from 15 nanograms per milliliter of urine to 35 nanograms. Nonetheless, the league has thus far ignored calls by advocates such as ex-Denver Bronco Nate Jackson to allow players to use medical marijuana for pain relief.

A change in that policy would likely be of more benefit to O.penVAPE than any stadium name. Here's the aforementioned video showing the proposed O.penVAPE at Mile High.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts