Sports

Broncos Camp: Record Crowd Treated to Glorious Sh*tshow

An inflatable version of the Broncos mascot Miles had the best view of training camp on Saturday, July 30.
An inflatable version of the Broncos mascot Miles had the best view of training camp on Saturday, July 30. Photo by Michael Roberts
The Denver Broncos' training camp session on Saturday, July 30, reportedly set an all-time crowd-size record, with 104.3 The Fan's Andrew Mason estimating the number of fans admitted to UCHealth Training Center in Englewood at an astonishing 7,121.

The show on the fields was undeniably incredible, with new quarterback Russell Wilson more than living up to his reputation as a passer par excellence and a gifted hype-master, and plenty of other Broncos justifying the optimism that radiated off the throng. But because of a chaotic and woefully inefficient entrance process, a large percentage of those who arrived at the facility that day missed part or all of the festivities, many after enduring hours of waiting for admittance in broiling hot temperatures — including a man who passed out next to me in the line for non-ticketed fans.

In short, the scene was a clusterfuck with a happy ending for most, but not for everyone.
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The line of ticketed fans was thousands-long.
Photo by Michael Roberts
Broncos training camps are famously free and open to the public, and in 2018 and 2019, I wrote accounts of the workouts from a fan's perspective. Even though the teams in both of those years were clearly subpar compared to the franchise's glory years, the visits I shared with my daughter Lora, whose love for the squad knows no bounds, were highly enjoyable. The setup was first-rate, with employees going out of their way to treat loyalists who may not have been able to afford to go to an actual game like valued members of Broncos Country.

Lora and I were anticipating an even more exciting experience on Saturday, and because we figured that Wilson's presence would attract an enormous horde, we showed up at about 8:20 a.m. — well in advance of the announced 9 a.m. time for the gates to open and the 10 a.m. start of practice. But as we were pulling into the parking area, we began seeing and hearing that free online tickets were needed to get into camp that day, and they were already long gone.
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The non-ticketed fans were told they'd have to wait until everyone with tickets got inside.
Photo by Michael Roberts
This was news to both of us — even Lora, who closely follows the Broncos on every social-media platform. Just to make sure she hadn't missed something, she went over every tweet sent out by the team in recent days and found nothing about tickets. A woman charged with directing fans with and without tickets to the proper lines told us she'd seen something about the requirement on TV news broadcasts, which Lora noted was a good way to reach people over fifty who still regularly tune in to such programs, and also to miss millennials who get their information from alternative sources.

Granted, the overwhelming majority of people were somehow hip to the ticket requirement; their line stretched from the entryway to well beyond the giant on-site fieldhouse, looping multiple times within an adjacent parking lot, while the number of us in the non-ticketed-fans queue was in the hundreds.
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The Broncos grim reaper had a ticket.
Photo by Michael Roberts
When 9 a.m. rolled around, Broncos personnel began giving people access to the hillside overlooking the practice fields, but the process was incredibly slow. Staffers didn't require everyone to dump their belongings into a bin before they passed through the two metal detectors initially in use, instead instructing them to hold their items to their chest as they passed through. If the metal detectors went off, as they almost always did, the person was made to walk back through it again before being directed to a nearby worker who did a more thorough search.
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Only two metal detectors were in use until well after practice started.
Photo by Michael Roberts
As a result, fewer than half of the ticketed fans were inside when 10 a.m. struck, and because of that, thousands upon thousands of attendees — both dopes like me and those who'd followed the rules and obtained passes ahead of time — were still lingering on the wrong side of the fence as Wilson and Justin Simmons offered thank-you speeches and the practice got underway.
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Many ticketed fans were still outside when practice got underway.
Photo by Michael Roberts
The line finally started moving better at around 10:20 a.m., apparently because the Broncos had opened up a third metal detector. But about ten minutes later, a staffer told everyone in the non-ticketed-fans line that they weren't going to get in, despite steady communication up until that point that they probably would.

The reaction to this declaration wasn't overt anger; we didn't see anyone shouting angrily and storming off. Indeed, probably half of those without tickets had already wandered away, after seeing how many people with tickets remained in limbo. But dozens stuck around a while longer, including a man who collapsed in the heat. Lora gave him her water bottle and I ran off to get help, while another person who seemed to have a medical background looked after him until a crew arrived. Fortunately, the man responded positively to care.
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Non-ticketed fans soon got the bad news.
Photo by Michael Roberts
At that point, I discarded my plan to cover camp from a fan's perspective and phoned someone with the Broncos' media department, who kindly offered two passes and guided us onto the portion of the sidelines designated for the press. There we rubbed shoulders with the likes of the Gazette's Woody Paige, the Denver Post's Mark Kiszla, author Terry Frei, Denver7's Lionel Bienvenu and the mayor of Broncos training camp, 104.3 The Fan's Darren "D-Mac" McKee, and got up-close views of ex-Broncos Orlando Franklin and Knowshon Moreno, as well as additional notables. When Wilson's entertainer-wife, Ciara, walked past us not once, but twice, it was like looking directly into the sun and somehow not going blind. I also was able to listen in to a post-camp press conference by new head coach Nathaniel Hackett, whose enthusiasm was so explosive that it's a wonder his bucket hat didn't launch thirty feet into the air as he spoke.
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Coach Nathaniel Hackett at the podium.
Photo by Michael Roberts
After Hackett wrapped, Lora and I walked through the section designated for players' family members and arrived at the edge of the hill, where Wilson was autographing everything in sight. His accessibility, which clearly thrilled the kids and grownups around him, epitomized everything that's great about Broncos training camp.
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Russell Wilson thrilling the masses.
Photo by Lora Roberts
Now the team just needs to figure out a better way to handle the mob that wants to experience it for themselves.
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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