Sports Authority Field at Mile High: Debate with neighbors over glare from signage gets testy

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Last night, after a long lecture about neighborhood crime and a short drive for membership, the Sloan's Lake Citizen's Group confronted its single largest neighbor: the Broncos' stadium. After the deadline to increase signage at Sports Authority Field at Mile High was delayed last week, stadium district officials are bringing the issue to the neighborhoods themselves. This is only the most recent of many debates likely to take place before the verdict.

"Tim Tebow sends his regrets that he can't be here tonight," stadium general manager Andy Gorchov joked before a discussion that occasionally verged on hostile.

Although Gorchov and other district officials met with a handful of neighborhoods near the venue in the earlier days of the proposal to amend its sign plan, they are currently upping their ante. In December, Jefferson Park United Neighbors voted 29 to 0 to oppose any additions to the stadium's existing sign plan, and much of the local opinion is firmly negative.

In the hour-long presentation he gave to 27 members of the citizen's group last night, Gorchov made that distinction: Is the feedback mainly aesthetic opinion, or are there legitimate concerns regarding adverse affects for the area?

"We have to coexist as best as we can, and we know we put challenges on the neighborhood," Gorchov says. "We're trying to take in all the opinion, feelings, thoughts and facts and make sure there are no hurtful changes to the neighborhood. But opinion about how it looks is not what we're focused on."

Although Gorchov presented slideshows on both the stadium's lighting and its signage, only the signage is required to be accepted by the city's Planning and Development board. This frustrated residents, who expressed concern at what is possible without their consent. Instead, they focused questions about where the two issues overlap: the light given off by the new signs by red LEDs that Gorchov says will be turned on every single day.

This issue, one of the most upsetting for his audience, is something that Gorchov might lead to compromise. Both he and the citizen's group discussed ways to place limits as to when and how long the stadium's lighting can stay on. Right now, Gorchov says, the excess light produced by the stadium's all-hours maintenance and parking lights is a "pet peeve" of his. The stadium's electric bill hits approximately $125,000 a month.

"We are willing to have written into the agreement certain primaries like that," Gorchov assured. "That's something we've talked about."

In general, light pollution remained a significant topic of discussion. When one woman pointed out the entire venue -- including its red upper ring -- was lit up until at least 6 a.m. on Monday, Gorchov apologized. "Our electricians forgot to shut it off." When Gorchov joked about suggesting a new name for the red ring, neighbors suggested only that he shut it off.

Later, the discussion centered on the color of the new signs -- Sports Authority's red brand rather than orange for the Broncos. Like Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, the signs will reflect the corporation's trademark rather than the team's. According to Gorchov, the amount of light the signs will give off has been determined through recent lumen and photometric studies to be "negligible." But immediately to his right, Jefferson Park neighbor and local architect Rafael Espinoza fervently shook his head.

"It's not an issue of opening your windows and seeing light from the stadium reach out here and fall directly onto your hand," Espinoza says, "It's a glare issue, not a light issue. The glare hits our windows every day."

During the discussion, Gorchov showed and corrected a popular and incorrect photo illustration, created by Espinoza, of what the stadium might look like at night with the proposed signs. In it, the signage is placed over the wrong arch of the stadium's rim, and Espinoza has since removed the image from all websites opposing the signage.

In total, Rafael estimates the larger signs proposed for the north, east and west sides of the building will add approximately 9,000 extra square feet of signage to the building, but Gorchov's focus hooked on the additional revenue and status they will bring to the stadium and its area. When neighbors asked what the changes would to do help their community, Gorchov responded that all business focused locally generates revenue in the area.

"This is how stadiums are funding long-term capital investments," Gorchov says. "Sports Authority could very easily not have given this money. They could have gone to New York or Dallas."

More from our Sports archives: "Videos: Tim Tebow's got eager (yet wholesome) dates lining up for him."

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