Sports Authority sees the light, pulls plug on giant signs at football stadium

From my window on the edge of Highland, I can see the headlights of all the cars racing by on I-25, the psychedelic Ferris wheel at Elitch's, the glowing signs of Xcel, the Sheraton, Century Link and even a church stretching across downtown and the Platte Valley. But Sports Authority Field at Mile High is dark.

Which is fitting, because for months it seemed that city officials were completely in the dark about Sports Authority's plans to turn the stadium into the world's largest billboard. Last fall, Sports Authority had agreed to pay $150 million over 25 years Mile High Stadium naming rights, taking over from Invesco, the investment firm that left town not long after the new, taxpayer-funded stadium opened.

But the company had much grander plans for putting its stamp on the stadium, including lit-up signs almost ten feet high and 178 feet long that would ring the top of the stadium. Northwest Denver neighbors have been complaining for months that those signs would be blindingly bright -- not to mention a violation of both city's codes and basic aesthetics. Why, they would even dwarf the infamous IKEA logo down south!

And in the end, Sports Authority blinked. After three hours of public -- and cranky -- comments before the Denver Planning Board, followed by some criticism from the board itself, a Sports Authority rep said that the company would change the plan, removing the most offensive parts. Basically, the signs visible from outside the stadium will be limited to the same spots where the Invesco name was once seen. And they'll keep the glowing ring of red lights at the top of the stadium -- which were a great addition to the skyline over the holiday season.

Smart move by Sports Authority. The last time people got so riled up over a football field, it was when the Metro Stadium District, which wanted to build a new facility for the Broncos, announced that it was selling the naming rights -- a prospect that so incensed a local barkeep that he decided to get involved in a campaign to save the Mile High name, and launched a political career in the process.

Although John Hickenlooper lost the naming-rights fight (the Mile High name at least rated the tail end of the title), today that barkeep is the governor of Colorado.

Denver's new football stadium opened just over a decade ago. See highlights of its history in our post "Top 10 moments in 10 years of Invesco Field at Mile High -- soon to be Sports Authority Field."

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