DENVER (CBS4) – Gov. John Hickenlooper is “disappointed” a group of political appointees voted overwhelmingly Thursday to continue using a Sports Authority Field at Mile High luxury suite for Broncos games after critics suggested the appointees should be giving the suite away to charities, nonprofits or schools.
A CBS4 investigation revealed that the volunteer board that oversees the football stadium on behalf of taxpayers uses a 23-person luxury suite for watching Broncos games. The suite is valued at at least $12,000 per game. It features flat-screen TVs, a bathroom, wet bar and other amenities, and was given to the Metropolitan Football Stadium District Board as part of the Broncos lease of the stadium.
They also receive parking passes and extra club level seats from the Broncos. The board members, six representing metro area counties and three gubernatorial appointees, typically convene for meetings two to three times a year.
They have acknowledged they share the climate controlled suite for the first regular season game and for playoff games. In between, each board member has been given the suite for their own use for one regular season or preseason game.
Several told CBS4 they fill the suite with family or friends when they have the box. Several have said that prior to the passage of Amendment 41 in 2006 they would offer suite seats to their county government officials. But after the passage of Amendment 41, prohibiting government employees and officials from accepting pricey gifts, the board members indicated they had to give the suite seats to non-governmental types.
At a meeting Thursday the board considered, then rejected the idea of a new suite policy that would give the box away to charities. By a 6-1 vote with two members absent, the board opted to essentially keep the same policy that has been in place for years and allow individual members to decide who they want to dish tickets to when they have the suite.
“Well I guess we go ahead and use the suite,” said Norm Early, a stadium board member who acknowledged that in recent years he used the suite for friends and family members. “Now somebody is trying to make it look pernicious, like we are doing something wrong.”
The only change the board agreed to was to release a list of who they have with them in the suite for Broncos games.
Roy Palmer, a stadium board member and gubernatorial appointee, voted against maintaining the suite policy asking that the board give the box away for all games to nonprofits or charities.
“I just as soon put it behind us and move on,” said Palmer.
Other board members not only outvoted Palmer but voted to make it mandatory that when an individual board member has the suite they must attend the Broncos game to make sure the suite is not damaged.
Early contended board members should be present “since people can tear it up.” Gene Ciancio, a board member representing Adams County, said, “It would be irresponsible to not go … and make sure the suite is protected and not damaged.” The chairman of the stadium board said in 12 years, that’s never happened.
Eric Brown, a spokesman for Gov. Hickenlooper, told CBS4, “We are disappointed and wish the board had taken the same action as dealing with the baseball stadium suites.”
Brown was referring to a similar volunteer stadium board that oversees Coors Field which also has access to a luxury suite at the baseball stadium that seats 14 people and is valued at between $3,000 to $4,000 per game.
After reports surfaced last month that the seven baseball stadium board members were each getting that suite for their personal use for four Rockies games each season, the board quickly voted to relinquish the suite for all games except Opening Day and the last home game of the season. Instead, that Coors Field suite will now be made available to charitable organizations and schools on a “first come first served” basis.
While Brown said Hickenlooper was disappointed with the actions of the football stadium board, he said there wasn’t much more the governor could do.