DENVER (CBS4) – As the bidding process for the Denver Broncos narrows down, real estate opportunities around the stadium are reported to be a large part of discussions. Last month, team president Joe Ellis said the number one decision the team’s new owner will have to make surrounds the long-term future of the stadium.
That could include building a new stadium or redeveloping the existing one.
In his comments at the recent NFL meetings, Ellis said there is a “tremendous real estate opportunity” in the Stadium District Master Plan, which aims to redevelop the southern parking lots of Empower Field at Mile High into a multi-use neighborhood.
While the plan was approved by city council in 2019, it is currently on hold, city officials tell CBS4.
“I believe the stadium is in good shape,” Ellis said. “We believe there are some significant upgrades that need to be done and can be done to improve it to keep up with many of the others around the league.”
From Super Bowl winning teams to a global pandemic, Mile High Stadium has been home to all kinds of moments and milestones, but nearly 21 years after its opening, the one thing missing has been a facelift.
According to Jeremy Németh, a professor of urban and regional planning at University of Colorado Denver, the eventual new owner and the franchise have a real opportunity to capitalize on what other teams have.
“I think more and more, developers and team owners are really looking for multi-use, mixed use developments, and we’re really moving away from suburban, large lots,” Németh said.
From the Battery near Truist Park in Atlanta, to Hollywood Park outside SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles, the move toward stadium-adjacent mixed-use districts is becoming more common across professional sports. Locally, McGregor Square is another example of the model, Németh said.
“It’s a really enticing deal when an owner comes in to say, ‘Wow, I’m not only going to make money eight days a year, 12 days a year, or 15 days a year, but I can make money on this all throughout the year,’” Németh said.
With new ownership on the way, there could also be other benefits to redevelopment around Mile High.
“This does add value, and there’s no question about that. It adds an opportunity to grow your valuation of the team,” said James Renne, National Director of Sports and Entertainment with JLL, a commercial real estate company that’s worked on numerous stadium and stadium adjacent development projects.
In 2019, Denver city council passed the Stadium District Master Plan. The roadmap for redevelopment aimed to transform the southern parking lots into a multi-use district that would include housing, entertainment, parks and more. Recently, the pandemic and impending team sale have halted progress.
“I think everybody needed to make sure that we were going in the right direction,” said Councilwoman Jamie Torres.
Moving forward, Torres said the Sun Valley community’s involvement will continue to be a priority, regardless of what a new owner wants to do. The current master plan includes a community benefits agreement, to make sure those living in the area benefit from the project too.
At this point, the eventual new owners would have to reengage the community and restart development talks, Torres said.
“[The new owners] have got to think long and hard about whether voters would support anything other than what’s already been approved, and whether councilmembers and legislators would also support that,” Torres said.
For Németh, a redevelopment project is most successful when the community benefits as much as the team.
“If we can create affordable housing, mixed use buildings, mixed use development, lots of walkability, jobs, I think it would be successful,” he said. “I’m just not holding my breath for that.”