By Barry Janoff
August 3, 2016: Could the venue known since 2011 as Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium in Denver become Papa John's Field at Mile High Stadium?
Defending NFL Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos said the team has acquired from the Metropolitan Football Stadium District the contract for the naming rights to Sports Authority Field at Mile High, a publicly-owned facility under the auspices of MFSD, which is a division of the state of Colorado.
The situation has been in disarray since March when national retailer Sports Authority, which in 2011 signed a ten-year deal to acquire naming rights to the field in the stadium that is home to the Broncos, filed for Chap. 11 bankruptcy. The Englewood, Col.-based retailer initially planned to close 140 stores, then in May said it would go out of business as it sought to sell all of its assets.
“Pending court approval, the Denver Broncos have assumed the Metropolitan Football Stadium District’s contract for the naming rights to Sports Authority Field at Mile High," the team said in a statement. “This acquisition streamlines the process for securing the best possible long-term partnership for the naming rights to our stadium. As in the past, proceeds from stadium naming rights will be split 50-50 between the Broncos (who also provide sponsorship elements) and the MFSD."
According to the Broncos, there is no timetable for acquiring a new naming rights agreement, and the name Sports Authority Field at Mile High would not change "at this time."
Court approval is expected by Aug. 31.
The Broncos said they look forward to "working with the MFSD in establishing a new long-term relationship with a stadium naming rights partner.”
The Broncos said they would be speaking with current team partners and "potential" partners.
Broncos partners include CenturyLink telecom, United Airlines, Anheuser-Busch (Bud Light), CarMax, Colorado BMW, Papa John's and U.S. Bank.
Papa John's has close ties with the team as former quarterback Peyton Manning owns several franchises in and around Denver.
Papa John's is all-in with the NFL, having renewed its official alliance with the league and the Super Bowl. In addition to the Broncos, the pizza maker had alliances with 22 other NFL teams.
At its height, Sports Authority, which was founded in 1987 but traces its history back to 1919, had more than 460 locations.
In addition to selling store locations and merchandise, Sports Authority also sought sell it's Mile High Stadium naming rights contract.
Both the Broncos and MFSD objected to that, claiming the contract was owned by MFSD.
The Sports Authority naming rights contract has five years left and about $20 million in payments due yearly for naming rights, according to industry analysts.
Rival Dick's Sporting Goods, based in Pittsburgh, has been a major buyer of Sports Authority's assets and store locations.
The upcoming schedule in the stadium includes pre-season games vs. San Francisco 49ers (Aug. 20) and Los Angeles Rams (Aug. 27), and a nationally televised NFL Kickoff season opener with a Super Bowl 50 rematch of the Broncos against the Carolina Panthers (Sept. 8, NBC).
According to MFSD, "The filing of bankruptcy by Sports Authority had left uncertainty in the future of the naming rights of Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Denver Broncos assuming the naming rights offers some clarity in the future of Sports Authority Field at Mile High."
MFSD said that revenue from naming rights is "primarily used for capital improvements extending the life of the stadium well into the future, attempting to avoid need for public funding."
"The District and the Denver Broncos are currently conducting a facilities conditions assessment of the stadium and surrounding campus. Preliminary numbers indicate over $300 million will be needed over the next 30 years to maintain the facility," said MFSD.
Last Dance For Sports Authority: Going, Going Gone
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