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  • Writer's pictureMario Nicolais

Could the Broncos and Rapids both win with a swap deal?

Neither the Broncos nor the Rapids have done much winning in recent seasons. True, they are not a 100-loss team like the Rockies, but they are much closer to that than they are to the World Champion Nuggets.

But maybe they could both win with a land swap.

The Broncos’ new ownership group hardly let the ink dry on their purchase agreement before they began floating the idea of a new stadium. The Rapids have let their own stadium deteriorate so badly that the official supporters group staged a walkout last week. Both teams seemed destined to make facility changes.

So why not build the new Broncos stadium on the site where Dick’s Sporting Goods Park is currently located and then put the Rapids in new digs where Empower (But Really Mile High) Field currently stands? It makes too much sense for both teams.

While Denver taxpayers may be gobsmacked by the idea of a new stadium for the Broncos when the old one is barely 20 years old (the original Mile High lasted more than a half century), there is some logic to the idea. Empower is roughly in the middle when it comes to NFL stadium ages. But when you remove iconic venues (Soldier Field in Chicago, Lambeau Field in Green Bay, the Superdome in New Orleans, Arrowhead in a godforsaken sea of red) suddenly the “oldest” stadiums were built beginning in the mid 1990s. Suddenly 2001 seems a little archaic. 

More importantly, the stadium itself simply cannot compete with its more modern counterparts. In the past few years, I have been to two of the stadiums that set the benchmark significantly higher for football teams. AT&T Stadium, better known as “Jerry World,” in Dallas set a new standard for video boards with its monster screen hanging in the middle over half the field. 

Worse, Allegiant Stadium, home to the Broncos arch-nemesis Raiders, is essentially a high-class casino built around a football field. It has beautiful marble white floors, spacious vendor corridors and incredible VIP seating (which my wife accidentally got us into during the 2022 Chelsea in America Tour).

Simply put, no amount of retrofits will ever make Empower (But Really Mile High) Field the equivalent to these new revenue-generating palaces.

The Rapids, on the other hand, have an even newer stadium but rank near the oldest of MLS venues. While it was never gorgeous, the complaints highlighted in a letter issued by the Centennial 38 supporters club include stadium neglect and disrepair that has left the scoreboard with many non-functioning pixels, an inaudible PA system and a venue that “itself remains drab and colorless.” The letter goes on to address additional grievances from the management to treatment of fans, laying the blame squarely on Kroenke Sports & Entertainment.

I personally gave up my season tickets more than a decade ago. Despite being a self-proclaimed soccer nut who watches multiple matches a season, I hated going out to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. It is a long drive to see an inferior product — both as MLS compares to other leagues and as the Rapids compare to other MLS teams — and always left me believing Kroenke Sports & Entertainment did not understand the unique nature of true soccer supporters.

Kroenke has always catered to the casual family fan rather than the raucous supporters who live for their team. That is a mistake the Broncos, who have always highlighted the Broncomaniacs in the South Stands, have never made.

The cure for both could be as simple as switching locations.

The land where Dick’s Sporting Goods Park is located, combined with its parking lots and playing fields, is large enough to accommodate a massive new NFL stadium with its associated parking lots for tailgating eight times a year. While it is not as centrally located as the current stadium, it is the closest location with enough room. Other options would need to be located on the far side of Aurora, barely within sight of the iconic Front Range mountains.

For the Rapids, what could be better than adding a new venue just under a highway overpass from Kroenke’s Ball Arena? Furthermore, the surrounding land could be incorporated into the Kroenke-Ball Arena Redevelopment plan. Heck, you can already see Empower (Really Mile High) Field in the concept art!

Adding to the footprint, and potentially including an “entertainment district” that has been rumored for years, could be a coup for Kroenke. More importantly, a soccer stadium closer to downtown Denver could change the entire Rapids culture. Such a stadium would be more in line with European stadiums where fans march through the streets singing their support before matches.

If a bagpipe led, flare-fueled procession is possible  in Memphis, it is possible in Denver.

Cut a deal with For Denver FC to have a women’s club play there as well and suddenly Kroenke could be filling the stadium 28 times a year (17 for MLS, 11 for NWSL). It could have the same impact Coors Field had on LoDo almost 30 years ago.

Should the Broncos and Rapids swap locations? Seems like the best chance either has to put up a winning season anytime soon.

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