It’s an obvious question, given that sporting goods giant Sports Authority went out of business a year ago. When Denver Broncos President Joe Ellis was asked this week what everyone should call the stadium his team will play in this season, Ellis told the media it was still “Sports Authority Field.”
It makes no sense…only dollars. The word is “contractual reasons” are why the defunct company is still being promoted on the side of the building and on national television, even though by all accounts the ultimate decision is still in the hands of the Broncos and the Denver Metropolitan Stadium District.
They are thus far 0-for-2 in corporate naming rights deals.
For four decades, the Broncos played in venerable Mile High Stadium. Then in 2001, they opened a brand new stadium with the corporate name “Invesco Field.” Invesco was an investment firm that signed on for 20 years at $600,000 per year. The Broncos got half of that money. Then Invesco Funds hit a financial wall (along with everyone else) in 2008, merged with a mutual fund company and relocated the business to Atlanta in 2009. Two years later, no longer in need of retail advertising, they agreed to end the agreement.
“Invesco Field” was no more. So a new naming rights sponsor had to be found. Enter Sports Authority, which had its corporate HQ in Denver as well as it roots as the Mile High City’s “Gart Brothers Sporting Goods.” The new agreement was for 25 years, once again for $600,000 per year.
That was fine for five seasons, until corporate mismanagement brought down one of the Mile High City’s most visible businesses. Even after the last door had closed, it was too late to change the name and the defunct company (which missed its last two quarterly payments) got a sixth year of promoting a chain of stores that were no more.
More than 450 stores went out of business when Sports Authority’s ownership declared bankruptcy and closed the doors for good at the end of August of 2016. Thousands of people lost their jobs, and the ripple effects caused hundreds of sporting goods vendors – companies like baseball bat giant Easton for example – to take a huge financial hit. It created hardships throughout the sporting goods industry.
Out of mind if not out of sight, the “Sports Authority Field” name will remain on the Denver stadium for a seventh season for those vague “contractual reasons.” Rival Dick’s Sporting Goods owns the “intellectual property” rights to the name, so if a customer tries to go to the old Sports Authority web site, for example, they’re re-directed to Dick’s. So it’s possible to surmise that perhaps the people who named Denver’s ‘futbol’ stadium are also the one’s responsible for keeping a defunct company’s name on the city’s real football stadium? It’s just a guess. Are the Broncos and the Stadium District are still getting paid somehow? They should be.
Whether that’s the reason or not, television audiences will continue to be welcomed to the place named after a business that was mismanaged to the point of costing thousands of people their jobs and left hundreds more empty handed. Sort of leaves a bad taste in your mouth, huh?
Here’s an idea: How about immediately naming the playing surface “Pat Bowlen Field?” Mr. B was largely responsible for the stadium being built in the first place. “Welcome to Mile High Stadium and Pat Bowlen Field…” would honor both the tradition and heritage of the community (and taxpayers who paid the bill) and the man whose leadership lifted the Broncos from mediocrity to a place among the NFL’s premier franchises.
And it would leave a good taste in everyone’s mouth.