Removing the Broncos stadium now would be premature and hurt taxpayers

The crowd of adoring fans gathered in downtown Denver to celebrate the Colorado Avalanche’s Stanley Cup victory reminded this state that sports teams aren’t just entertainment; they are a statewide asset.

The Coloradans are better for the Avalanche, Broncos, Rockies, Rapids, Nuggets and Mammoth, even when sports franchises aren’t bringing home national titles.

But make no mistake, these sports teams are private and we are at the mercy of the owners to continue investing in the future of their businesses in this state.

That brings us to the point of this op-ed: Colorado needs to be in control when it comes to the home of our beloved Denver Broncos.

Sports team owners have a history of trampling on communities, cutting sweetheart deals for publicly built stadiums, or moving the team to a location where elected officials are less frugal with taxpayer dollars.

Somewhere in between would be another bad deal for the state: an owner who pulls the Broncos out of Empower Field at Mile High and builds a private stadium elsewhere in the state that renders the existing taxpayer’s asset worthless then that in reality he still has a lot of life left in his 22-year-old bones.

Colorado has little time to prepare.

We’re sure Rob Walton and the owning team that won a $4.65 billion bid for the Broncos have a plan, and that plan might not be what’s best for the Colorans.

Elected officials representing cities and counties in the Stadium District must craft an offer now that flips the power table and leaves the Colorans with the upper hand in these negotiations.

The public paid for most of the new Mile High, completed in 2001, with a sales tax of 10 cents on every $100. We paid off that $300 million bond in 2012, but it hasn’t been a good return yet. Removing the stadium now would be premature and could undermine a plan to rejuvenate the entire stadium district, including the historically impoverished community of Sun Valley.

So how do we protect ourselves, our taxes and our Broncos?

Above all, local elected officials in cities and counties must not allow Walton, or a council appointed by Walton and other members of the existing Stadium District, to obtain taxing authority. If that seems like an obvious position, keep in mind that the City of Denver has given Avalanche owner Stan Kroenke and other investors taxing authority through a metropolitan ward on 62 acres of private land. where Elitch Gardens now operates. Kroenke and the developers of the land can issue up to $1.2 billion in bonds to develop the land, which will be repaid by taxpayers who purchase property in the planned development known as The River Mile. Potential buyers in the area should beware of property taxes which can be double the rest of downtown.

Development plans for The River Mile are expected to be developed in close conjunction with plans for the Denver Metropolitan Football Stadium District property, including 50 acres of surface parking lots that are ripe for mixed-use housing and properties. commercial. Supervision by elected officials from the area of ​​the existing stadium and an associated association responsible for coordinating the development of car parks is essential.

Colorado voters have learned their lesson about using taxpayer dollars to fund a stadium that benefits a private company. However, voters would have no say if a city in our county creates a new metropolitan district on vacant land, either near the existing Mile High or in the suburbs. It may be too late, in fact, if Walton eventually strikes a deal for a new stadium in existing land in the River Mile Metropolitan District for voters to have a say in who pays for a new stadium and how. .

Also, keep in mind that the lands planned for The River Mile and the grounds for the Broncos stadium are in federally designated enterprise zones where private investment grows tax-free. federal. Any public support for private development must also compensate for the fact that this land is now effectively a federal income tax-free zone. The benefits of these terrestrial tax havens should, in some ways, accrue to Colorado residents.

Much is at stake in Denver as plans for this land develop.

Elected officials with integrity and uncompromising moral standards must lead this ship.

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