How do you measure the soul of a city?
In Denver, for the better part of four decades, it's been by the Broncos, and by Mile High Stadium.
From the first nationally televised Monday night game in 1973, through 26 postseason games that include back-to-back World Championships and four other Super Bowl appearances, the Broncos arguably have provided the Mile High City's primary identity on a national level.
Not only did the Broncos win consecutive Super Bowls in 1997 and 1998, but they established all-time pro football records for most wins in two seasons (33), most playoff wins in two seasons (seven), and most wins ever in three seasons (46, from 1996-98), all records that will be very difficult to challenge.
All this was done while playing in the venerable Mile High Stadium.
The attachment of Denver's fans with their football team and stadium stands out as unusual even in a city that has as strong an affinity for all its teams as does Denver-whether judged by 31 consecutive seasons of sellouts (with the last non-sellout being in 1969), by the highest local television ratings of any NFL city during that time frame, or just by the impact of Bronco wins and losses on Denver's collective Monday morning psyche.
Denver's love affair for and support of the Broncos certainly helped spawn the eventual arrival and fan loyalty to the other professional teams here, but the term "Broncomania" was born out of necessity as a response to the genuine fanaticism surrounding pro football in the Mile High City.
Mile High Stadium was the birthplace of Broncomania. The stadium nurtured both the fans and the team, and watched Broncomania become a national phenomenon.
The nation's first truly regional sports franchise, the Broncos were the first major league team to call Denver home, beginning play as a charter member of the new American Football League, with its first season being 1960.
The Denver Broncos have played in Mile High Stadium since their inception. The stadium was originally built in 1948 with a capacity of 18,000 for the city's minor league baseball team, the Denver Bears. Capacity was doubled in 1960 for the Broncos' first season.
In 1967, the Denver Broncos faced a crisis when voters declined a bond issue to construct a new stadium. But local fans came to the rescue, forming a non-profit group called the "DOERS," and raising 1.8 million to purchase Bears Stadium from its private owners and present the deed to the city.
The following year, the addition of an upper deck increased capacity to 50,000 and the facility was re-named Denver Mile High Stadium. In 1971, voters approved a $25 million bond issue to expand the stadium to more than 75,00 seats.
The capacity of Mile High Stadium now stands at 76,082, making it one of the largest facilities in the National Football League. Unfortunately, at over 50 years of age, it is also the oldest stadium in the NFL, with more pro football games having been played in it than in any other stadium currently occupied. Given the dynamics of modern stadium design and the financial imperatives of professional sports in the 1990's, the need for a new football venue was obvious, and the Broncos will move into their new stadium for the 2001 season.
The new stadium assures a prominent place for Denver as professional football prepares to move into the 21st century.
The new stadium will be a fabulous venue for the Broncos, but in our hearts, Mile High Stadium will be with us always.
by Jim Saccomano
Denver Broncos Vice President of Media Relations