ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --With the push of a shovel Tuesday afternoon, Broncos Owner and CEO Pat Bowlen officially broke ground for a new fieldhouse at Dove Valley.
The fieldhouse, along with renovations of the existing building at the team's headquarers, is designed to ensure the Broncos' daily facilities are among the best in the league.
"Mr. Bowlen has a franchise he's very proud of," Broncos President Joe Ellis said. "Twenty-three of his partners had (indoor) facilities. We visited some of them and saw what the teams were doing. I think it adds value not just to his asset, but to attracting players and says something about how we operate, how he operates, and that is important to him. This building will be first-class. He operates his team in first-class fashion. He hands that down to all of us that work for him to see that through. I think it was important to him and to the organization."
Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway agreed that "absolutely" the new facilities could help in the recruiting process for free agents, just as it does in college sports.
In fact, Ellis recalled that he made sure the renderings of the new fieldhouse were displayed in his office when quarterback Peyton Manning visited Denver in the 2012 offseason.
"Sure enough, Peyton notices everything. He said, 'When's that going to be ready?'" Ellis recalled. "So, it wasn't the ultimate, deciding factor but I do think it makes an impression on players. This will be, in our opinion, the nicest field house in the league. That's what Mr. Bowlen wanted and that's what, I think, everybody will recognize and the players will appreciate it."
The fieldhouse will be 85,000 square feet and include a 30,000 square-foot support space, all of which will be built to the west of the current practice fields. The full-length football field, locker room and football service area will be accompanied by features including meeting spaces, a new Broncos team store and a video production room.
Perhaps most importantly, it will provide the team with a year-round venue for training regardless of the elements.
"The weather is better in Denver than people think it is, but I think there were some cold practices so this will be nice to have that option not only when it gets cold but also training camp is when we get some thunderstorms roll through that won't impact your practices in there," Elway said. "So I think it's going to help us in training camp. We'll be able to have other teams come in there and practice against us, and we'll have a locker room going in over there -- so that's going to provide a lot things for us."
Additionally, the new fieldhouse will enhance the training camp experience for fans, including a larger public seating area, additional parking and improved restroom facilities.
There will also be a deck, which will serve as a VIP area, and the size of the hill where fans sit for training camp will triple.
"This should open — we believe, we hope — in fall of 2014," Ellis said. "So we'll have it for a good portion of next season."
If construction affects training camp practices next offseason, Ellis said the team is considering more practices and activities at Sports Authority Field at Mile High to compensate.
The plans for the new fieldhouse and upgraded facilities began approximately 10 years ago, when the team lost its practice bubble due to high winds.
"From the time that bubble blew down and we decided that we weren't going to put it back up, we realized what our needs were at the time," Vice President of Operations Chip Conway said. "At the time, putting up a new one just wasn't in the cards. So we had to develop a plan over the years."
The time was finally right, and Mr. Bowlen and the Broncos are fully funding the project.
"I can't say enough about Pat and what he's done for this organization," Elway said. "He always wants to be the best, whether it be on the field or in the facilities. So it again shows us the commitment of what Pat Bowlen is all about as far as his commitment to Denver and the Denver Broncos and making this organization the top-notch one that it is."
The upgrades to the current facility won't begin until after the 2013 season ends, and it will include renovating the lobby, media room and existing infrastructure. In addition, new offices and conference rooms will be built along with a new commercial kitchen and cafeteria.
"This is my 20th season here," Conway said. "I've seen the building be out-grown over the years, so being able to expand this facility to meet our needs inside and accomplish some other things like the kitchen, which I think is probably going to be the biggest impact to the facility other than the field house., is great."
Les Wells of The Wells Partnership is serving as the Owners Representative Company for the entire project, with Saunders Construction, Inc., being utilized as the contractor. The field house was designed by Sink Combs Dethlefs, a firm that specializes in sports architecture. The facility renovations were planned by Intergroup Architects.
"Mr. Bowlen has shown an unwavering commitment to provide this organization — his organization — with the resources to have sustained success," Ellis said. "This is just another step in that direction, and everybody here is grateful for that."