Events held in Denver the day before the season opener, from a Play 60 event with Jordin Sparks to Kickoff Village's opening. (photos at Play 60 by Gabriel Christus, those at Kickoff Village by Eric Bakke, unless noted)
DENVER —** If you're like most Broncos fans, waiting for kickoff means time moves slowly. There are countless ways to spend that time, but for football fanatics, there might be none better than heading to Civic Center Park in downtown Denver to hang out at Kickoff Village, which opened Wednesday afternoon.
In the picturesque park sandwiched between neoclassical architecture that houses local and state government, the NFL has built attractions for all ages for the time before kickoff at Sports Authority Field at Mile High Thursday night.
Along with Broncos Ring of Fame safety Steve Atwater, Senior Vice President of Business Development Mac Freeman and NFL Vice President of Events Peter O'Reilly, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock kicked off the festivities Wednesday afternoon when the village opened beneath sunny skies.
"First of all, look at Chamber of Commerce weather," Hancock said. "Denver is a prime city for these type of events and we're kicking off again America's favorite sport with regards to the National Football League, right here in Denver, Colorado. It's a beautiful day. Fans are ready, just like everyone else across the nation, but we'll showcase this great city to the world."
Attractions include interactive activities like lockers decked out with Von Miller jerseys and Broncos helmets that visitors can try on, a Peyton Manning Retirement Challenge obstacle course, a Broncos-themed Hall of Fame tent and much more. Of course, the festivities climax with a tandem of concerts Thursday afternoon beginning at 4:30 p.m. with OneRepublic and Dierks Bentley.
Kickoff Village opens Thursday at 10:00 a.m. and closed at 6:00 p.m. It is free and open to the public.
"Obviously after the way last season ended and being Super Bowl champions, this is another way for the fans to really carry the celebration into the new season," Freeman said. "The football team's got to turn the page and focus on this year, but I think it's great for our fans to be able to continue to celebrate and now vary it right into the kickoff of the 2016 season."
With the spotlight on Denver for the opening of the 2016 NFL season, the Kickoff Village is partly an opportunity for the country to experience what the Broncos and their fans are all about. "I think every time the country gets exposed to the passion of Broncos Country," Freeman began, "[like] we saw at the parade and the celebration last year, we saw it in the stands in Santa Clara, and you're going to see it again here this week, both at the celebration and at the game tomorrow night — the passion of these fans, we're in awe of it and I think every time America gets to see it, they're in awe of it as well."