PALM BEACH, Fla. — Nearly two months after Broncos President & CEO Joe Ellis announced the upcoming sale of the franchise, he said the team remains on track to be sold before the start of the 2022 regular season.
"I really believe we can have a new owner in place by that time," Ellis told a small group of reporters on Monday at the NFL's Annual Meeting. "Don't hold me to that as a guarantee, but I do think that that's a realistic timetable."
Ellis first announced the sale of the team on Feb. 1.
Though Ellis was not permitted to disclose the names of interested parties, he said Monday that there's "really a significant amount of interest" and "a number of" very qualified buyers.
"I think it's exciting for the fans," Ellis said. "The team needs a new owner. It's time for that. As I said, we should have that in place by the start of the regular season."
Ellis said as the sale process continues, it is important to the other NFL owners to find a buyer that understands the importance of the Broncos to the Rocky Mountain region.
"That process of interviewing, getting them to understand what the Broncos are all about, what being an NFL owner is all about … is important to the membership inside here at our meetings," Ellis said. "I've had a few owners come up and say that, 'We want a person that is going to be present and is going to be engaged and not be distant from his or her franchise.' Be very visible, be very present and those type of characteristics I think are important. And they're being relayed to the prospective bidders. The bidders all understand that."
Ellis said several potential buyers have reached out to other NFL owners to ask questions about the league.
And while the process is not yet complete, the Broncos remain on track with their originally announced timeline.
AFTERMATH OF FIRE AT EMPOWER FIELD AT MILE HIGH
Last week's fire at Empower Field at Mile High left more damage than originally thought, and Ellis deemed the fire "a significant event."
A portion of the Broncos' stadium — including bowl seating and suite areas — were damaged during the fire, which occurred in an area of the stadium that was under construction. The Denver Fire Department responded to the situation and extinguished the flames, but Ellis saw firsthand the extensive damage in the aftermath.
"At first glance, you would've thought it wasn't really much of a big deal, and then after going down and seeing the damage, witnessing it in person, spending some time with fire inspectors and people from our stadium and the reclamation team that came in, it was a significant event," Ellis said. "We lost a couple hundred seats,  suites were affected. It will be a real challenge to get those back up and available for the regular season, I think."
Ellis said the stadium's steel risers buckled from the heat, and global supply chain issues will impact the Broncos' ability to replace those risers.
"It will take some time to get those replaced," Ellis said.
Ellis noted that the Broncos remain hopeful to have "things back to where they need to be" by the start of the regular season and said the team is moving "full speed ahead" toward upcoming events at Empower Field at Mile High.
FUTURE OF EMPOWER FIELD AT MILE HIGH
The future of the Broncos' stadium was also in focus on Monday, as Ellis called the team's long-term stadium plans "the No. 1 decision the new owner will have to make."
"I will tell you this: There's a tremendous real estate opportunity in the south end of the stadium, which has a master plan that's been, at one point, approved by the city to move forward and do a significant mixed development of office, retail, housing, possibly a hotel, maybe some small entertainment venue stuff — things along those lines — that can really bring some vibrancy to that area," Ellis said. "I believe the stadium's in good shape. … We believe there are some significant upgrades that need to be done and can be done to improve it, to keep up with many of the others around the league. Will it ever be SoFi [Stadium] or Allegiant [Stadium]? Probably not. So that's something a new owner has to look at. But there's all kinds of things that go into evaluating a new stadium … and the most important is, 'How much is it going to cost and what does my investment mean in terms of return when I do that?' If you look at the cost of these stadiums now, we built, collectively with the Football Stadium District, Empower Field at Mile High for somewhere around $450-476 million. Add another $1.6 to $1.7 billion to that and maybe you'll get a new stadium in Colorado. I think it's a challenge."
After a new owner is chosen, those plans could soon become a priority.
"[It's] something you do have to look at right away if you're a new owner, for sure," Ellis said. "It'll be very interesting. But I think from a big-picture business perspective, that will be issue No. 1 on the next owner's plate."