PHOENIX — As the Broncos continue to evaluate the future of Empower Field at Mile High, the organization has kept all options open and has gathered information through a variety of methods.
Denver previously announced an extensive market research project and has held a number of focus groups as part of the information-gathering process. The team also recently issued surveys on the game-day and stadium experience as the next step of the project.
Broncos President Damani Leech said Tuesday that Denver's leadership has been deliberate with its attempts to capture fan perspectives on the topic, but he noted the team is still early in the process.
"In January, we announced that we were partnering with Legends to do survey research," Leech said at the NFL Annual Meeting. "We had over, I think it was 112 fans, participate as part of focus groups, and we had 34 of our current partners do one-on-one sessions with Legends as part of that research. We just released a survey. I think we've gotten over 7,000 completed surveys, so a really solid number.
"But it's early. It's early in the process, gathering information and really wanting to know what our fans think across — for those of you that have taken the survey — … a variety of different topics. We really want to know what folks think, but it's very, very early. As you know, we have nine years left on the lease. We're not rushing to do anything, but we do know that these processes take a long time. We want to try to be as deliberate as we can and gather as much information as we can."
Leech said the Broncos have held the focus groups and issued the surveys on a number of topics — including on potential uniform changes — to ensure they're hearing a variety of perspectives.
"As you guys have probably learned, I do like to survey, and I do like asking questions," Leech said. "I think it's important. I think it's important to know what our fans really think and not get into an echo chamber of just staff making decisions. [We] appreciate the engagement we've gotten from our fans."
In addition to the Broncos' work with focus groups and surveys, Leech joined Owner & CEO Greg Penner, Owner Carrie Walton Penner and Owner Rob Walton on a tour of six NFL stadiums over the last several months to garner more information. The group toured the Chargers' and Rams' SoFi Stadium, the Cowboys' AT&T Stadium, the Dolphins' Hard Rock Stadium, the Vikings' U.S. Bank Stadium, the Raiders' Allegiant Stadium and the Seahawks' Lumen Field. The three members of the Walton-Penner Family Ownership Group and Leech also toured Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle and Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and Wembley Stadium in London.
"I would say there's no one stadium that we walked away and said, 'OK, that's the one that we want,'" Leech said. "I think there's bits and pieces of different stadiums that are interesting and intriguing. I think one of the things you realize, from a stadium standpoint, there are trade-offs that have to be made [with] trying to fit it in with the site, with the city and the culture. All of those things are factors."
Leech said the focus at several of the stadiums they toured was to make the experience "as hospitable as possible for fans" who attend a game.
"We talk about trying to get fans off couches and into your stadiums," Leech said. "A lot of those things [are about] technology [and] back of house. You see a lot more space back of house. Stadiums are homes to concerts and multiple teams, trying to make them as comfortable as possible. Those things are really interesting."
Leech made it clear that while the team is gathering information, any specifics — like whether a dome or retractable roof is possible for a potential new stadium — would be premature to speculate about.
"I think that's part of the reason why we're doing the survey," Leech said. "We want to have informed conversations. We call them 'visioning sessions' on what the future could be. We're far from making any decisions or even having favorites. Sometimes when we talk about it, we joke about how today we're interested in this, and tomorrow, we're interested in that. It's just too early."
The Broncos expect to get survey results back at the end of April or early May, at which point they'll review the findings. For now, Denver remains committed to gathering information that, down the road, will be helpful in its decision-making process.
STADIUM RENOVATION UPDATE
As the Broncos gather information that will be valuable in determining the long-term future of Empower Field at Mile High, the team's current stadium renovation project is "on schedule and on budget," according to Leech.
"The scoreboard is down and, as you saw, Bucky is down," Leech said. "Bucky is safely being taken care of, which we appreciate. … The scoreboard is down. It will come back up towards the end of the summer [and will be] 70 percent bigger. [We are] really excited about that. We're doing the suite renovations in blocks. We were really conscious of trying to maximize how many suites we have available for the concert series this summer, so that's progressing well. [We are] looking at a lot of designs. We're almost finalized with our designs [for the] interior for our team store and the new stadium club, which will be really great when they come together."
Leech said the renovations should be finalized in time for the Broncos' preseason home game.