Offseason moves, support of Broncos fans spur optimism for Joe Ellis

PHOENIX -- With a new head coach, a new starting quarterback, robust business at Broncos Stadium at Mile High and stadium improvements set to begin, President/CEO Joe Ellis doesn't have to look very hard to see ample cause for optimism around the Broncos.

But the news keeps getting better -- even by the moment, as Ellis experienced Monday afternoon at the Annual League Meeting.

During one of his interviews with Denver-area media, Ellis mentioned that the Broncos had a 95-percent season-ticket renewal rate. A few minutes later, Ellis learned that it was even higher.

"It’s remarkable to me that we are somewhere between 96- and 98-percent renewal now," Ellis said. "I just got a text because somebody heard that I said 95, and he shot me a text and said, ‘Oh, no, it’s better that that.’"

That's for a team that is coming off its most difficult on-field two-year stretch since the 1970s. Despite the recent struggles, the pulse and passion of Broncos Country remains vigorous, and Ellis is thankful.

"To have that kind of support year in and year out, even after for the first time in what, 40-some odd years back-to-back losing seasons -- to get to 96- to 98-percent renewal, coming up on our 50th season of sellouts just speaks to what a great market we have and what a great following we have for the Broncos, pro football and the NFL," he said.

"We are very fortunate and we are not going to get complacent about it. We do not take it for granted."

The passion, backed up by the financial commitment of fans who continue to pour into the stadium, also creates a sense of duty to deliver for the fans who invest their time and energy to support the Broncos. That is something Head Coach Vic Fangio mentioned Sunday, when he spoke of a "responsibility" to do what it took to forge a turnaround and get the Broncos back to the level at which they're accustomed to playing.

“No question about that," Ellis said. "That is a pressure point. That is why losing is so hard, because you are letting those people down, to me. I hope we can reward them sooner rather than later because that is what they deserve."

Giving the fans what they deserve also involves making the stadium experience better through improvements, the most notable of which will be the addition of LED lights to replace the traditional metal-halide lights atop the stadium.

Because LED lights do not require a lengthy time frame to power up, they can be used to add to the fan experience. In some Major League Baseball venues, for example, LED lights are turned down or flash in patterns after home runs or during opponent pitching changes to help energize the home crowd.

The brightness of LED lights also helps for other sports, such as soccer. This could benefit the quest to bring some 2026 World Cup matches to Denver, which is one of 17 U.S. cities vying for 10 host spots.

Broncos Stadium at Mile High will also host games in the CONCACAF Gold Cup -- which includes national soccer teams from North America, Central American and the Caribbean -- this summer.

"I think it would be fun. It'd be a lot of fun for the city," Ellis said. "It would generate a ton of visitors -- not only for the games that take place in World Cup soccer when you're a host city, but the events around it. The teams come in and practice at altitude for a week at a time.

"Their fans flock in for the same amount of time from all over the world. You get several countries represented playing in your stadium. It'd be a big boon for the city of Denver."

Such events enhance the profile of the city and the stadium, which enjoyed its most successful year in 2018.

"The stadium has never done better. It's really working well for us," Ellis said. "We've been able to do a lot of community events outside of the Broncos, which is important -- it's part of our charter; it's part of our lease agreement and part of our understanding when the legislators passed the tax bill [for stadium funding] way back in 1998. We're really proud of it. It's been a big part of our business, and it's doing very, very well."

A more successful stadium means more money for upgrades, and more to put into enhancing the gameday experience for Broncos fans.

"I’ve seen the vision that Stan Kroenke has for [the] Los Angeles [stadium], and of course the Chargers are going to be playing there. That is going to be the bar that you’re trying to get to. That is going to be tough when you have an existing building," Ellis said.

"There are ways we can do it. There [are] a lot of things we can do to improve the stadium over time. We’ll hire some people to do that and give us a vision of how our stadium can be modernized without having to tear it down. That to me is really one of our most critical business initiatives, if not the most critical business initiative moving forward.”

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