What does a new Broncos owner mean for Sun Valley, the neighborhood at the heart of Broncos Country?
Who knows, but residents are hopeful the new owner is onboard with the Stadium District Master Plan.
It’s receiving season for the Denver Broncos.
For starters, the Broncos have a new coach. That’s the fifth time fans have said that in the past 11 years. And with that comes the prospect of a new quarterback, something else the Broncos have needed since Hall of Famer Peyton Manning left the team in 2015.
What else are the Broncos getting this year? A new owner.
In January, a district judge cleared the way for a potential sale of the team, ruling that a right of first refusal between Edgar Kaiser Jr. and Pat Bowlen — the late past owners — was “no longer valid.” On Tuesday, the Broncos and the Pat Bowlen Trust announced that the team is up for sale and the new owner could pay upwards of $4 billion, a record price for a U.S. professional sports franchise.
Broncos president and CEO Joe Ellis said trustees hope to find a new owner before the 2022 season.
“The Broncos are a special franchise that is part of the fabric of this region and whoever emerges as the new owner will certainly understand what the team means to our great fans and this community,” Ellis said.
Besides bringing another Super Bowl ring to the Mile High, what would a new owner bring to Sun Valley?
Lisa Saenz is a former longtime resident of Sun Valley, the neighborhood where Empower Field resides. She said that while most Denverites are concerned with wins, including her, she hopes a new owner will continue plans to revitalize the Sun Valley area.
“I don’t think anyone [cares] who owns the team as long as they get to keep their Broncos,” Saenz said, laughing. “Game days around here bring the neighborhood alive. It’s Broncos Country… But I do hope they stay involved with the neighborhood. They came to us about four, five years ago with an idea of redeveloping from the 50-yard line all the way to lower Colfax by Meow Wolf, but then Pat Bowlen passed away. And then the pandemic.”
Saenz is talking about the Stadium District Master Plan, which was passed by City Council in 2019. The plan aimed to energize the area year-round by redeveloping the south parking lot of Empower Field into a 70-acre mixed-use neighborhood hub with new housing, dining, entertainment and, of course, green space.
Glenn Harper, owner of Sun Valley Kitchen + Community Center, served on the Westside Stadium Community Coalition with Saenz, a group formed to represent the areas affected by the Stadium District Plan. Harper said the plan also included an “international marketplace” featuring local chefs and business owners.
“That’s what we’re hoping to see with the stadium redevelopment,” Harper said. “Giving people an opportunity to start their own businesses here locally.”
The plan was brought to Sun Valley residents and other nearby neighborhoods by the Broncos and the Metropolitan Football Stadium District, a government body made up of the seven counties in the Denver metropolitan area that own the stadium. The district is in charge of building and maintaining Empower Field.
Matt Sugar, director of stadium affairs for the Metropolitan District, said the plans were put on hold due to the pandemic. It’s unclear if the plans will continue because it’s unclear whether the new Broncos owner will be interested in the project.
“We have been on pause for quite some time now, and we’ll probably remain on pause until the ownership changes,” Sugar said. “I cannot anticipate what the new owner might want to do or not do. There’s a lot of unknowns out there.”
What’s also unknown is whether Sun Valley would actually benefit from that development. Saenz believes it can and so does Harper.
Sun Valley is bordered by Interstate 25, Federal Boulevard and 6th and 20th avenues. It once had a population of about 1,500 people, most of whom lived in Sun Valley Homes, like Saenz. The Homes is a subsidized public housing project run by Denver Housing Authority.
In a $240 million, multi-year project, DHA will be replacing 333 units of public housing (those old red brick buildings) and adding over 950 homes to house over 2,500 residents. But since DHA began redeveloping the Homes, Sun Valley has felt like a ghost town.
“There’s been a lot of displacement happening in the community with residents moving out because of redevelopment,” Harper said. “But my prediction is that between redevelopment in this part of Sun Valley and then the stadium district, we may potentially have 10,000 people living here in 10 years.”
Saenz won’t be one of those people. DHA relocated her to a different complex, but she still hopes the Sun Valley neighborhood thrives and the Broncos’ new owner may help.
“I hope they continue the plan,” Saenz said. “It could bring the area back to life as long as they make it affordable and make everybody feel welcome here.”