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Broncos buy back control of stadium naming rights

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The deal must still get approved by U.S. Bankruptcy Court, and that should come Aug. 31. As for the new sponsor, the focus should be on local companies.

AFC Championship - New England Patriots v Denver Broncos Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

The Denver Broncos cleared a big hurdle in the path to get a new sponsor on their stadium. The team announced on Wednesday that the Broncos will assume the last five years of the Metropolitan Football Stadium District’s naming-rights contract with Sports Authority.

The U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware still must approve the transaction, but there’s no reason to see why it won’t. That approval will likely come on Aug. 31. Sports Authority filed for bankruptcy in March.

The Broncos will take care of the $3.6 million that Sports Authority was due to pay on Aug. 1. Until a new sponsor is found, the name “Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium” will remain.

There was speculation as to what would happen if Sports Authority had found a bidder in its court-supervised auction that the Broncos and stadium district were fighting. There was talk that was keeping companies from wanting to put their money behind such a move.

President and CEO Joe Ellis and the Broncos took matters into their own hands when they bought it. It was a crafty move by Ellis and the organization.

“This acquisition streamlines the process for securing the best possible long-term partnership for the naming rights to our stadium. As in the past, proceeds from stadium naming rights will be split 50-50 between the Broncos (who also provide sponsorship elements) and the MFSD,” the Broncos said in a news release.

With this major hurdle cleared, the next step is to get a new sponsor.

The goal is to find one that helps cover some of the $300 million over the next 30 years to ensure the stadium remains one of the best in the NFL. As I said a few weeks ago, that rules out any chance of it just being Mile High Stadium.

Some/most of Broncos Country won’t ever call it “So and So Field at Mile High Stadium” but the next sponsorship is the difference in keeping the current stadium or building a new one. That’s how crucial this is. Mile High Stadium will remain part of the new name.

“We're going to need a naming rights partner to not only upkeep the building, but improve it over the course of time,” Ellis said after practice on Wednesday. “What we don't want to be is in a position where we're stuck in 10 or 15 years having to build a new stadium for our fans because you have to keep up with what their entertainment expectations are - their viewing expectations and all of that.

“If we don't do that, we're going to be stuck with a much, much, bigger bill. These naming rights proceeds, they don't solve all of the problems, but they're a good part of our good chunk of revenue that helps us defray some of those costs.”

Aside from the money, the most important aspect in this new partnership is the long-term viability of the company that is chosen. That means the Broncos and the stadium district have to put in the legwork to research the interested companies and get to know them. What does the future look like? Any potential pitfalls that show a specific company should not be the choice?

The last thing anyone wants is to do this again in five years. That means no deadline or timetable to get this finished. Though one would think all involved want to seal the deal before Sept. 8.

That leaves the ideal fit and what the Broncos and stadium district are looking for.

“I can't describe (that), but it's somebody that has a sense of what this team and what this community is all about, what football and what this stadium is all about - how important it is,” Ellis said. “Someone who wants to enjoy what the rest of the community enjoys: Broncos games, other events, concerts, soccer games, high school events, events in the club areas and the team rooms. And (share) the benefit to this partnership with the public.”

Translation: The ideal fit is a strong, viable, local company. A national franchise won’t have that intimate knowledge of what the Broncos and community is all about.

They must go with a company that is just as much a part of the community as the Broncos are. One that fans know and trust. And have for a long, long, long time.

There is one that comes to mind and it would be the perfect fit.

Time will tell if the Broncos and the stadium district agree.

What do you think? Who will the Broncos choose to put on the stadium?