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Broncos still searching for stadium naming-rights partner

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Come the start of preseason and regular season, the stadium could still have the name Sports Authority on it.

NFL: New England Patriots at Denver Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning, Broncos Country!

There’s a question that clouds the Denver Broncos and it shows of no sign of clearing anytime soon. No, this isn’t about the quarterback situation. That will, hopefully, get resolution come training camp.

The stadium naming rights is another deal all together. The stadium still holds the name of a bankrupt company, and there’s no sign that will change. Come the first home game of the preseason against the Green Bay Packers or the regular-season opener against the Los Angeles Chargers, you will, more than likely, still see Sports Authority Field.

As the Denver Business Journal said in it’s story on Friday, it’s been seven months since the Broncos hired a Hollywood talent agency to find a buyer for the naming rights. It was in November that Denver hired WME-IMG to find that new partner.

Broncos president and CEO Joe Ellis made it clear when the agency was hired that they wanted to find a partner that “understands the values of our organization and this community." Ellis also said that the naming rights were critical to the stadium and overall fan experience.

Translation: The last two companies that Denver partnered with went bankrupt. So they’re making damn sure they get the right company this time to ensure they don’t go through this again. There’s been no hint at any of the companies that could take control of the naming rights.

"We continue to work closely with WME-IMG and have had several productive discussions with potential partners," Broncos executive vice president for public and community relations Patrick Smyth said. "We're focused more on finding the right, long-term naming rights partner than meeting any deadline for this process, which is extensive."

The Journal lays out how the Broncos got to this point.

Last August, the Broncos purchased the last five years of the old naming-rights deal held by Sports Authority after the Englewood-based sporting goods retailer declared bankruptcy and shuttered its hundreds of stores.

The Broncos set up a payment plan for the $19 million remaining on the original 20-year deal valued at $120 million. The Broncos have said they hope to sign a new 10-year deal, saying they have no intention of being a long-time owner of the stadium naming rights.

As I said last August when Denver purchased the remaining years of the contract from Sports Authority, 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? Are there any potential pitfalls that show a specific company should not be the choice?

It’s clear the organization and WME-IMG are doing that. There’s no rush to find the right fit, especially with how the last two naming-rights deals have ended. In the timeless words of .38 Special, the Broncos have to hold on loosely. “If you cling too tightly, you’re gonna lose control.”

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