An empowering tour
Article and photos by Shaun Kernahan
Although its seats will be vacant on Super Bowl Sunday, Empower Field at Mile High encompasses the ultimate Colorado football experience. Having opened in 2001 at a cost of $400.8 million, the six-level stadium is double the square footage of its predecessor Mile High Stadium, but it has just two additional seats. The Colorado Sports Hall of Fame is located at the stadium and gives tours with plenty of fun facts, like the fact it takes 200 gallons of paint to get the field ready every Sunday.
When you start the tour, you are escorted into one of the private boxes that run $200,000 per season with a minimum of a five year commitment. Taking a seat in the box, it is easy to look around and imagine 76,000 other fans packed into the place decked out in orange and blue, cheering on the Broncos while sitting in luxurious seats with private restrooms, a full buffet and a bar behind you.
Next, you head up to the press level and walk straight into the broadcast booth that has all the signs of wear and tear from moving broadcast equipment in and out of the booth over the past 18 seasons. Despite what you see on a typical broadcast, the booth has no bells and whistles, but is instead merely an open room with all the sights seen on TV brought in by the broadcasting company via green screen.
The press box for the writing press can hold 500 members of the media, although a typical game only hosts about 150. It wraps from about the 15-yard line on the northwest corner of the stadium around to behind the corner of the end zone.
The tour really gets interesting once you finish up seeing all the different clubs and boxes in the stadium and head down to the field level. Stepping into the visitor’s locker room is much different than other sports (hockey, basketball, and baseball are all quite stripped down of comfort and decor). There is a giant NFL logo in the middle of the room with nice wooden lockers, hot tubs, massage tables, and old school white boards to go over the game plan.
Just outside the locker room is a friendly welcome that states, “Welcome to Denver, CO the Mile High City Elevation 5280’ above sea level.” The sign inside the door where the visiting buses pull in for the game is a little less welcoming, as it states, “ELEV 5280’ ALTITUDE SICKNESS IS REAL.” The Broncos home locker room, where much of the real team magic happens, is sacred, off limits and not part of the tour.
To complete the tour, you walk past the stall for Thunder, the Arabian stallion who gallops across the field on game day, and to a giant metal door. The tour guide pushes a button lifting the door, exposing the tunnel the Broncos come charging out of every game day. You emerge from the dimly lit hallways under the stadium into the sun soaked, sandy grass field the likes of Peyton Manning, Von Miller, Champ Bailey, Ed McCaffrey, John Lynch and so many more have played.
Across the field is the Broncos logo formed by painted seats in the top level of the stadium, turning around you see the three retired numbers on the left of the video board, the three Super Bowl banners on the right side of it, and the iconic bucking bronco perched on top of the board that ties the new stadium into the iconic look of the old.
To learn more or book a tour, visit https://www.empowerfieldatmilehigh.com/.