Mile High Stadium

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Mile High Stadium
MileHighStadium.jpg

Mile High Stadium in 1995
Former namesBears Stadium (1948-1968)
Location2755 West 17th Avenue, Denver, Colorado 80204 USA
Coordinates39°44′46″N 105°1′18″W / 39.74611°N 105.02167°W / 39.74611; -105.02167Coordinates: 39°44′46″N 105°1′18″W / 39.74611°N 105.02167°W / 39.74611; -105.02167
Broke ground1947
OpenedAugust 14, 1948[1]
Expanded1959, 1968, 1976, 1977, 1986
ClosedDecember 23, 2000[2]
DemolishedApril 17, 2002[1]
OwnerRocky Mountain Sports, Inc. (Denver Bears/Denver Broncos, 1948-1968)
City and County of Denver (1968-2001)
OperatorDenver Parks and Recreation
SurfaceGrass
Construction cost$500,000
($4.91 million in 2014 dollars[3])
ArchitectStanley E. Morse[4]
General contractorPlatt Rogers Construction Company[5]
Capacity51,706 (1968)
76,273 (1986-2001)
Field dimensionsLeft Field
333 ft (101 m)
Left-Center
366 ft (112 m)
Center Field
423 ft (129 m)
Right-Center
420 ft (128 m)
Right Field
400 ft (122 m)
Tenants
Denver Bears / Zephyrs (AAA) (1948-1992)
Denver Broncos (AFL / NFL) (1960-2000)
Denver Dynamos (NASL) (1974-1975)
Colorado Caribous (NASL) (1978)
Denver Gold (USFL) (1983-1985)
Colorado Rockies (MLB) (1993-1994)
Colorado Rapids (MLS) (1996-2001)
 
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Mile High Stadium
MileHighStadium.jpg

Mile High Stadium in 1995
Former namesBears Stadium (1948-1968)
Location2755 West 17th Avenue, Denver, Colorado 80204 USA
Coordinates39°44′46″N 105°1′18″W / 39.74611°N 105.02167°W / 39.74611; -105.02167Coordinates: 39°44′46″N 105°1′18″W / 39.74611°N 105.02167°W / 39.74611; -105.02167
Broke ground1947
OpenedAugust 14, 1948[1]
Expanded1959, 1968, 1976, 1977, 1986
ClosedDecember 23, 2000[2]
DemolishedApril 17, 2002[1]
OwnerRocky Mountain Sports, Inc. (Denver Bears/Denver Broncos, 1948-1968)
City and County of Denver (1968-2001)
OperatorDenver Parks and Recreation
SurfaceGrass
Construction cost$500,000
($4.91 million in 2014 dollars[3])
ArchitectStanley E. Morse[4]
General contractorPlatt Rogers Construction Company[5]
Capacity51,706 (1968)
76,273 (1986-2001)
Field dimensionsLeft Field
333 ft (101 m)
Left-Center
366 ft (112 m)
Center Field
423 ft (129 m)
Right-Center
420 ft (128 m)
Right Field
400 ft (122 m)
Tenants
Denver Bears / Zephyrs (AAA) (1948-1992)
Denver Broncos (AFL / NFL) (1960-2000)
Denver Dynamos (NASL) (1974-1975)
Colorado Caribous (NASL) (1978)
Denver Gold (USFL) (1983-1985)
Colorado Rockies (MLB) (1993-1994)
Colorado Rapids (MLS) (1996-2001)

Mile High Stadium (originally Bears Stadium) was a multi-purpose stadium that was located in Denver, Colorado, USA. The stadium was built in 1948 for the Denver Bears baseball team, which was a member of the Western League at the time the stadium was constructed. Originally built just for the Bears, the stadium was expanded various times over the years to accommodate the addition of a professional football team to the city, which became known as the Denver Broncos, as well as to improve Denver's hopes of landing a Major League Baseball team. Although the stadium was built as a baseball-specific venue, it became more widely known as a football stadium despite hosting both sports for a majority of its life.

The Broncos called Mile High Stadium home from their beginning in the AFL in 1960 until 2000. The Bears, who changed their name to the Zephyrs in 1985, continued to play in the stadium that bore their name until 1992 when the franchise was moved to New Orleans. The move was precipitated by the awarding of a Major League Baseball franchise to the city of Denver, and in 1993 the Colorado Rockies moved into Mile High. The team played the 1993 and 1994 seasons in Mile High while Coors Field was being constructed for them in downtown Denver and set attendance records.

In addition to the Broncos, Bears/Zephyrs, and Rockies, Mile High Stadium was home to several other professional teams during the course of its history. The Denver Gold of the United States Football League called Mile High home from 1983 to 1985, and the stadium played host to the inaugural USFL championship game on July 17, 1983. Two professional soccer teams also played at Mile High. The first was the Denver Dynamos of the North American Soccer League, who were founded in 1974 and played their first two seasons in Denver before moving to Bloomington, Minnesota and becoming the Minnesota Kicks. Denver was home to one of Major League Soccer's ten charter franchises as the Colorado Rapids were formed and played in Mile High from 1996 until 2001, making them the last franchise to play in Mile High Stadium prior to its closure.

After the Rapids' 2001 season, Mile High Stadium was closed and in 2002 the stadium was demolished.

History[edit]

Early years as Bears Stadium (1948-1959)[edit]

Mile High Stadium was originally built as Cold Stadium for minor league baseball by Bob Howsam in 1948 at the site of a former landfill. The stadium initially consisted of a single 18,000-seat grandstand stretching along the north side from the left field foul pole to the right field foul pole on the west side. Luther "Bud" Phillips hit the first official home run out of Bears Stadium.[citation needed]

In the late 1950s there was an attempt to form the Continental League led by the famous Dodger General Manager, Branch Rickey. Bob Howsam joined ranks with Rickey, pleading for a major league team in Denver. Advised that to get a major league franchise Denver would need a much larger ballpark, Bears Stadium would begin the first of its many expansions. Over eight thousand seats were added to the south stands, bringing stadium capacity to 23,100.

Major League Baseball's answer to the Continental League was to expand the league, which would eventually lead to the folding of the Continental League. Although Denver was not awarded a franchise, MLB promised teams in the future for Denver and other cities. Howsam was now trapped with a debt load he could not afford and a stadium far too big for a minor-league team. Frantically searching for a solution, he turned to football.

The Broncos as the primary tenant (1960-1992)[edit]

The Broncos play at Mile High Stadium, 1996.

A large bleacher section was added along the south side and temporary east stands were built in 1960, raising the capacity to 34,000.[citation needed]

Howsam's ownership in the AFL was short-lived as overwhelming debt forced Howsam to sell all his sports interests in 1961. His dream of major league baseball in Denver would be placed on hold for another 30 years.

Denver had to settle for the minor league Bears and the AFL Broncos, who resembled football's version of the early New York Mets. The players looked comical in their yellow and brown vertical striped socks and mustard yellow and brown uniforms, and the team was sometimes derided by local fans in the stadium when the Broncos would take the field. It took a few years to gain a following. In 1961, they drew fewer fans in a year than the Broncos now draw in a single game. In the middle of the 1960s, uniforms changed, there were some wins, attendance turned around and more locals caught what came to be known as "Bronco Fever".[citation needed]

One condition of including Denver in the AFL-NFL merger announced in 1966 was expanding Mile High Stadium to at least 50,000 capacity. This required adding second and third decks along the west sideline (first base line). This expansion was completed in 1968, when the stadium was sold to the city of Denver, which renamed it Mile High Stadium and built the upper deck along the west side, thus raising capacity to 50,657.[6]

1970s[edit]

Early '70s expansion[edit]

The Broncos sold out every game in their inaugural NFL season. Every Broncos game (not including games with replacement players) has been sold out since, a streak that continued after the Broncos left Mile High. As ticket sales increased, the stadium expanded to 51,706 seats. With a $25 million bond issue in 1974 another stadium renovation added 24,000 more seats. By 1976, seating was up to 63,532 as the upper decks construction was completed along the north end zone (third base line).

The east stands[edit]

An ingenious expansion that took place from 1975-1977 raised the capacity to 75,103 by extending the upper deck that was along the north side and building a movable, triple-decked stands along the east side. When fully retracted toward the field, the stands would form a horseshoe for football, appropriate considering the team was the Denver Broncos. Yet when fully extended by 145 feet (44 m), the stadium could still fit a normal-sized baseball field with outfield distances of 335 feet down the left-field line, 375 feet to left-center and 423 to center field.[7]

The movable structure was 450 feet (137 m) long, 200 feet (61 m) wide, and weighed nearly 9 million pounds (4,500 short tons, 4,000 metric tons). When a game or event required moving the stands the 145 feet in or out, engineers pumped water into 163 water bearings spaced out beneath the stands, lifting the structure off its foundation. A sheet of water 1/3 inch thick formed under the structure. Hydraulic rams then pushed the stands forward at the rate of two feet per minute, taking stadium engineers about six hours from start to finish to move the stands.[7]

1980s[edit]

Mile High Stadium, in the 1970s and 1980s, was the only professional-caliber baseball facility to have an all grass infield, with sliding pits around bases. This unique feature was similar to several newer Major League Baseball stadiums that also used sliding pits, except those other stadiums all had artificial turf infields.[citation needed] In 1986, 77 luxury suites were added atop the west stands, increasing the official seating capacity to 76,123.

The Jacksons performed two concerts at Mile High Stadium on September 7 and 8, 1984 during their Victory Tour.[8]

Billy Graham held his "Rocky Mountain Crusade" at the stadium in 1987.

The stadium hosted the final show of The 1988 Monsters of Rock Festival Tour, featuring Van Halen, Metallica, Scorpions, Dokken and Kingdom Come, on July 30, 1988.

1990s[edit]

Notable events[edit]
Mile High Stadium in 1994.

Metallica and Guns N' Roses brought the Guns N' Roses/Metallica Stadium Tour to the stadium on September 19, 1992, with Body Count as their opening act.

In August 1993, Denver hosted World Youth Day. On August 12 and 13, Mile High Stadium hosted two events with Pope John Paul II, the Papal Welcoming Ceremony and the Way of the Cross.[9]

The stadium played host to Ozzfest on June 24, 1997.

The Colorado Rockies arrive[edit]

The large size of the stadium combined with fan enthusiasm over the new team as well as some of the lowest ticket prices in Major League Baseball to allow the expansion Rockies set Major League Baseball attendance records before moving to Coors Field for the 1995 season. The stadium was known for its loudness, the sound bouncing around within the horseshoe. Because of the large size of center and right fields and foul territory (although left field was shorter than average), as well as the 30-foot (10 m) high fence in center field, the stadium was not as problematic for pitchers as Coors Field proved to be. The club's 1993 season attendance was 4,483,350 in 79 home dates (81 games - 2 doubleheaders), an average of 56,751 per home date. The Rockies were on a pace to top that record in 1994 when the ballplayers' strike occurred. They had drawn 3,281,511 in 57 home dates (also 57 games), an average of 57,570 per home date. (Season attendance figures from The Sporting News Baseball Record Book, 2007, p. 234; Game counts are from game logs on Retrosheet.[1][2])

Final years (2000–2001)[edit]

The final football game at Mile High Stadium was December 23, 2000, in which the Broncos routed the 49ers, 38-9.

The stadium again hosted Ozzfest, for the second and last time, on June 21, 2001 and hosted The Area:One Festival on July 28, 2001. The stadium was featured in Michael Moore's 2002 documentary Bowling for Columbine as the backdrop for Moore's interview with controversial rock musician Marilyn Manson during the 2001 Ozzfest tour.[10]

Mile High Stadium was closed in 2001, after the Denver Broncos moved to neighboring Invesco Field at Mile High (currently known as Sports Authority Field at Mile High), upon the completion of the new stadium. The demolition of Mile High Stadium began in January 2002, an event covered extensively by local newspapers and broadcast live on television. The demolition was performed by Spirtas Wrecking Company of St. Louis, Mo., the same group that led the demolition of stadiums in St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Seattle.

The site of the stadium is now a parking lot for Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The site of so many games and activities over its many years is still marked by the hills forming the west and north stands, the corner between them descended by a staircase, much as the stands were. The location of home plate is identified by a marker located at 39°44′47″N 105°01′19″W / 39.74637°N 105.02187°W / 39.74637; -105.02187 (Mile High Stadium home plate marker).

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b http://projectballpark.org/history/nl/mile.html
  2. ^ http://www.stadiumsofprofootball.com/past/MileHighStadium.htm
  3. ^ Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–2014. Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved February 27, 2014.
  4. ^ http://eadsrv.denverlibrary.org/sdx/pl/doc-tdm.xsp?id=WH889_d0e35&fmt=text&base=fa
  5. ^ http://www.ghphipps.com/history.asp
  6. ^ http://www.ballparktour.com/Former_Denver.html
  7. ^ a b Moss, Irv (17 August 2010). "Jim Tolle, Mile High Stadium stands engineer". Denver Post. Retrieved 31 October 2012. 
  8. ^ Victory Tour (The Jacksons tour)
  9. ^ "Apostolic Journey to Jamaica, Mexico and Denver (Colorado) (August 8-16, 1993)". John Paul II: Travels. The Vatican. 
  10. ^ "Marilyn Manson Interview on Bowling for Columbine". Bowling for Columbine Official Website. 2002-10-11. Retrieved 2010-11-15. 

External links[edit]

Events and tenants
Preceded by
None
Home of the
Colorado Rockies

1993 – 1994
Succeeded by
Coors Field
Preceded by
None
Home of the
Denver Broncos

1960 – 2000
Succeeded by
INVESCO Field at Mile High
Preceded by
None
Home of the
Colorado Rapids

1996 – 2001
Succeeded by
INVESCO Field at Mile High
Preceded by
Franklin Field
Host of the
Drum Corps International
World Championship

1977 – 1978
Succeeded by
Legion Field
Preceded by
Oakland Coliseum
Cleveland Municipal Stadium
Riverfront Stadium
Three Rivers Stadium
Host of AFC Championship Game
1978
1988
1990
1999
Succeeded by
Three Rivers Stadium
Riverfront Stadium
Ralph Wilson Stadium
EverBank Field
Preceded by
None
Host of the
United States Football League championship game

1983
Succeeded by
Tampa Stadium