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How Denver metro cities, counties split $41 million windfall from Broncos sale

This Denver Broncos season may be bearing little fruit in the win-loss column, but cities and counties in the metro area that helped pay for the stadium in which Russell Wilson and company play their games are busy unpeeling a juicy $41 million windfall from the recent sale of the team.

According to an accounting from the Metropolitan Football Stadium District released this week, Denver is the top recipient on the list of 47 cities and counties, with a disbursement of $12.5 million from the stadium district. At the bottom is Castle Pines, which got a check for a measly $112.85 — less than the cost of a Justin Simmons alternate game jersey at the Broncos Pro Shop.

“We tried to do it in the most equitable way we could,” said Matt Sugar, the district’s director of stadium affairs. “Those who paid in got money back.”

That includes nearly $3.8 million for Aurora, $2.2 million for Boulder, $1.2 million for Littleton and just shy of $3 million for Lakewood. Metro area counties scored too: Jefferson, Broomfield and Adams counties are getting around $1.1 million each, while Douglas County is pocketing close to $940,000 and Arapahoe nearly $640,000.

“It is not often that a City receives an unanticipated inflow of funds in this amount, and we’re very excited to put it to work for our youth,” Brighton’s finance director, Catrina Asher, said of the $454,000 coming her city’s way.

The money is the result of a 1998 vote in the then six-county Denver metro area (Broomfield didn’t become a county until 2001), passing a sales tax extension to build the $400 million stadium known today as Empower Field at Mile High. The tax — 10 cents on every $100 purchased — to cover approximately 75% of the stadium’s price tag was collected from 2001 to 2011, when the 76,000-seat venue was paid off.

The lease agreement stipulates that the cities and counties that helped fund the stadium’s construction get a sliver of the proceeds of a sale of the team should late Broncos owner Pat Bowlen’s ownership group ever decide to put the franchise on the block.

The sale of the team to the Walton-Penner group for a record-setting $4.65 billion was finalized last month. While 2% of the sales price is supposed to go back to the communities in the stadium taxing district, franchise debt and the Bowlen group’s capital contributions had to be deducted first, reducing the net profit from the sale to around $2 billion.

The rebate from the sale is supposed to be used to support “youth activities,” though it isn’t restricted to youth sports. As cities and counties only got their checks in the last couple of weeks, most have not decided yet how they will spend the money.

But Jefferson County Commissioner Andy Kerr said he could see part of the $1.1 million his county received from the district being used at the county fairgrounds.

“We have hundreds of kids coming through there with Westernaires and 4H,” he said. “We’ve set a one-year deadline for us to figure out how to spend that money. We’re going to engage the public, put out surveys and gather stakeholder groups.”

Sugar said to determine who got what, the stadium district worked closely with the Colorado Department of Revenue to see where stadium sales tax was collected during the decade starting in 2001.

“They had to go into their archives and see how these taxes were collected,” he said.

Meghan Tanis, a revenue department spokeswoman, declined to get into details as to how she and her colleagues calculated who got what. But she said the stadium district “elected to disburse the funds in the most equitable way possible by distributing the funds in the proportion in which the sales tax was collected.”

That explains how Lone Tree, with a population of 13,000, managed to take in just over $1 million from the stadium windfall — more than Longmont ($980,000, population 95,000), Arvada ($980,000, population 120,000) and Commerce City ($613,000, population 56,000). Lone Tree is home to the sprawling Park Meadows Mall, which is a sales tax cash cow for the city and the region.

City spokesman Nate Jones said while the million-plus dollars from the district is not yet earmarked, city leaders “are excited to explore how this additional money could improve youth and recreation opportunities for residents and visitors to the city of Lone Tree.”

Just down Interstate 25, Castle Rock — with a population of 65,000 — netted barely $100 from the stadium district, the second-lowest total to Castle Pines. That’s because 17 years ago, voters in the Douglas County town rejected the stadium tax at the ballot box.

Sugar said there are no Taxpayer Bill of Rights implications from the money going out across the metro area. And while the stadium district doesn’t have enforcement powers as to how cities and counties ultimately use the money, Sugar hopes they will adhere to the spirit of what the lease agreement says.

“A year from now, I’m going to ask them what they did with the money,” he said.

Colorado Municipal League Executive Director Kevin Bommer called the disbursements “a nice little bonus that these communities were due but may not have remembered would happen as a result of the team sale.”

“It’s nice to see a revenue stream with no strings attached,” he said.

As to the windfall occurring against the backdrop of a lackluster Broncos season thus far, Bommer said it seems like an odd juxtaposition but not a reason to despair.

“I’m betting most Broncos fans would forgo the money to see the team win, but we diehard fans think there is still a comeback story that might unfold,” he said.

Broncos Stadium Reimbursements

Denver metro cities and counties that paid for Empower Field at Mile High have received their share of the $41 million windfall from the recent sale of the Broncos. Here’s how much each entity received:

City of Arvada $980,288.72
City of Aurora $3,759,261.39
City of Boulder $2,161,511.97
Town of BowMar $862.21
City of Brighton $454,084.93
City & County of Broomfield $1,096,818.44
City of Castle Pines $112.85
City of Castle Rock $119.83
City of Centennial $1,462,192.86
City of Cherry Hills Village $25,017.15
Town of Columbine Valley $4,590.51
City of Commerce City $613,461.97
City & County of Denver $12,543,777.06
City of Edgewater $63,636.73
City of Englewood $1,119,139.81
Town of Erie $22,630.38
City of Federal Heights $125,124.30
Town of Foxfield $7,222.68
City of Glendale $373,256.58
City of Golden $587,443.91
City of Greenwood Village $628,627.13
Town of Jamestown $329.95
City of Lafayette $199,668.51
Town of Lakeside $3,601.08
City of Lakewood $2,293,889.73
Town of Larkspur $56,258.93
City of Littleton $1,229,200.72
City of Lone Tree $1,010,137.26
City of Longmont $980,481.19
City of Louisville $254,627.76
Town of Lyons $16,047.48
Town of Morrison $19,009.60
Town of Mountain View $4,660.27
Town of Nederland $21,762.43
City of Northglenn $394,396.46
Town of Parker $611,440.85
City of Sheridan $208,400.56
Town of Superior $208,400.56
City of Thornton $1,251,876.65
City of Westminster $1,610,291.85
City of Wheat Ridge $523,551.51
Town of Ward $478.50
Adams County $1,144,816.02
Arapahoe County $637,822.09
Boulder County $309,220.55
Douglas County $939,363.21
Jefferson County $1,107,756.29
Source: The Metropolitan Football Stadium District

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