Mile High Stadium

From Academic Kids

Mile High Stadium
Location Denver, Colorado
Opened 1948
Closed 2001
Capacity 76,273
Owned By City and County of Denver (Parks and Recreation Department)


Posted Dimensions:

333 ft (101 m)
366 ft (112 m)
423 ft (129 m)
400 ft (122 m)
370 ft (113 m)

Mile High Stadium (known as Bears Stadium until 1968) was a baseball, soccer and football stadium that stood in Denver, Colorado from 1948-2001. It hosted the Denver Broncos of the NFL from 1960-2001, the Colorado Rockies of the NL from 1993-1994, the Colorado Rapids of MLS from 1996-2001, the Denver Gold of the USFL from 1983-1985, and the Denver Bears and Denver Zephyrs of minor league baseball's Western League, American Association and Pacific Coast League from its completion in 1948 until 1992.

Mile High Stadium was originally built as Bears Stadium for minor league baseball by Bob Howsam in 1948 on top of an old dump. The stadium initially consisted of a single 17,000-seat granstand stretching along the north side from the left field foul pole to the right field foul pole on the west side.

In the late 1950's there was an attempt to form the Continental League lead 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, Bear 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. The new east stands increased seating to 34,657. The final bill, including cost overruns, came to just under $500,000.

Major League Baseballís 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 large stadium and debt he could ill afford. Frantically searching a solution he turned to football. Meeting with Lamar Hunt, Bud Adams, and George Halas, Howsam helped form the American Football League (AFL) and Denver was awarded the Broncos. A large bleacher section was added along the south side and temporary east stands were built in 1960, raising the capacity to 34,000.

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. The stadium was sold to the city in 1968, which renamed it Mile High Stadium and built the upper deck along the west side, raising capacity to 50,000.

Denver had to settle for the minor league Bears and the AFL Broncos who resembled the early New York Mets version of football. Looking comical in their yellow & black vertical stripped socks, mustard yellow and brown uniforms, the fans in the stands would sing, "Send in the Clowns" 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 1960ís uniforms changed, there were some wins, attendance turned around and people caught Bronco Fever.

As ticket sales increased, the stadium expanded to 51,706 seats. With a $25 million bond issue in 1974 another stadium renovation added 20,000 more seats. By 1975 seating was up to 75,100. An ingenious expansion that took place from 1975-1977 raised the capacity to nearly 80,000 by extending the upper deck along the north side and building a movable triple-decked stands along the east side. When fully extended, the stands would form a horseshoe for football, but when fully retracted by 145 feet (44 m), the stadium could still fit a normal-sized baseball field. The structure was 535 feet (163 m) long, 135 feet (41 m) tall and 200 feet (61 m) deep, weighing nearly nine million pounds (4,000 t). In order to move the stands over more than 90,000 square feet (8,000 m²) of runways, water was pumped onto the runways and formed a .003 inch (76 micrometre) sheet upon which the stands rested. Hydraulic rams then pushed the stands forward at the rate of three feet per minute (15 mm/s), taking about two hours from start to finish. In 1986, 77 luxury suites were added atop the west stands, increasing the official seating capacity to 76,123.

The large size of the stadium ensured that the expansion Rockies were able to set Major League Baseball attendance records before moving to Coors Field for the 1995 season. Indeed, the stadium was known for its loudness, the sound bouncing around within the horseshoe. Because of the huge size of the outfield and foul territory, 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.

Mile High Stadium was closed in 2001 after the Denver Broncos and Colorado Rapids moved to neighboring INVESCO Field at Mile High. It was demolished later that year.

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