Citation
Why did voters approve the 1998 Denver Broncos stadium tax initiative?

Material Information

Title:
Why did voters approve the 1998 Denver Broncos stadium tax initiative? three competing theories
Creator:
Jones, Sean
Place of Publication:
Denver, Colo.
Publisher:
University of Colorado Denver
Publication Date:
Language:
English
Physical Description:
xiv, 232 leaves : ; 28 cm

Thesis/Dissertation Information

Degree:
Doctorate ( Doctor of Philosophy)
Degree Grantor:
University of Colorado Denver
Degree Divisions:
School of Public Affairs, CU Denver
Degree Disciplines:
Public Affairs
Committee Chair:
deLeon, Peter
Committee Members:
Buechner, John
Fitzpatrick, Jody
Jackowski, Mick
Wallis, Allan

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Elections -- Colorado -- Denver ( lcsh )
Civic improvement -- Colorado -- Denver ( lcsh )
Referendum -- Colorado -- Denver ( lcsh )
Civic improvement ( fast )
Elections ( fast )
Referendum ( fast )
Colorado -- Denver ( fast )
Genre:
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )

Notes

Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 219-232).
General Note:
School of Public Affairs
Statement of Responsibility:
by Sean Jones.

Record Information

Source Institution:
|University of Colorado Denver
Holding Location:
|Auraria Library
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
263685135 ( OCLC )
ocn263685135
Classification:
LD1193.P86 2007d J66 ( lcc )

Full Text
WHY DID VOTERS APPROVE THE 1998 DENVER
BRONCOS STADIUM TAX INITIATIVE?
THREE COMPETING THEORIES
by
Sean Jones
A.A., El Camino College, 1986
B.A., University of Maryland, 1991
M.A., University of Colorado, 1998
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver/Health Sciences Center
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
Public Affairs
2007


2007 by Sean Jones
All rights reserved.


This thesis for the Doctor of Philosophy
degree by
Sean Jones
has been approved
by
/5 (oe''2c&G>
Date


Jones, Sean M. Ph.D. (Public Affairs)
Why Did Voters Approve the 1998 Denver Broncos Stadium Tax Referendum? Three
Competing Theories
Thesis directed by Professor Peter deLeon
ABSTRACT
The primary goal of this thesis was to identify the strongest reasons why Denver-area
voters approved the 1998 stadium referendum for the National Football League Broncos.
Prevailing literature indicated that economic rationales consistently fail to stand as sound
reasons to invest public funds for a private enterprise like a professional sports venue. An
alternative to the economic rationales in the literature included a desire for voters to
maintain their citys image as major league by building a stadium to prevent the team
from relocating. So, this thesis examined whether voters indicated that economics or city
pride influenced their vote on the stadium referendum. Another vein of this research that
was derived from the literature involved testing for the comparative effectiveness of the
parties organized for and against the stadium measure, an application of urban regime
theory. Methods employed in the research were threefold: 1) a quantitative and qualitative
text analysis of direct quotations in newspaper articles pertaining to the stadium
referendum; 2) interviews with key informants who had participated in the original
referendum discourse and 3) a statistical analysis of public opinion polls conducted during
the months leading to the final vote. Findings from this thesis indicate that in Denvers
case in 1998: 1) voters considered economic costs to be minimal to the individual; 2)
voters did not take economic payoffs into consideration; 3) a desire to maintain Denvers
city image as major league was the most compelling reason voters gave for supporting
the stadium tax and 4) stadium proponents were much more effectively organized than
stadium opponents. One part of urban regime theory that specifically applies to stadium-
building with public funds is the idea of the solution set in which governments replicate
policy solutions in lieu of meaningful new dialogue about the best ways to finance a new
sports venue. In Denvers case, policymakers clearly operated via a solution set when the
new football stadium district followed the exact boundaries and taxing structure of the
previous Coors Field baseball district despite indications that modifications to the policy
could have proven beneficial.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis. I recommend its
publication.
Signed
Peter deLeon


DEDICATION PAGE
This ... ones ... for... Kim.


ACKNOWLEDGMENT
I would like to acknowledge the support of several people who helped me in several ways.
First, thanks to my family for their constant encouragement.
Many thanks to my advisory committee whose patience and guidance provided a
worthwhile learning experience for me.
Much gratitude to the several people who participated in interviews. Because our
conversations were confidential, I cannot name them individually, but I certainly appreciate
their insight.


TABLE OF CONTENTS
Figures................................................................xiii
Tables.................................................................xiv
CHAPTER
1. INTRODUCTION..........................................................1
Background........................................................1
Baltimore: Case in Point..........................................3
Other Cities Experiences with Professional
Sports Franchises.................................................4
The Seattle Seahawks Case.........................................6
Pertinent Questions about Why Voters
Elect to Build Stadiums..........................................10
Focusing the Research............................................12
Specific Questions about Denvers
Football Stadium Measure.........................................15
Subsequent Chapters of this Dissertation.........................16
Contributions of this Research...................................17
2. LITERATURE REVIEW....................................................19
Introduction.....................................................19
Heritages of the Progressive Era.................................21
Economics of Stadium Building....................................25
City Image.......................................................33
Urban Regime Theory..............................................37
Literature Summary...............................................45
vii


3. HISTORY OF SPORTS VENUES IN DENVER.....................................48
Introduction........................................................48
The Early Days......................................................48
The Beginnings of Football in Denver................................49
McNichols Arena is Born.............................................50
Denver Qualifies for a Major League
Baseball Team.......................................................51
Football Proposal Follows Baseballs Lead...........................52
Progress and Setbacks on the Road To
The Stadium Measures Passage.......................................53
The Elections That Werent..........................................54
Discussions in the State Legislature................................55
The City and County of Denvers Experiences
With the Stadium Measure............................................57
Other Governmental Entities' Experiences
With the Stadium Measure............................................60
Proponent and Opponent Groups.......................................63
Actions by Individuals on the Stadium Measure.......................65
Renovation of Mile High Stadium.....................................66
Architecture for the New Stadium....................................67
Endorsements........................................................68
Miscellaneous Factors in the Referendum
Discussion..........................................................68
Conclusion..........................................................70
Summary of Polling Data Reported
In the Newspapers...........
72


4. METHODS..................................................................73
Overview.............................................................73
Hypotheses...........................................................75
Nature of the Research.............................................. 75
Phase One: Text Analysis of Newspaper Articles.......................77
Qualitative Aspects of the Text Analysis.............................88
Report on Inter-Rater Reliability Test...............................89
Phase Two: Interviews with Key Informants ...........................91
Internal Validity of Interview Data..................................98
Reliability of Interview Data........................................99
Phase Three: Statistical Analysis
Of Public Opinion Polls.............................................100
Characteristics of the Public Opinion Strategies
Polls ..............................................................101
Method of Analysis of Polling Data................................. 105
Reliability of Polling Data........................................ 107
Summary of Methods..................................................108
5. FINDINGS................................................................110
Overview............................................................110
Phase One: Text Analysis of Direct Quotations
In Newspaper Articles...............................................110
Tabular Representation of The
Text Analysis Findings..............................................111
Statistically Significant Quantitative Findings
Of the Text Analysis................................................117
Summary of the Quantitative Text Analysis...........................119
Phase Two: Interviews with Key Informants...........................120
IX


Tabular Results of the Interviews
With Key Informants...............................................120
Report of Interview Results.......................................123
Interview Results Outside The
Expected Categories...............................................126
Phase Three: Analysis of Polling Data.............................127
Test for Independence Between Supporters
And Non-Supporters Responses.....................................129
Depictions of the Polling Results.................................137
Section One: Hesitations........................................138
Section Two: Compelling".........................................139
Section Three: Convincing.......................................140
Section Four: Message Testing...................................142
Section Five: Unprompted Consequences Of
Initiatives Not Passing..........................................143
Section Six: P-Value Testing of Two Guiding
Questions Asked in the Polling....................................144
Summary of Polling Results........................................145
6. DISCUSSION............................................................147
Economic Benefits.................................................147
Fairness of the Stadium Deal......................................149
Opportunity Costs.................................................152
Renovation of the Old Stadium.....................................153
Threats of Pay-Per-View and the Broncos
Leaving Denver....................................................155
Variance Among Responses to Poll Questions
Among Stadium Supporters
And Non-Supporters................................................158
Poll Findings on the Costs of Delays..............................160
x


Making Voters Feel Secure is a Key Issue............................160
City Image..........................................................161
Synthesis of the Three Methodologies
Findings on City Image..............................................166
Urban Regime and Organizational Strength............................167
Transparency of the Debate..........................................169
Tickets Used for Influence..........................................171
Coors Field Serves as a Solution Set................................172
Stadium Site Selection..............................................174
Polling Results on Urban Regime.....................................176
Outlying Results from the Text Analysis.............................177
Outlying Results from the Interviews:
Sales Job.........................................................178
Outlying Results from the Interviews:
Reward Mentality....................................................178
Outlying Results from the Interviews:
Fan Loyalty.........................................................179
Outlying Results from the Interviews:
Broncos Profitability..............................................179
Outlying Results from the Interviews:
Value to Taxpayers..................................................180
7. CONCLUSION..............................................................181
Questions and Goals.................................................181
Economic Considerations are Weighed.................................181
Hypothesis ^ is Amended.............................................182
City Image is Stronger than Economics...............................183
Hypothesis H2 is Confirmed..........................................185
Denver and Urban Regime.............................................185
XI


Hypothesis H3 is Amended................................187
Unexpected Results from the Research....................187
Why Did Voters Pass the Stadium Measure?................189
Reliability and Validity................................190
Future Inquiry..........................................191
Three Competing Theories................................192
Juxtaposition of the Three Theories.....................195
APPENDIX
A. PILOT STUDY TO DETERMINE HOST CITIES
QUALIFICATIONS FOR NFL FRANCHISES...........................198
B. NOMINAL INTERVIEW QUESTIONS FOR
KEY INFORMANTS..............................................203
C. TABULAR PRESENTATION OF INTERVIEWEES COMMENTS
ON THE TWENTY-ONE SUBJECT MATTER VARIABLES..................205
D. INTERVIEW COMMENTS THAT FELL OUTSIDE
THE ESTABLISHED CATEGORIES..................................215
BIBLIOGRAPHY........................................................219
xii


LIST OF TABLES
Table
4.1 Variables used in the text analysis.............................................84
4.2 Public Opinion Strategies questions to poll participants......................104
4.3 Comparison of three firms polling data as a test of reliability...............108
5.1 Quantitative representation of newspaper article text analysis.................111
5.2 Proportion of positives........................................................115
5.3 Variable clusters means of positives and confidence intervals.................116
5.4 Chi-squared test for independence and Freeman-Tukey conversion.................117
5.5 Variable clusters with statistically significant means of positives............118
5.6 Freeman-Tukey standard deviations from the mean of variable clusters...........119
5.7 Tallies of interviewees responses by subject..................................121
5.8 Speakers references to topics.................................................123
5.9 Condensed interview comments by subject matter variable........................124
5.10 Condensed presentation of interview comments that fell outside
the established categories....................................................133
5.11 Public Opinion Strategies questions to poll participants......................128
5.12 Poll results on opportunity costs..............................................130
5.13 Poll results on renovation versus rebuilding.................................. 131
5.14 Poll results on reassurances to voters.........................................132
5.15 Poll results on city image.....................................................134
5.16 Poll results on the political process..........................................135
5.17 Poll results on the fairness of the proposal...................................135
5.18 P-test results of guiding questions............................................145
A.1 Classification results.........................................................202
A.2 Variables entered / removed....................................................202
A. 3 The designated market areas....................................................203
C. 1 Interview comments by subject matter variable..................................207
D. 1 Interview comments that fell outside the established categories................217
xiii


LIST OF FIGURES
Figure
5.1 Hesitations ..........................................................139
5.2 Compelling ...........................................................140
5.3 Convincing ...........................................................141
5.4 Message Testing.......................................................142
5.5 Consequences..........................................................144
XIV


CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION
Background
If a visitor from another time and place found himself in a different era and city, that
visitor would probably form a conclusion about what is most important to the citys society
based on the sizes of the buildings he sees. By looking at an urban skyline, one can
gather certain clues about what is important to the people who live there. In ancient Egypt,
temples and pyramids dominated the landscape and testified to the pervasiveness of the
pharaohs and their divine rule. Medieval European cities featured cathedrals and castles,
structures that reflected the influences of the Catholic Church and the feudal system upon
society. In a modern city, one witnesses the dominance of skyscrapers, shopping malls
and sports complexes, edifices that exemplify certain priorities in modern society:
commerce and sports. It was Joseph Campbell, in The Power of Myth (Flowers, 1988),
who suggested that people put the most effort into building what is most important to them,
that the most grandiose of buildings house the elements that a people holds most dear.
Since land is so often precious, the structure that occupies a given plot holds that place at
the cost of another land use and its price reflects resources that were allocated to that
building in lieu of another. Based on Campbells observation (Flowers, 1988), we can
discern that commerce and sports reign very important in modern society, especially in the
United States.
Indeed, the sports business has become big business. Just before the turn of the
recent millennium, Street and Smiths Sportsbusiness Journal (Broughton, Lee and
Nethery, 1999) estimated that Americans spend $213 billion annually on sports. By
1


comparison, the journal showed that the sports industry was apparently the same
magnitude as the entire communications industry ($212 billion), and that sports dwarfed
both the automobile industry ($85 billion) and the motion picture industry ($31 billion)
(Broughton, Lee and Nethery, 1999). Sports apparel sales alone amounted to $15 biilion,
while construction of sports venues and facilities totaled $2.5 billion (Broughton, Lee and
Nethery, 1999). Noll and Zimbalist (1997) estimated that in the decade from 1997 through
2006, professional sports teams would have tallied an estimated $7 billion in new venue
construction, up from the $5 billion spent the previous decade, to build more than 30 new
pro sports facilities (Mapes, 1997). Between 1996 and 2003, 15 new facilities were on
track to reach fruition, some for existing teams, some for new franchises (Badenhausen
and Stanfl, 2000).
But not every sports complex, domed stadium or mallpark necessarily
guarantees the presence of a team. San Antonio built the Alamodome starting in 1990 and
by the time it opened three years later, the city still was not able to host a National Football
League team for which the stadium ostensibly had been intended. Other cities have been
more fortunate in recent years but many times have had to build first with no iron-clad
guarantee of a team to occupy the arena: Denver with Major League Baseballs (MLB)
Coors Field; Cleveland with a new National Football League (NFL) Browns Stadium; and
Columbus with a National Hockey League (NHL) arena for the Blue Jackets were fortunate
in this regard. Not only do cities construct stadiums for professional sports teams but they
also have been seen to build athletic complexes of varying size to attract Olympic Games.
All told, Salt Lake City spent about $625 million to attract and conduct the 2002 Winter
Games (Hruby, 2002). Paris, by contrast, spent $33.3 million unsuccessfully and London
spent $48 million successfully to lure the 2012 Summer Games (Businessweek Online,
August 30, 2004). Clearly, spending on sports stadiums for franchises or other events
2


involves remarkable amounts of money, but what makes the issue more profound is that
oftentimes federal, state and local governments contribute to the expenditures, using public
funds for enterprises that primarily benefit private enterprises even when the event or
teams fails to materialize. A private entity in this case becomes essentially a public good.
There are two scenarios a city may face in the sports franchise game: attracting a
new team or maintaining an old one. When a professional sports league grants a license
for an expansion team, a number of cities must compete to entice the league to grant the
locality a franchise. Since most leagues share revenues in one form or another and since
the current franchisees (literally voting members) decide where the new members will be
located, they naturally consider which proposed site will prove the most lucrative for the
league as a whole and, by extension, for the individual members. Obviously, cities that
can market the best mixture of television market, fan support, tax incentives and quality of
venue stand the best chance of landing a team. Charlotte edged out competing Los
Angeles in the early 1990s to glean the NFL Carolina Panthers created in 1995. Reasons
contributing to Charlottes success included a campaign to portray the entire region, not
just the city, as a sports Mecca, more streamlined local government inputs and interactions
and, of course, the commitment to build a new stadium, unlike Southern Californias
reliance on a handful of decades-old venues (Zelenko, 1992). Similarly, Denver and Miami
brought new markets into the Major League Baseball fold when those cities gained new
pro baseball franchises that began playing in 1993.
Baltimore: Case in Point
But professional sports leagues are effectively oligopolies that limit their new
franchises. Many times a city stands a better chance of obtaining a team if it can lure one
from another locality. Conversely, cities with aging arenas and stadiums must face the
3


threat of losing a local team if another city is willing to make the monetary concessions to
encourage the movement of a professional franchise from one city to another. The city of
Baltimore, for instance, has had a checkered past with both luring and losing professional
teams. In 1947, the Baltimore Colts played in Baltimore Stadium, only to be disbanded
after three years. The city then made an unsuccessful attempt to attract a Major League
Baseball team by building a small-sized Memorial Stadium. A rebuilding of Memorial
Stadium then enticed the St. Louis Browns to relocate and to become the Baltimore
Orioles. After constant improvements to the stadium, the National Football League in 1953
granted an expansion team to the city, and the Colts were back. The city made continuing
improvements to the ballpark during the 1960s and 1970s but due to the structures
inherent design, it never made a satisfactory football venue and in 1983, the Colts left
Baltimore for Indianapolis with its brand-new, state-of-the-art stadium. When Major
League Baseballs Camden Yards opened in 1992, the Orioles left Memorial stadium.
Then, in 1994, the National Football League (NFL) Browns abandoned Cleveland, moved
to Baltimore and played two seasons in Memorial Stadium while their new facility, M&T
Bank stadium, was being built with millions of dollars supplied by state and local
governments and through a state sports lottery ticket system.
Other Cities Experiences with Professional Sports Franchises
A number of other U.S. cities has shared similar experiences with losing and
gaining teams, almost always over the issue of the buildings in which those teams play.
St. Louis has lost both professional football and baseball teams and has acquired
replacement ones after building new facilities. St. Louis' first NFL team, the Cardinals,
departed for Phoenix after previously having come to St. Louis from Chicago, to be
replaced by the peripatetic Rams formerly of Cleveland, then Los Angeles, then Anaheim
4


- who left the Southern California suburbs for a new domed stadium in St. Louis. In Texas,
both Dallas and Houston lost teams that currently play in the National Football League, but
both cities regained NFL franchises after committing public and private concessions to
building new, multi-million-dollar facilities.
Even cities that have not faced the dilemma of trying to restore a lost sports
franchise have nevertheless faced the prospect of losing a team and have had to decide
whether or not to build a new facility. Minneapolis, for example, lost the National Hockey
League (NHL) North Stars to Dallas over venue inadequacies, yet continues to hesitate to
build a new ballpark for the Major League Baseball (MLB) Twins, a team that was nearly
eliminated from the league due to its poor economic performance. The same nearly held
true for the NFLs Minnesota Vikings, but they reached an agreement with the city of Blaine
and Anoka County, Minnesota for a new $675 million complex in the suburbs that would
include a team practice facility, a shopping mall and a retractable dome to be completed by
2009. In the new stadium deal for the Vikings, the teams ownership agreed to pay $280
million, an amount matched by the taxpayers in the county making purchases (0.75% sales
tax), and the state will finance the remaining $115 million through general obligation bonds.
Part of the justification for the States contribution was that the University of Minnesota
Golden Gophers football team would also play at the facility.
In Minnesotas case, local residents have experienced the loss of a hockey team
and, until recently, have split their decision on whether to commit to keeping both their
football and baseball teams. There are over 120 professional sports teams in the United
States (with a handful in Canada that compete in the same leagues) playing in more than
70 cities. With the constant coming and going of sports franchises, considering the billions
of dollars spent on the sports industry in general and on stadium construction specifically,
and given the apparent willingness of cities to subsidize these franchises as a means to
5


attract and retain teams, one must recognize the magnitude of sports' influence on public
policy. At the federal level, favorable tax and trust rulings promote the expansion of the
professional sports industry. At the state level, governments have repeatedly shown
enthusiasm for marketing their regions as attractive sports and recreation markets. And at
the municipal level, cities spend millions to lobby leagues and franchises for the right to
host a team or even spend hundreds of millions outright to build a stadium to entice a team
into coming.
At this point, sports-venue buildings importance to public policy deepens
significantly as every new structure or renovated playing field requires a) expenditures of
tens of millions of dollars in infrastructure improvements; b) tax incentives or rebates also
in the eight-figure range; c) public investiture of hundreds of millions of dollars; or d) a
combination of these and analogous factors. Since public money usually cannot be
allocated without public approval, these measures often take form as referenda passed
from the state legislatures or city governments to the states, regions or citys voters. The
state of Washingtons recent experiences with two professional sports franchises serve as
a good case for differing procedures in the referendum process that may have led to two
different outcomes.
The Seattle Seahawks Case
In May of 1997, the State of Washington legislature referred a ballot measure to
the States voters, giving them six weeks to decide whether or not they would approve a
tax measure that would raise $320 million, primarily to subsidize a private enterprise in
Seattle, the States largest city, to build a stadium for a National Football League team. A
gentlemens agreement between two Seattle businessmen for one to buy the enterprise
from the other if the public would contribute $300 million toward a new facility for the
6


business drove the referendum (which was later increased to $320 million). A coalition in
favor of the referendum formed, as did several groups opposed to the measure. Fund
raising, heated public debate, television advertising, direct mail campaigning and opinion
polling ensued over the question of whether it was worth increased taxes to prevent a
professional sports franchise from leaving Washington.
At the time of the referendum, the Seattle Seahawks of the NFL could not sell out
their home games, had a losing record, and played in an outdated stadium that had been
damaged in an earthquake and still carried over $130 million in debt after 21 years of
operation. The teams owner, Ken Behring, had threatened the previous year that he
would move the franchise to Los Angeles if the Washington public would not pay three-
fourths of the cost of a new facility for the team. At that point, Paul Allen, a Seattle
philanthropist and co-founder of Microsoft Corporation, made the offer to buy the
Seahawks if state and local funds could cover the first $300 million in construction costs for
a new stadium.
In Seattle, a coalition of local businesses formed and raised funds to support
passage of the referred measure. Paul Allen himself reportedly contributed over $7 million
toward passage between lobbying the state legislature to put the question to public ballot,
direct mailings, newsprint advertising and television messages (Penhale, 1997: B1). By
contrast, several groups, not one united front, formed to oppose the stadium. The
wealthiest of these raised about $50,000 and despite using an office literally down the hall
from another organization fighting the referendum's passage, nevertheless did not
coordinate actions with other groups (Penhale, 1997: B1).
While the proponents clearly held the monetary advantage, they were not
guaranteed voter success, as a similar measure to build a new ballpark for the Seattle
Mariners of Major League Baseball had failed two years prior in referendum, despite
7


greater spending by supporters. In this earlier legislature-referred election, only Seattle
voters participated, but when they decided against the measure that would have increased
sales taxes in their metropolitan area, the State Legislature nevertheless passed a
subsequent bill that did exactly what the voters themselves had declined to do. In the later
professional football case, a previous experience with a referendum on spending public
money on a private professional sports franchise stood as a significant factor in the
discussion about the Seahawks (Morgan, 1997).
While local history can shape the debate, so too can the nature of the proposed
taxes. Whom and what to tax invariably loom significantly in certain public policy debates.
In Washingtons case, the legislature decided to refer the measure to voters with a sales
tax on sports apparel, on rental cars, a parking tax, an admissions tax at the new stadium
and an extension of a hotel-motel tax already in place. In addition, the referendum
proposed six new sports lottery games and a King County (Seattle) sales tax credit.
Once the legislature had finalized the wording of the ballot, the public debate
began. Studies on public policy often involve an examination of the actual discourse
around an issue, particularly an initiative or referendum (Tannen, 1998; Stivers, 1993;
Stone, 1997). In the case of Seattle, some interesting points of debate emerged, linking
potential approval of the measure with concerns over the stadiums impact on the
community. Traffic, crime and noise all concerns associated with greater numbers of
people in the stadiums locale arose as issues for voters. In addition, the ballot included
provisions not only for a stadium but also an exhibition hall, money to buy computers for
Washington schools, and funds to build sports facilities elsewhere in the state. And while
the stadium was conceived primarily as a football venue, one Seattle journalist reported
that soccer fans, who would benefit from having a local Major League Soccer team (the
8


Seattle Sounders), carried much of the momentum for the yes" votes in the election
(Newnham, 1997).
Ultimately, the Seattle Seahawks measure passed by a 1% margin in June 1997
as Washington voters decided to use public money to build the privately owned stadium.
People exiting the polls expressed their views of the politics and policies involved (and their
desire to have an NFL team in Seattle):
Washington voters did not want to lose Seahawk football.
That, more than anything else, was the reason voters
apparently agreed to tear down the Kingdome and build a
new football stadium, according to a Seattle Times
Washington poll.
"I saw this as the only way the Seahawks would stay,"
said Pat Hogan, 38, a mechanic from Kent. "If it weren't
for Paul Allen, I probably wouldn't have voted for it. He's a
local owner and he's put a lot of money into the team. If he
owns the team, he'll field a competitive team and the
crowds will be there."
Most voters surveyed said they believed Paul Allen when
he said he would not buy the Seahawks if the stadium
vote failed.
Jim Coss, a supporter from Olympia, said if the region
loses the Seahawks, it will cost twice as much to get
another football team. "I think the people have got to wake
up," said Coss, 40, a school custodian who used to have
Seahawk season tickets. "If we lose the team we'll lose a
lot of revenue. That's the game right now. All owners want
to put new stadiums in. If cities don't they lose down the
line."
"What it came down to is people didn't want to lose the
team," said pollster Stuart Elway. "They held their noses
and voted yes."
The stadium was a tough sell in Eastern Washington,
where many voters felt they were being asked to endorse
a facility that would benefit only Seattle. "In Spokane, we
have big problems with streets. You cant even go down
one street without 10 to 12 potholes," said Julie Adams, a
Spokane voter. "I can't understand why we have to send
9


money to Seattle when we can't even fix our streets"
(Gilmore, 1997).
Several of the factors that came to the fore in the Seattle Seahawks debate are
public policy concerns that arise in other settings, as well. Moreover, many of the points of
argument in the Washington case occur in other cities and states faced with a referendum
on public spending for private enterprise and with the decision of whether or not the costs
justify the direct and indirect benefits. The Seattle discourse exemplifies both the public
policy issues that other cities in similar situations must decide and the nature of the debate
over the referendum.
Seattles situation typifies the position many American sports-franchise-hosting
cities occupy. As a Washington columnist observed at the time, If it doesn't get a new
stadium, the Seahawks pro football team says it will leave Seattle. Nothing unusual about
that: Of 113 pro sports teams across the country, 39 say they are unsatisfied with their
facilities and are threatening to leave... (Mapes, 1997).
Pertinent Questions about Why Voters Elect To Build Stadiums
In light of the large numbers of new facilities and the costs involved, a number of
salient public policy research questions arises, namely: why do publicly financed stadium
referenda pass (or fail)? Why do voters choose to direct public funds (i.e., tax themselves)
toward professional sports franchises? Does the public believe that the benefits justify the
expenditures? As in the Seattle case, does a threat of a teams relocation force a city to
act if it wishes to keep a team? Is the seeming allure of hosting a professional team strong
enough to persuade voters to build a new stadium to acquire an expansion franchise or to
10


entice away a team from another city? Okner (1974: 327) neatly packages a discussion
about the rationales and reasons a citys voters may elect to subsidize professional sports:
The fact that so many of the benefits a city derives from
the existence of a sports facility are intangible makes it
difficult to achieve a consensus about them because their
value cannot be measured in monetary terms. In
essence, proponents of such facilities place a very high
subjective value on the external benefits derived from the
facility, while opponents do not.
Many people believe that the mere presence of a
professional sports team in their city enhances the
communitys prestige. As one person put it, No place
really can be considered to be a [big town] if it doesnt
have a professional baseball or football team. Since no
community can attract such a team if it lacks adequate
playing facilities, it follows that a big-league stadium is
required to be considered a big town. And, if private
interests are unwilling or unable to provide such a facility
and the community wants to acquire the big-town image
and attendant prestige, it must provide the sports facility
through public funding.
In addition to the civic pride that a professional sports
team fosters, a city derives benefits through increased
publicity. This results from the fact that the regular and
prominent mention of major-league sports contests in the
news media publicizes the community, since virtually
every team name includes the name of the city in which it
is located.
Other external benefits created by the presence of a
professional sports team may include: (1) the possible
generation of additional employment, consumer sales, and
tax collections resulting from sporting events; (2)
additional recreational opportunities for community
residents, especially if attendance at sporting events
replaces other activities that are socially destructive; (3)
beneficial effects on the morale of the citizens resulting
from the presence of (successful) sports team in the city;
and (4) the encouragement of an interest in sports among
the young.
The intangible benefits noted above cannot be
disregarded just because it is not possible to put a price
tag on most of them. Their perceived value to various
11


communities is illustrated by the large number of cities
that now provide publicly supported sports facilities.
Professional sports franchises and governments, especially local governments, have
become quite intertwined, at least when the subject of a new facility arises. The public
policy implications range over a broad array of subjects from municipal finance to land use
planning to environmental impacts to diversity issues (e.g., in selecting construction
companies) to boosterism and competition between cities to naming rights for a stadium,
its gates concessions and its parking revenues. Governments relationship to professional
sports as manifested through the referendum process on building stadiums for private firms
with public funds remains a major public policy topic. In light of the issues significance, it
becomes pertinent to ask, Why do voters decide to pass (or not to pass) these
referenda? By focusing on this research question, public policy studies potentially gain
insight into issues that are important to voters and to what extent voters are willing to use
public money for an entertainment amenity.
Focusing the Research
This dissertation focuses squarely on these issues, that is, to expand the body of
knowledge on referenda in general and more specifically on how and why state and local
governments use public money for professional sports teams. The strong trend recently
has been to build new structures, not to renovate old ones. Soldier Field in Chicago and
Lambeau Field in Green Bay, two legendary NFL stadiums, stand conspicuous by their
exception, but Denver voters declined to renovate their storied Mile High Stadium; Dallas
voters likewise elected to replace their famous semi-domed home of the Cowboys with a
new building. This dissertation, however, considers only new structures, not renovations.
12


Because it was not practical to study every sport or sports referendum, we have
chosen to focus only on the National Football League. The NFL is unique in that the
League collectively shares and pools all regular and club seat revenues as well as local
and national TV and radio revenues. According to Fort and Quirk (1995) and McGraw
(1995), this situation leads team owners to find an incentive to build luxury suites in their
current stadiums (if possible) or to seek new venues in which they can construct these
revenue-generating seats since the money generated from luxury suites is not shared
amongst the league. In other words, having control of luxury boxes is one of the few ways
in which an owner can generate extra profits over and above what would have to be
shared with the rest of the league. Another factor that differentiates the NFL is that a
typical team plays only ten home games, compared to 40 or 80 for other sports, so having
a building that may sit empty for over 300 days per year may have a strong effect on
voters desires to commit their tax dollars to a little-used facility.
Ten NFL teams currently play in cities that in the last decade participated in a
referendum on building a new stadium but two of these cities voted on joint baseball and
football stadium referenda. To eliminate a chance that voters may have voted because
they wanted baseball but not football or vice versa, Cincinnati and Detroit did not make
good cases. The purpose of this dissertation is to determine what factors play a part in
why a referendum on a publicly financed measure to support a private enterprise passes or
fails (in this case, with regard to the National Football League). For this reason, it was
necessary to select an appropriate case or cases from the possible cities.
Almost universally, prior research on this issue has focused on a single case when
seeking to study the NFL-stadium-building question: Bachelor (1998) in Detroit; Swindell
and Rosentraub (1998) in Indianapolis; Brown and Paul (2000) in Cincinnati; and
Pelissero, Henschen and Sidlow (1991) in Chicago. This research considers a single
13


case, as well: Denver and its Broncos. As Yin (1994) maintains, a researcher selects a
case not because it represents the larger population from which other cases may have
been selected, but because the case, itself, has merits worthy of selection.
Naturally, Denver both is and is not representative and both is and is not unique.
The stadium measure passed during the time between Denvers two Super Bowl wins,
making the timing potentially impeccable for the referendums passage. Denver had
recently witnessed virtual all-around success for its venture into Major League Baseball,
with the Colorado Rockies having made the playoffs, with a renovated Lower Downtown
area surrounding Coors Field, and with the economy on pace to pay off the construction
bonds before their intended maturity. The regions residents had seen how long it had
taken to replace a departed National Hockey League team and had heard spirited rumors
of Houstons eagerness to host the Broncos and of Los Angeles poised position to grab an
NFL team. Denvers case cannot be applied to the NFL in general because there are
several factors that make Denver particular, but it is these specifics that made this a rich
case worthy of study.
For further edification, consider that Pittsburgh, Phoenix and Seattle all underwent
football stadium referenda in the same time period. Pittsburghs measure failed outright
when presented to voters but the state legislature brought in a substitute plan and created
a means by which to build a new stadium with public money. Seattles referendum, like
Denvers, passed but in the Northwestern citys case, the entire state of Washington voted
on the referendum and voters approved it by the narrowest of margins. Phoenix, by
contrast, limited the voting only to Maricopa County because the supporting legislators held
that voters outside the states largest city would doom the measure if allowed to vote on it.
In the middle of these extremes lay Denver where the constituency who voted on the
referendum consisted of a six-county metropolitan regional area (the most likely users of
14


the stadium) and where the funding relied purely on a sales tax in that metro region
(meaning that those who would potentially use the stadium would be the ones in general to
fund it). Denvers way of structuring the referendum and the funding source it created was
not necessarily more fair or better than the referenda in other cities, but it was interesting in
its uniqueness and it did, perhaps coincidentally, mark the middle position of the stadium
referenda being debated in the late 1990s.
Specific Questions about Denvers Football Stadium Measure
The question at hand then becomes, Why did Denvers football stadium
referendum pass? As the Okner (1974: 327) quotation (above, p. 15) alludes, both
economics and intangibles such as civic pride may play important roles in a stadium-
building debate. Besides these two critical items, scholars have often relied on urban
regime theory to compare the strength of the coalitions for and against a stadium-building
measure (Bachelor, 1998; Swindell and Rosentraub, 1998; Brown and Paul, 2000 and
Pelissero, Henschen and Sidlow 1991). Therefore (as we shall substantiate in the relevant
literature), the three items of concern in this research are: 1) whether or not voters
perceived the economic claims made by proponents and opponents of the stadium tax to
be accurate and complete; 2) whether or not voters indicated that a desire to maintain
Denvers city image affected their vote; and 3) how well-organized stadium supporters
were compared to stadium opponents. Methods include: 1) a text analysis of direct
quotations in Denver newspaper articles to determine the prevailing reasons that voters
gave for their decisions and to amplify information about the structure and organization of
proponents and opponents; 2) a statistical analysis of polls administered by professional
polling firms during the months leading up to the stadium vote; and 3) a series of interviews
15


with key informants involved in making or reporting on institutional decisions during the
stadium discussion.
Subsequent Chapters of this Dissertation
Six chapters follow this introductory chapter. The Literature Review Chapter
outlines the current body of knowledge on the topic of using public funds to construct
stadiums to be used by private enterprises. This Literature Review consists of four parts:
1) a discussion on the initiative and referendum process; 2) the consensus and dissenting
views on the validity of claims made that a new stadium will pay off economically for a host
city; 3) scholars views of what city image and city pride mean and how cities sometimes
use those concepts deliberately; and 4) an evaluation of how the urban regime and related
literature can be applied to a stadium-building discussion.
Following the Literature Chapter, Chapter Three is a History of Sports Venues in
Denver. Like many cities that host professional sports, Denver has both lost franchises to
other cities and has gained teams from other cities. At the time that the referendum to
build a new stadium for the Broncos went before the voters, Denver was experiencing a
boom in the success of its sports teams and had recently built one new facility (Coors Field
for the Major League Baseball Rockies) and was negotiating to build another, albeit
privately funded, structure for the National Basketball Association Nuggets and National
Hockey League Avalanche. While the trends indicated success for sports in Denver,
history had not necessarily always been in favor of spending on sports teams, so this
History Chapter provides important background information about the state of sports affairs
in Denver in the autumn of 1998.
Chapter Four addresses the methodologies employed by the dissertation. It
describes three distinct means utilized to answer the research questions. First, there is a
16


discussion of the text analysis done on Denver-area newspapers to find and evaluate
direct quotations by local decision-makers, concerned citizens, sports fans and stadium
proponents and opponents. The second section consists of a narrative arrangement of
interviews with key informants involved in the stadium-building discussion. Finally, the
third part is a statistical analysis of public opinion polls conducted near the time of the final
ballot decision.
Chapter Five (Findings) presents the results of the research mainly through tabular
means. The actual discussion of the results, an analysis of these findings, takes place in
Chapter Six. Chapter Seven sums up answers to the questions posed at the beginning of
the research. Did voters believe economic claims made by proponents and opponents?
Were city pride and city image significant factors in the minds of voters as they cast their
ballots? Were proponents better organized than opponents and if so, then in what ways
did this lead to the passage of the stadium measure? This final chapter also discusses the
limitations of the research and its contributions to the field of using referenda to build
stadiums and posits some areas for future research.
Contributions of this Research
The research contained in this dissertation is unique in its treatment of three
distinct means by which to evaluate why a particular referendum passed. Several other
studies (see the Literature Review chapter) have concentrated on an assessment of
putative economic benefits to be gained from a professional sports teams presence (and
from building a team a new facility with public money). A small number of studies has
treated the idea that a communitys image of itself and pride in itself drives voters to
approve sports stadium measures. Finally, significant work has been done on how an
urban regime can lead to better organization by proponents and/or greater political power
17


than stadium opponents and this organizational advantage may carry issues that otherwise
might rightly have been defeated. This dissertation, though, proposes to combine all three
of these epistemologies into one research instrument and provides the potential to weigh
each against the other. To reiterate the three questions (was it economics, city image or
organizational advantage that drove voters to approve Denvers new football stadium
referendum in 1998?), which vein of research provides the most conclusive answer?
Three theories compete to explain the outcome. This research, then, serves two purposes.
First, it tests three theories for their efficacy in explaining why voters elected to build a
private sports facility with public money (effectively treating a private enterprise as a public
good). Second, and equally importantly, it evaluates the key factors that led, in Denvers
particular case, to the passage of a referendum. This research thus contributes to the
larger body of scholarly work by testing theories and by providing a case study to which
other cases concerning a local referendum can be compared.
18


CHAPTER 2
LITERATURE REVIEW
Introduction
This literature review consists of four sections. The research question revolves
around three broad theoretical axes: 1) the economic rationale underpinning stadium
building, 2) a teams perceived contribution to city image and city pride and 3) an analysis
of how similar Denvers growth coalition was to an urban regime. As such, these three
themes comprise three of the literature sections. But because the sales tax to build the
new Broncos stadium had to be approved by voters to be enacted, the literature on the
referendum process applies and because the Colorado State Legislature required petition
signatures for the measure to qualify for the ballot, certain aspects of the initiative literature
also pertain.
Rosentraub (1998: 13) explains why economics and city image are relevant topics
when studying stadium building and why the two fields are linked:
It has now become commonplace for cities, counties, and
states to use a combination of broad-based taxes (e.g.,
sales and property taxes) or special taxes (e.g., taxes on
alcohol and tobacco consumption, hotel rooms, and car
rentals) to help build or operate these facilities. In most
cases, team owners receive the vast majority, if not all, of
the revenues produced by each facility. There are some
privately built arenas and stadiums, but these are the
exception. Arenas and stadiums have become large
capital responsibilities for most of the governments that
host one of North Americas major sports franchises;
several local governments now have invested more than
$500 million in these facilities.
19


Mayors and governors argue that teams and the facilities
they use (1) generate economic growth through high
levels of new spending in a region, (2) create a large
numbers of jobs, (3) revitalize declining central business
districts, and (4) change land-use patterns. Proponents
also focus attention on intangible benefits, including civic
pride, a high-profile image and identity and national and
even international publicity. Advocates for the building of
facilities frequently note that the image of many cities is
frequently defined by high-profile teams and sporting
events. The celebratory atmosphere created in a city
when a team wins is another "intangible" benefit even for
people who do not attend games. In a society where
sports are a dominant cultural icon, teams do create a
level of recognition that generates pride for residents of a
community.
Besides economics and city pride, many of those studying professional sports
stadium-building have proposed an urban regime theory, which examines the coalitions
between local business and local government that underpin urban activities (Stone and
Sanders, 1987; Neill, 1995; Bachelor, 1998; Pelissero etal., 1991; Hudson, 1999;
Rosentraub, 1998; Rich, 1998). Urban regime theory seeks to examine and analyze the
effects of organizations on policy making. Imbroscio (1998: 233) writes that, Urban
regime theory has emerged as the dominant paradigm for the study of local politics. In
Clarence Stones (1989: 124) words, The urban regime, this informal partnership between
city hall and the private sector, functions as the means through which major policy
decisions are made in the city.
Similarly, there is a wealth of literature on the nature of the referendum process
itself and how legislation created through this mechanism differs from laws passed by a
legislature and signed into law by a chief executive. The referendum comes under the
same aegis as the initiative and recall processes, all means by which voters participate
directly in creating policy, becoming actors in a direct democracy (Fiorina and Peterson,
20


2003; Cronin, 1989; Ranney, 1981; Matsusaka, 2004; Ellis, 2002; Gerber, etal., 2001;
Hahn and Kamieniecki, 1987).
Heritages of the Progressive Era
The initiative and referendum processes are two of three parts of direct democracy
in which voters participate first-hand in policy formation rather than deferring to elected
officials in a representative form of governance. (Citizen recall of elected office-holders and
judges is the third part but is not considered here). Initiative means that a voter or party
of voters initiates placing a measure onto the public ballot in which the electorate at large
votes on whether or not to enact the proposed policy. Generally, an initiative first must be
reviewed by a judicial body to ensure that the measures language complies with state and
federal constitutional guidelines. Then, proponents must collect a certain number of
signatures from registered voters who deem the proposal worthy of placement on the
ballot. At that point, a government entity reviews the validity of the signatures and if
enough qualifying petition signatures are present, the initiative appears on the ballot for the
general electorate. A referendum also places a measure on the general ballot but is
referred by the legislature rather than being initiated by voters. Sometimes, a states
constitution requires certain types of legislation, often tax measures, to be referred to
voters. At other times, political reasons bring about the use of the referendum, possibly
because a potential piece of legislation is controversial or because it is expensive.
The proposal to use a one-tenth of one percent sales tax in six Denver-area
counties to build a new football stadium for the Metropolitan Football Stadium District was
officially a referendum; it was sent to District voters as part of the November 3, 1998 ballot.
But the Colorado State Legislature required that 28,700 signatures in support of the tax be
gathered for the proposal to qualify for the election. So, in this respect, the drive to build
21


the new stadium resembled an initiative campaign as supporters and their volunteers
canvassed neighborhoods for signatures. Both the referendum and the initiative literature
pertain to the Denver stadium-building case.
Authors who debate the merits of the referendum process tend to criticize its
deficiencies or praise its virtues in a few distinct ways. Nevil Johnson (in Ranney, 1981)
writes that while the referendum can help to address shortcomings of representative
government, more direct democracy is not always practical. Cronin (1989) relates that the
framers of the U.S. constitution feared direct democracy but that since the early 20th
century, there has been a trend in this country for citizens to wish more of a direct role in
making public policy. Fiorina and Peterson (2003) concur that policy making in the United
States is moving away from a representative form toward a more direct democracy. Some
scholars point out the potential for tyranny of the majority (Matsusaska, 2004; Ellis, 2002;
Hahn and Kamieniecki, 1987). The question arises as to whether or not voters are
qualified to vote in an informed manner on issues referred to them by a legislature (Broder,
2001; Hahn and Kamieniecki, 1987; Cronin, 1989). While Broder (2001) maintains that
initiative and referendum lead to an undermining of representative democracy, certain
scholars have found in limited empirical investigations that while there is merit to the
question of voter competence, their results show that 1) voters are more competent than
had been previously thought (Lupia and Matsusaka, 2004; Lassen, 2005); 2) there is not
as strong a correlation between spending for an issue and passing that issue in
referendum (i.e., buying voters) as had been surmised (Lupia and Matsusaka, 2004; Brown
and Paul, 2000); and 3) voters who were thought to have been purely private-regarding
proved to be more public-regarding than had been suspected (Brodsky and Thompson,
1993, based on terms coined by James Q. Wilson and Edward C. Banfield in 1961).
22


Still, potential pitfalls remain for the referendum process. Gerber et al. (2001)
show that the actual implementation of a policy enacted through direct democracy may
differ significantly from its intent for a handful of reasons, such as opposition by the state's
governor, challenges in the courts, or a change in the makeup of the legislature that
originally referred the measure. With regard to spending public money on a private
enterprise (e.g., an NFL stadium), cost overruns potentially can thwart the will of voters
who were willing to spend a given amount and later must pay more. (In Denvers case, the
State Legislature capped voter spending at $266 million with cost overruns to be paid by
Broncos owner Pat Bowlen). While the referendum process is not as prone to caprice as
the initiative process (Ellis, 2002), it may be susceptible to political gamesmanship as
legislatures seek to subvert a recalcitrant governor or wish to refer a potentially costly
measure upon which they, themselves, do not wish to make an unpopular decision (Ellis,
2002).
Scholars writing on direct democracy reach some general consensuses about the
utility of the referendum process. First, referenda tend to make the legislature more
accountable to the populace (Lupia and Matsusaka, 2004; Gerber, ef a/., 2001; Cronin,
1989; Ranney, 1981). Second, in the 1990s, instances of direct democracy, both initiative
and referendum, accelerated in use (Ellis, 2002; Matsusaka, 2004; Gerber, etal., 2001;
Lupia and Matsusaka, 2004). And, lastly, a legislature often must refer a public spending
measure to the voters in order to comply with the state constitution (Cronin, 1989;
Matsusaska, 2004).
But what factors lead to a referendums passing or failing and how does voter
behavior affect a referred measures outcome? Firstly, as Walker (2003) points out, the
more clearly worded a referendums language is, the more likely it is to pass: voters are
more likely to vote against something they do not understand. Secondly, Walker (2003)
23


suggests, some specific measures relating to the implementation of the referendum may
be included in the wording of the referendum, effectively allowing greater control by the
proposing party over how the measure will be carried out if it passes. He demonstrates
that while the voting public still gets to vote yea or nay, the execution of the legislation
nevertheless may be a fait accompli if it passes. Romer and Rosenthal (1979) add that the
dollar figure placed on a referendum is the sole province of the legislature, precluding
voters from having a chance to vote on a lesser or greater monetary amount. Furthermore,
according to Walker (2003), a referendum may face legal battles over its legitimacy and if a
locality has a history of passing faulty referenda, the ability to pass further referenda may
diminish. Zimmerman (2001: 141) adds that a small number of referenda on a particular
ballot may promote direct democracy but that having too many on a ballot leads to voter
fatigue in which voters simply do not cast a vote on some of the referenda. The duty to
educate the voter about the implications of a referendum falls on the state or local
government, according to Zimmerman (2001) and is essential for the referred measure to
carry legitimacy.
In general, American voters approved roughly sixty percent of measures referred
by their state legislatures in a 1978 assessment (Butler and Ranney, 1978: 81), so if this
trend were to continue consistently, the likelihood of success of a measure might be
expected to be higher than fifty-fifty. The Initiative and Referendum Institute (1999) finds a
success rate of only forty percent for directly voted measures in the 20th century, however.
In one 1997 nation-wide poll, less than one in four people believed that public funds should
be used to build stadiums for professional sports teams (Rasmussen Research, 1997).
Butler and Ranney (1978) further find that with respect to referenda that can be considered
liberal or conservative in their political shading, a measure that increases spending (liberal)
is more likely, in general, to pass than to fail. Of the forty stadium referenda which voters
24


decided between 1984 and 2000, twenty-three of them (57.5%) passed (Brown and Paul,
2002), intimating that sports referenda may enjoy a higher chance of passage than
referenda in general.
A wealth of literature exists on the innumerable aspects that influence general
voter behavior (e.g., Burdick and Brodbeck, 1959; Bone and Ranney, 1981 and Tolchin,
1996), but this research focuses solely on voter behavior vis-a-vis the referendum process.
Why a voter would choose one particular candidate or party over another, for example, is
beyond the scope of this research. In making their decision to support or oppose the
Broncos stadium measure specifically, Denver-area referendum voters may have
considered several factors, one of which we can propose was economic in nature.
Economics of Stadium Building
To track the debate around a stadium measure from an economic standpoint calls
into account several factors. First, what is the source of the funds? For instance, will there
be special lottery games whose proceeds are to be allocated to the stadium (as in
Baltimore), will sports fans contribute by paying a premium on sports apparel (as
considered in Seattle), or will there be a sales tax (as settled on by Colorados legislature).
Or, perhaps, tourists will foot the bill through hotel taxes or stadium-goers will pay a
personal seat tax. Second, what will be the boundaries of the revenue-generating locale?
Phoenixs was restricted to Maricopa County, Denvers was a six-county metropolitan area
and Seattles was statewide. Third, based on what economic factors is the voter to make
his or her decision? Proponents and opponents have publicly debated the relative merits
and validity of new job creation, economic returns to the community through taxes on sales
at the stadium, increases in land values near the new venue and the opportunity costs
associated with using public money to build a stadium instead of to build, say, a library,
25


school or museum. At the heart of this occidentation is whether a community truly stands
to benefit economically from using its funds to build a structure for what is essentially a
private enterprise. Will the expenditure benefit the local economy? Scholars argue the
answer to this question beginning with a discussion of why cities find themselves in the
position of having to use public money to keep or attract a team.
According to Euchner (1993), Rosentraub (1997), Baade (1994) and Fort and
Quirk (1995), professional sports leagues are cartels that keep prices artificially high for
their goods and services by negotiating with cities from a superior bargaining position. In
this school of thought, since a league cartel controls the supply of the product for which
there is great demand among cities (Horowitz, 1974; Noll, 1974), its members can make
strong demands on cities for subsidization (Okner, 1974; Euchner, 1993; Rosentraub,
1997). The cartel effectively controls the supply (the number of teams) but there is
demand for more teams than exist. In a pilot study conducted in 2001 to test for the
validity of the cartel label with respect to the National Football League, it was ascertained
that there is room in the United States for forty NFL teams, but only 32 currently play
(Appendix A). At least in the case of the NFL, the League is keeping the supply of teams
at about eighty percent of what that number could be, according to the pilot study.
Dan McGraw (1995: 54) goes into more detail on why the putative cartel behaves
as it does, writing that, [National Football League] teams, for example, share revenues on
all regular seating including club seats but the home team retains all revenues from
suites. Consequently, many teams are holding cities hostage by demanding new stadiums
filled with lucrative suites. Subsidization may be a necessity for teams' financial well-
being, as Roger Noll (1974: 413) explains: ...it is reasonable to conclude that many
teams are financially viable only because of the subsidies they receive.
26


While branding professional sports leagues as cartels may explain why cities
comply when asked to help cover costs of new stadium construction, teams nevertheless
may endow monetary benefits upon the cities that host them. According to some
economists, these potential economic boons fall into the categories of job creation,
catalysts for economic development, sales tax income, boosts in tourism and the
revitalization of distressed areas (Okner, 1974; Baade, 1996). If, in fact, the presence of a
team produces economic benefits for a host city, then the public subsidization of a private
enterprise would produce an economically tangible public good. Examples of empirical
studies designed to test such a correspondence follow.
Swindell and Rosentraub (1998) find no appreciable increase in employment due
to a new stadiums presence, while Noll and Zimbalist (1994) find that not only does new
employment consist of low-wage jobs, but that the total number of jobs in the community
actually decreases. Rosentraub (1996) finds no appreciable gain in jobs or income nor
does Hudson (1999). Rick Horrow (Horrow and Rosentraub, 1997: 24) counters that
Detroits new football and baseball venues created 4700 construction and 3800
construction-related jobs and that San Franciscos voter-approved new stadium would
create 10,000 jobs if built. Of course, the actual number of jobs that the actual players
themselves occupy is quite small (ranging from 12 to 53, depending on the sport).
Administrative and support personnel could conceivably double that number but the total is
still negligible. Potential positions for employment include stadium-related jobs such as
parking lot attendants, concession workers and ticket takers. Naturally, a stadium may
create jobs near the venue if fans stop to shop, eat or drink near the sporting field; these
jobs tend to consist of food-service industry positions and retail clerks. There is also the
potential for police personnel to work overtime or for more police to be hired to handle
stadium traffic, but the cost of this employment falls on the host city. The most positive
27


argument offered in favor of an increase in employment for a community that is building a
stadium comes in the form of construction jobs that last until the work has been completed.
If job creation proves to be a limited benefit, is the economic catalyst argument an
accurate indicator of a stadiums potential economic benefits? Zelenko (1992) suggests
that a professional sports franchise provides an amenity that could help a city compete for
new residents or businesses over other cities. Baade and Dye (1988) consider the
possibility that new manufacturing is more likely to occur in a city with a professional sports
team but they do not find a significant correlation. Nor have other empirical studies found
support for economic catalyst claims (Hudson, 1999; Rosentraub, 1997; Swindell and
Rosentraub, 1998 and Burke, 1997).
Following the employment increase and economic catalyst arguments, proponents
may make a claim for downtown revitalization, as Swindell and Rosentraub (1998) point
out. Baade (quoted in Lever, 1995: 22), credits Cleveland and Baltimore with successful
revitalization efforts via stadium construction, but also indicates that the efforts of Seattle,
Minneapolis, and Miami have fallen short of early promises to revitalize downtown areas.
To scholars, the urban rejuvenation argument may be the most valid among the economic
promises made, although some acknowledge only that a relatively small geographic area
enjoys renovation (Rosentraub, 1999; Riess, 1998; Baade, 1996), as in the case of
Denvers Lower Downtown.
Euchner (1993) finds that larger cities are probably better able to capitalize on the
multiplier effect that one dollar spent on attending the game will multiply into multiple
dollars in the local economy but he also finds that the multiplier is often set too high by
proponents trying to pitch a stadium. Baade (1987), in an examination of nine cities with
new or renovated stadiums, finds that the new venues contributed very little to the local
28


economy and that increased taxes meant to capture the local windfall may have had a
detrimental effect by increasing local tax burdens.
If economic revitalization does appear to occur in the area around a new stadium,
the influx may arguably be dollars diverted from other recreational spending (Baade and
Dye, 1988; Baade, 1994; Rosentraub, 1997; Noll and Zimbalist, 1997). There has been a
trend to use tourism taxes to raise the funds to support a new stadium, but Noll and
Zimbalist (1997) argue that tourists generally are not the ones who attend professional
sports games. James Quirk (quoted in Burke, 1997) points out that tourists from outside a
city effectively are subsidizing the recreation of the residents of the city.
Swindell and Rosentraub (1998: 16) summarize the academic consensus of
stadium economics as applied to gaining public funding for sports facilities:
Across three decades, a small group of scholars has
concluded that neither teams nor the facilities they use are
a source of substantial or even meaningful economic
development (Okner, 1974; Noll, 1974; Rosentraub, 1988;
Quirk and Fort, 1992; Johnson, 1993, Baade, 1996;
Rosentraub, 1997; Nunn and Rosentraub, 1997). Some
elected officials, team owners, league administrators,
consultants, and sports advocates still prefer to ignore the
conclusions from these studies.
Proponents naturally present economic data to support their side of the economic
debate. For example, Lever (1995: 22) relates that, A study done this year for the
[Chicago] Bears found that the team contributes $125 million to the Chicago economy
along with hundreds of jobs. A recent New Orleans study showed the Superdome
contributed $4.6 billion to the local economy, including $237 in one weekend. Daniel
Gross (2004), economic writer for the New York Times, reports on a study done by Edward
Coulson, economics professor at Pennsylvania State University and Gerald A. Carlino, an
economist at the Federal Reserve Bank, in which they find that residents in cities that host
National Football League franchises pay 8% more than residents in non-NFL cities. By
29


extension, Coulson and Carlino (in Gross, 2004) conclude that higher rents lead to an
increase of $50 million worth of property tax receipts for NFL cities, while the average
outlay of those cities to host those teams (in terms of maintenance, fire and police
protection and tax abatements) is $27 million, for a net gain to the local economy of $23
million, on average. Coulson (in Gross, 1994) emphasizes that the study finds that the
presence of an NFL team, not the construction of a new stadium, brings about the
economic benefit, while Carlino expresses that, stadiums do seem to be a good deal for
most cities (Gross, 1994: 6).
Alternative economic explanations build on the idea that voters are not taxing
themselves, but other parties. Sanders (1994) relates, for example, that tourism taxes a
mechanism through which visitors, not locals, are taxed became popular in the 1990s.
These revenues, according to James Quirk (in Burke, 1997) consist of taxes on hotels,
rental cars and parking. Swindell and Rosentraub (1998) add tobacco taxes to this list.
Burke (1997: 30) quotes economist Rodney Fort, that hundreds of thousands of people
who never go to a game still get benefits through job creation, tax revenues, and fan-
driven commercial prosperity. Along this line, some citizens may perceive a stadium as a
public good if the above-mentioned benefits materialize. Also in Burke (1997), John Moag,
Chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority, claims that the stadium for the NFLs
Baltimore Ravens would pay off economically through downtown revitalization. Burke
(1997) then shows that the Tax Reform Act of 1986 aids the potential for local economic
payoffs because the federal government subsidizes the indebtedness of cities by allowing
local governments to use federally tax-exempted bonds to finance stadium building.
A few scholars have paraphrased the claims made by proponents. For example,
Lever (1997: 35) writes that, Advocates argue that new stadiums spur so much economic
growth that they are self-financing: subsidies are offset by revenues from ticket sales,
30


sales taxes on concessions and other spending outside the stadium, and property tax
increases arising from the stadium's economic impact. In Bachelor's (1998: 89) study,
she found that, Proponents of the Detroit stadiums emphasized their direct and indirect
economic consequences for the downtown area and the city as a whole. Zelenko (1992)
shows that stadium proponents sometimes portray the fan- and economic- base of a new
stadium in regional rather than local terms. Perhaps because economic studies regarding
the merits or pitfalls of using public funds to subsidize stadium construction have relied
upon more narrowly focused data, they may not apply as readily in the regional context.
Ultimately, Bairns (1990: 14) view may come closest to summarizing the disparity
between scholars general disdain for economic support of stadium-building and
proponents faith in revenue generation is that each sports facility case is unique, and any
attempt at generalization is likely doomed to failure.
The academic literature on the economics behind stadium-building arguments
finds in aggregate, however, that cities do not benefit from spending public funds. Sports
facilities attract neither tourists nor new industry, according to Noll and Zimbalist (1997:
38), while Hudson (1999: 407) concludes that The [economic engine] justification for
access to public money does not stand up to close scrutiny and, according to Baade 1996:
18)... Sports teams are rather impotent as economic catalysts. Okner(1974: 324)
writes that Local governments that own sports facilities subsidize professional sports
teams both directly, by pricing stadium and arena rents below the economic value of such
facilities, and indirectly, by forgoing taxes on such property" and that The prime
beneficiaries of the local government subsidies are the owners of the sports teams most
of whom are extremely wealthy (1974: 347). By contrast, people writing in favor of the
economic benefits tend to be either promoters of stadium measures (Zelenko, 1992; Lever,
1995) or practitioners working in the stadium-building field (Moag in Burke, 1997).
31


In either case, the literature on the economics of stadium building focuses on
whether or not a city stands to benefit monetarily after its policy makers or voters have
decided to spend public money to support a private enterprise. Will the citys support be
remunerated by the team or stadium for the money that it laid out for the structure? Public
expenditures can comprise gifts of land, tax incentives, expenses necessary to improve
local infrastructure or overtaxing tourism; public gains could be creation of new jobs,
increased spending in the area around the stadium (leading to higher sales tax revenues)
or increases in land values near the stadium (resulting in larger property tax income) the
public expenditures ostensibly lead to the establishment of some form of public good. In all
of these cases, the outlays and incomes are more-or-less measurable, making the
question of worth relatively straightforward. But another cost arises, the opportunity cost of
using public money to build a stadium instead of using it for another benefit. An
opportunity cost really cannot be measured in monetary terms and its value ultimately can
only be expressed by whether or not voters decide to support or oppose the stadium.
Furthermore, not all putative benefits of having a new stadium are necessarily
monetary or certain. Halter and Dean (1971) present numerous cases in which ostensibly
economic decisions are made with uncertain economic considerations in mind (e.g., a
cattle rancher may not know how much rainfall there will be to support grazing plants to
sustain a cattle herd and therefore the rancher acts to minimize his regret, the potential to
lose cattle). In addition, Swindell and Rosentraub (1998: 19) suggest that one must go
beyond strict economic reasoning to support public stadium-building: Sports teams could
make a substantial enough contribution to the quality of life and people's perceptions of
their community to justify the use of tax money to build or maintain the facilities that attract
teams.
32


City Image
Even in a best-case scenario, economics can only explain part of why voters build
stadiums for professional sports teams. While the costs to taxpayers are certainly
economic in nature, the expected benefits need not necessarily be monetary. Using public
money to fund a private enterprise makes a public good of that private enterprise, but the
characteristics of the public good could be non-economic (e.g., Wilson and Banfield in
Morgan and Kirkpatrick, 1972). In fact, a rich vein of literature exists on making economic
decisions based on partially- or non- economic factors (Lutz and Lux, 1979; Katona, 1980;
Hogarth and Reder, 1987; Camerer, etal., 2004).
Some scholars agree that intangibles, not just enhanced finances, rank high
among the reasons a citys civic leaders decide to commit public funds to a stadium; they
claim that city image, city pride, and the desire to be a world class city are integrated into
such a decision (Swindell and Rosentraub, 1998; Bergman, 1999; Brown and Paul, 2000;
Riess, 1998). Euchner (1993: 77) suggests how important city image can be: Stadiums
and sports teams are luxuries that fiscally strapped cities can ill afford yet have great
difficulty bypassing because of the potency of symbolic notions like renaissance and major
league status. In greater detail, Euchner (1993: 12) explains:
The emotional hold a team has in its home city stems
partly from its ability to embody and enhance the citys
identity. Whether on the playing field or as the object of
competition with a city that hopes to lure them away, the
home team is a symbol for the whole community. By
virtue of having a professional team, they are
distinguished from dozens of other cities as major league
towns. This identity can overwhelm all the other ways that
a citys residents think about themselves; it therefore can
obscure other possible emblems of civic identity, large and
small. A citys identification with a sports team creates
vivid symbolism of a common interest, but it also washes
away other less dramatic concerns that might be more
important for the community, like schools, parks, housing,
and libraries.
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If hosting a professional sports team enhances a citys image, then logically, the
contrapositive statement that losing a professional sports team hurts a citys image -
would also hold true. Bergman (1999: 40) writes that Winnipeg was embarrassed and
needed psychological recovery after the National Hockey League Jets left Winnipeg for
Phoenix. Swindell and Rosentraub (1998) asked Indianapolis residents how the loss of
either the National Basketball Association Pacers or the National Football League Colts
would affect them and the researchers found that this type of loss rated highest in
importance among 1500 respondents compared to other amenities that might be lost.
Another article (Anonymous, 1999a: 52) relates that, The Browns departure devastated
football-crazed Cleveland.
Seemingly, the presence or absence of a professional sports team affects a citys
image in the publics eye and major league status or world class titles come into play in
the stadium-building debate, but what is city image does it have a clear definition and
can it be effectively calibrated? Wagner (1982: 4) offers that, The urban image is the way
a city is perceived, both by the citizens and by those outside. Not only is this image a
mental picture held in common by a large number of persons, but it also is used as a way
of communicating about the city." William Neill (1995: 640) adds that Urban place
imagery embedded in its various cultural milieus, is important because it expresses the
meaning that places have for individuals alongside their collective identifications and
understandings. Neill also states that the projection of such positive place imagery, often
with a focus on redeveloped central business districts, has been a fact in both popular and
academic journals heralding the revitalization of cities such as Baltimore, Pittsburgh and,
more recently, Cleveland (all cities with new football stadiums).
34


Journalist Cindy Brovsky (2000: 6D) quotes a number of influential and certainly
vested figures in her analysis of the Denver Broncos impact on their host citys image:
Wellington Webb, former Denver Mayor: The Broncos
and Mile High Stadium put Denver in the big time with
other cities, and both became part of the citys identity.
Bob Howsam, builder of Mile High Stadium: The Broncos
allowed Denver to be a major sports city. That gave the
local fans recognition and helped bring new businesses to
the city. Businesses wanted activities for their
employees.
Howard Cosell, national sports commentator: Denver fans
had been thirsting from national recognition, and they got
it tonight first Monday Night Football game at Mile High,
October 22, 1973.
In the popular press, New Yorker theatre critic John Lahr makes an oblique
reference to sports and city image in his review of the play, Tantalus: At a time when
every provincial city in America dreams of being world class, Denvers city fathers, who
have already provided a boomtown with a baseball team, a basketball team, a football
team and a symphony, have used their world-class bankbook to develop a work of genuine
imaginative distinction (quoted in Brovsky: 2000b, 6D).
Swindell and Rosentraub (1998: 15) indicate sports contribution to the definition
of city image when they write, Advocates for the building of facilities frequently note that
the image of many cities is frequently defined by high-profile teams and sporting events.
They also relate that, The teams in Indianapolis improve respondents valuation as a place
to live (Swindell and Rosentraub, 1998: 25).
Other evidence that city image is pertinent to the study of the processes and
rationales behind stadium-building discourse can be inferred from the stadium-naming-
rights debate. Part of the discussion over committing public funding to build stadiums
involves selling the name of the buildings to help offset costs, either public or private. In
35


Denver, officials were considering whether or not to defray costs to the public by allowing
the name of the citys new stadium to be something other than Mile High (Brovsky,
2000d). The State Legislature, in fact, mandated that if the Metropolitan Stadium Football
District board decided to sell naming rights to the new stadium, the name should reflect
Coloradoans desire to keep Mile High in the name (and the name is now Invesco Field
@ Mile High). In Cleveland, Al Lerner, owner of the new Cleveland Browns, opted not to
sell the name of Cleveland Browns Stadium, deeming tradition more important
(Anonymous, 1999b: 52). Another noteworthy case is the example in Houston where the
Enron Corporation had fallen out of favor and the Major League Baseball Houston Astros
ballpark came to be known as Minute Maid Field.
Sometimes, public officials or chambers of commerce seek to create a deliberate
public image, also known as branding. For example, Tenant describes Charlotte, North
Carolinas (home of the National Football Leagues Carolina Panthers) branding drive:
It's easy to look at images of San Francisco, New York,
Boston and San Antonio and wonder how Charlotte can
compete against them. We have yet to select that one,
outstanding image that instantly conveys Charlotte. Our
ultimate goal is to create one image that conveys the true
character of Charlotte to anyone who sees it, so that
travelers feel they can't miss out on Charlotte (Tenant,
1999, 9B).
Waitt (1999) writes that the city of Sydney deliberately sought to create its image
so that it could host the 2000 Olympics, while another article (Anonymous, 1999b: 36)
relates that Oklahoma City wished to change its image as a prairie town to one with a
teeming river walk like San Antonios. McCallum, Spencer and Wyly (2005) examine
Vancouvers successful bid to host the 2010 Winter Olympic Games and track that citys
deliberate efforts to convey a city image to the Olympic Organizing Committee of a city
36


both entertaining as a thriving metropolis and near the bucolic setting of the Whistler ski
area.
The definition of city image derives from its use and has enjoyed numerous
references in the academic literature and popular press. City image falls into the category
of intangibles (Swindell and Rosentraub, 1998; Bachelor, 1998, Fort and Quirk, 1995;
Euchner, 1993) and intangibles form not only part of scholars theoretical framework in
their analyses of the outcomes of the stadium-building referenda but also may be important
in the minds of voters as they deliberate over supporting new sports facilities. Naturally,
being intangible in nature, city image can be hard to define, difficult to recognize or
imprecise to measure. The best evidence that there is such an entity as city image is that
people refer to it directly. Since this research considers voters beliefs and perceptions, a
persons reference to the term city image indicates that at least that person is basing his
or her discussion on the concept. Taken collectively, statements referring to city image
suggest that it is worth treating as a valid concept because peoples perceptions and
decisions depend on that concept.
Urban Regime Theory
Besides economics and city image, many of those studying professional sports
stadium-building have utilized an urban regime theory that examines the coalitions
between local business and local government that underpin urban activities (Stone and
Sanders, 1987; Neill, 1995; Bachelor, 1998; Pelissero etal., 1991; Hudson, 1999; Swindell
and Rosentraub, 1998; Rich, 1998). Urban regime theory seeks to examine and analyze
the effects of organizations on policy making. Michael Brown (1999: 70) provides a
definition: Regime theory is a means by which scholars study governance in the city.
Governance is defined as a productive exercise of power ('the power to) resulting from the
37


normative and actual arrangements the (regime) between public and private spheres in a
liberal democratic community. Imbroscio (1998: 233) adds that Urban regime theory has
emerged as the dominant paradigm for the study of local politics, and that The
ascendancy of regime theory has made it the subject of intense critical scrutiny. In
Clarence Stones (Stone and Sanders, 1987: 124) words, The urban regime, this informal
partnership between city hall and the private sector, functions as the means through which
major policy decisions are made in the city. Stone and Sanders (1987) also distinguish
between urban regimes that have ongoing memberships of government and businesses
and big-city politics that does not enjoy the extended tenure of its members: urban
regimes are durable.
Pelissero, Henschen, and Sidlow (1991) have defined three types of regimes: the
corporate, which caters to downtown business interests; the progressive, which supports
neighborhood group agendas; and the caretaker, which is too weak to promote any
agenda. (See also Elkins 1987 characterization of regimes as pluralist, federalist and
entrepreneurial). In Boston, Rich (1998: 103) finds that a caretaker regime existed but
did not have the political assets necessary to manifest the new National Football League
Patriots stadium within the city limits. Bachelor (1998) finds an urban regime present in
Detroit when she explores baseball and football stadium bids; Pelissero, Henschen, and
Sidlow (1991) describe the workings of an urban regime faced with renovating Chicagos
stadiums; and Swindell and Rosentraub (1988) and Rosentraub, et al. (1994) find an urban
regime in place in Indianapolis when they review that citys stadium decisions. The use of
regime theory with regard to stadium building grows out of Stone and Sanders' (1987) work
in which urban regimes facilitate the interests of business-government coalitions,
sometimes to the detriment of the public at large. Sanders (1992 and 1994) follows up with
38


instances in which urban regimes attempted to minimize the input by the public on funding
issues.
Lynn Bachelor, a scholar in the study of urban regimes, adds another aspect to the
discussion of the theory. In her case study of Detroit, Bachelor (1998) applies solution
sets to baseball and football stadiums. She suggests that, The concept of solution sets
emphasizes the continuity and replication of policy solutions and a policy process in which
the availability of a solution precludes analysis of problems (Bachelor, 1998: 89). Detroit
had pursued assembly plant projects in the 1980s and sought stadiums and casinos in
the 1990s (Bachelor, 1998: 91). Bachelor (1998: 92) outlines the parallels between the
two decades decisions to support her claim that the process replicated policy solutions:
discussion starts with top-level public and private officials; there is a mix of public and
private funding; economic payoffs are uncertain and may have more to do with intangibles;
there is a threat of relocation.
Bachelor (1998: 94) argues that, In the mid-1990s public-private partnerships for
the construction and operation of sports stadiums have become a solution set for many
cities. She describes the dynamics through which decision-makers perpetuate solution
sets:
Like the earlier assembly plants, the stadium project
offered selective material benefits to the team owners and
symbolic benefits to public officials a win-win solution
for the governing coalition. As a solution set, it borrowed
both from Detroits past experience for example, utilizing
the bonding capacity of the Downtown Development
Authority and other cities experience with stadiums, with
initial media discussions of the project referring
extensively to the positive impacts of stadiums in
Baltimore and Cleveland (1998: 94).
Citing a Detroit newspaper article, Bachelor (1998: 95) proposes that stadium
supporters relied on testimony from a St. Louis developer about the revitalization of that
39


citys downtown following its stadium-building; ostensibly, Detroit decision-makers believed
that the Missouri solution would apply to Michigan. Similar testimony drawn from
Clevelands stadium construction experience supported the Detroit decision to build
(Bachelor, 1998: 96).
Bachelor (1998: 96) summarizes the applicability of solution sets:
[Stadium and other revitalization projects] convey a sense
of positive momentum to a city that has been down for
decades. ... This effect, like that of the earlier industrial
projects, is more symbolic than economic, lifting the spirits
of city residents and improving its image among potential
residents and investors. Are these payoffs worth the
price? Only Detroiters can answer that question.
Writing outside of urban regime theory, Peterson (1981) discusses the
phenomenon of using public money to build a structure for a private enterprise from a
different perspective. In Petersons (1981) view, the most important function of local
government is to improve the market standing of a city and the means by which
governments can improve their cities economic status is to facilitate development projects.
City officials and business leaders work together in this paradigm and form an environment
of consensual decision-making in which the overall aims of government and business
mesh. Ferman (1996), by contrast, finds through her studies of Pittsburgh and Chicago
that governing coalitions do not necessarily share the same goals, thereby creating policy
conflicts, rather than consensual government.
Zaller (1992) seeks to explain the success of stadium-building referenda in terms
of how unified a citys elites are. In Zallers (1992) study, unified elites tend to discuss
matters related to stadium construction (costs, land use plans, potential displacement of
residents) amongst themselves and so this information may not become public. When
elites are not unified (e.g., one large developer prefers an urban site while another would
like to build in a suburban area), the elites may consequently air their differences in a
40


forum in which the public gains more information and the competing elites may solicit
public support for their respective causes. When the public lacks information, according to
Zaller (1992), elites can shape public opinion more effectively. Brown and Paul (2001) also
examine how unification by policy-driving elites can affect stadium-building referenda and
they conclude that the most unified elites are the most effective in passing stadium
measures. In a similar study, Paul (2001) finds that the most significant factor among all
the forms that opposition can take (for example, opposition by minority groups, citizen
group opposition or business opposition) is opposition by elected officials.
In one illustration in which little visible opposition to policy elites existed, Stone
(1989) identifies a downtown business elite within Atlanta that comprised an urban regime
through its control of campaign funds and investment capital. This financial control then
led to control of the political process and the urban regime was able to elect officials who
would be sympathetic to the growth coalitions desires.
DeLeons (1992) examination of San Francisco politics contrasts with Stones
(1989) Atlanta findings. In the San Francisco case, a coalition arose in opposition to the
urban growth coalition. The opposition consisted of 1) environmentalists who feared the
deterioration of downtown quality of life and the citys historical architecture; 2) various
neighborhood groups who were concerned about their property values and threats that
they would be displaced to make way for new economic projects and 3) political liberals
who felt that big business was driving small business out of San Francisco. DeLeon (1992)
thus suggests that while an urban growth coalition had controlled city politics, it was
successfully broken by an ad hoc coalition, analogous to Dahls famous study of New
Haven, Connecticut politics in which an urban pluralism dominated local affairs (Dahl,
1961).
41


Where DeLeon's (1992) case shows the brittleness of one urban regime and
Stones (1989) describes a durable one, the conclusions drawn by other urban regime
theorists have also been mixed. Jones and Bachelor (1986) describe cases in which local
governments in Michigan negotiated deals with automobile manufacturers but ended up
giving away land, infrastructure development and even outright construction of facilities
with public money; the manufacturers' threats of relocating their facilities out-of-town
effectively handcuffed local officials. Stone and Sanders (1987) find that urban regimes
tend to wield more clout during times of economic difficulty and less during boom periods
because economic elites control capital and the ability to purchase publicly issued bonds.
Finally, Squires (1989) study determines that in a dozen cities examined, the community
as a whole tended to be disadvantaged in public-private spending partnerships while the
businesses participating in the programs tended to benefit.
A partial explanation for elites sometime advantage in urban politics involves
information flow and the transparent nature of the discourse over how to direct the
energies of the urban growth machine. Cox (in Lauria, 1997) discusses certain
characteristics of the means by which decisions are made in an urban regime and avers
that a party that can monopolize information will necessarily hold an advantage in
negotiations. Chambers of commerce tend to play an intermediary role in Coxs opinion,
facilitating the flow of information between business elites and local governments. Pincetl
(in Jonas and Wilson, 1999) takes the linkage between urban regimes and information flow
one step further in her case study of democracy in an urban regime in Southern California.
In Pincetls Orange County, the urban regime prevents meaningful citizen input into the
Countys development plans, resulting in diminished open space set-asides and neglect
toward endangered species.
42


Pincetls (in Jonas and Wilson, 1999) examination of a regional rather than
strictly municipal issue exemplifies a trend in urban regime studies that suggests that the
framework may apply outside the traditional confines of a single, core city. Key among
United States scholars exploring extended boundaries for urban regimes is David K.
Hamilton (1999, 2000, 2002a, 2002 b, 2004) whose work focuses on Elkins (1987)
definition of an urban regime as governance rather than government. In this distinction,
the means by which public policy is created outweighs the boundaries and structures of the
public entities engaged in policy formulation: governance is more than government.
Hamilton (2000, 2002a) studies cases in Chicago and Pittsburgh in which the central cities
are unable to meet demands for services and must work outside of their bounds with
suburban actors (and businesses) to achieve adequate service delivery. Hamilton (1999:
397) further asserts that regional governance can better meet the needs of the public at
large than sole-city governance, which runs the danger of catering to specific individuals.
In terms of contribution to the literature, Hamilton (2002a: 403) writes that, ...urban
regime theory is an appropriate theory to study and analyze the relationship between
politics and economics in regional governance but in his empirical studies (2000, 2002a)
he finds that the outcomes of a regional policy-making coalition may or may not embody
one particular critical component of a regime (durability).
In the international context, where scholars seek to apply to their countries an
urban regime theory that originated in the United States, instances abound of applying the
framework outside a single, core city. MacLeod and Goodwin (1999), for example, write
that urban regime studies fail to consider (but should consider) the forces from outside a
city (e.g., from the national state). Quilley and Ward (1999) similarly aver that multispatial
approaches should apply to traditionally urban-bound regime studies and Dochertys
(2000) study of an urban rail project in Britain suggests that actors outside the central city
43


comprise part of the urban regime. Jonas and Gibbs (2003: 1018) undertake intensive
case study research of two regions in Britain faced with a conflict between economic
development and environmental policies and conclude that, Urban regime theory needs to
broaden its focus to include the full variety of interests in local environmental policy and the
mechanisms producing new territorial scales of economic and environmental governance.
In a case study of Christchurch, New Zealand, Michael Brown (1999) finds further evidence
that limiting urban regime theorys applicability to a single city can overlook potential
findings arising from a greater scope of analysis.
As the examples from this section of the literature review demonstrate, the case
for the influence exerted by a durable urban regime, growth coalition, or organization of
policy elites is just that, a case that must be examined on an individual basis. Certain cities
(Stone and Sanders (1987) Atlanta; Bachelors (1998) Detroit and Rosentraubs (1998)
Indianapolis) seem to operate by means of urban regimes, while DeLeons (1992) San
Francisco and Fermans (1996) Pittsburgh and Chicago fail to demonstrate the qualities
that would indicate policy driven by elites. When an urban regime exists and pushes for a
stadium to be built with public money, the literature suggests that identifiable
characteristics indicate whether or not the stadium referendum is likely to pass.
First, clear unification among elites supports passage (Brown and Paul, 2001) and
the less that those elites discuss matters in a public forum, the more effective they will be
in shaping public opinion in favor of the new stadium (Zaller, 1992). Controlling the flow of
information is the key (Cox in Lauria, 1997; Pincetl in Jonas and Wilson, 1999). Second, of
the three types of urban regime (corporate, progressive or caretaker) identified by
Pelissero, Henschen and Sidlow (1991), only the corporate, the regime type that supports
downtown businesses, can be effective in promoting a new stadium. Third, a city may rely
on solution sets (Bachelor, 1998) basing its decision on its own or other cities experiences
44


with using public money to support private enterprise. Threat of relocation plays a
significant role in this aspect of the discussion. Fourth, according to Stone and Sanders
(1987), an urban regime will tend to hold more sway during times of economic hardship if
the regime controls access to capital and is able to finance public indebtedness. Fifth and
finally, a lack of serious opposition by elected officials (Paul, 2001) smoothes passage of a
stadium measure, as does the absence of united opposition groups (DeLeon, 1992).
Literature Summary
Four paradigmata apply to the literature on building stadiums for private entities
with public money. First, the body of knowledge concerning the initiative and referendum
process indicates that the drive to refer a stadium-building measure to the voting public
grew out of a desire for a more direct democracy in the 1990s (Ellis, 2002; Matsusaka,
2004; Gerber, et. a!., 2001; Lupia and Matsusaka, 2004). Furthermore, measures that
involve large spending of public dollars can sometimes become more palatable politically if
the voters themselves make the ultimate decision (Cronin, 1989; Matsusaska, 2004). But
when a measure has been referred to the voters, they have only one choice left to them, to
vote yes or no; once on the ballot, there is no longer any opportunity for crafting the details
of the proposal, so for a stadium referendum to be truly an embodiment of direct
democracy, the process will have had to have been open to debate during the formation of
the ballot language.
Where the initiative and referendum literature applies generally to the stadium-
building issue, the study of a stadiums potential economic benefits to a community applies
more directly. In general, scholars have disagreed with proponents that building a stadium
with public money pays off for the public that put up that money (Okner, 1974; Noll, 1974;
Swindell and Rosentraub, 1988; Quirk and Fort, 1992; Johnson, 1993, Baade, 1996;
45


Rosentraub, 1997; Nunn and Rosentraub, 1997). To an extent, jobs are created, but they
tend to be low paying, temporary or both. Construction jobs pay well but they are gone
once the stadium is completed. Both opponents and proponents agree on the concept of
the economic multiplier, but disagree about the number that that multiplier amounts to.
Does one dollar spent on attending a professional game translate into $1.15 that
recirculates through the community or is the figure $2.15? In certain cities, areas around a
new stadium are renovated and enjoy higher property values (Baltimore, Denver) but in
some cities (Miami, Seattle), they have not (Baade, in Lever, 1995: 22).
Nevertheless, there may be intangible benefits derived from a new stadium even if
the economic ones do not significantly benefit all its citizens. A city becomes perceived as .
major league by virtue of hosting a professional team, according to this school of thought.
The loss of a pro team (especially if it is the citys only one) diminishes its status compared
to other cities (Bergman, 1999). A city may consciously try to create an image of itself to
bring in tourists or to attract a sporting venue or event; this branding" has become a
deliberate marketing effort in recent years (Waitt, 1999; McCallum, Spencer and Wyly,
2005). City image may be difficult to measure, according to the literature, but it is best
understood as a consensus of opinion among a citys residents and as expressed by
outsiders acknowledgement that a certain city is world class or major league.
Besides city image and potential economic benefits, the literature review has
focused on urban regime theory and solution sets as means to understand how and why
the public uses its money to promote private enterprise. Where there is an urban regime, a
consortium of downtown business interests has control of crucial capital resources and via
leverage generated from this position is able to channel growth and construction in a city.
In certain cases, this downtown elite may have the power to influence elections, too,
meaning that it will get like-minded individuals elected to promote the regime which has
46


one defining characteristic, specifically its durability. Other characteristics of the urban
regime are its tendency to control information flow (Cox in Lauria, 1997) and its propensity
for squelching opposition groups (Pincetl in Jonas and Wilson, 1999). Bachelor (1998),
working within the urban regime field, adds case study knowledge to the field that implies
that sometimes a solution set preempts actual discussion as government officials replicate
prior decisions in new situations without genuinely considering alternative policies.
Peterson (1981) works outside the urban regime epistemology but includes a normative
factor: he argues that local government should use its funds and influence to promote
business and growth. But the overall pattern of using urban regime theory has indicated
that each city must be handled on a case-by-case basis. Where Stone and Sanders
(1987) find an urban-growth-oriented regime in Atlanta, DeLeon (1992) finds a temporary
coalition that blocked development in San Francisco. Even when there are urban regimes,
they may be of the dynamic sort or the static kind (Pelissero, Henschen and Sidlow, 1991).
The important factor arising out of the urban regime literature is to look for key ingredients
to determine the nature of decision making in a particular city: a business elite that
controls capital, a long history of cooperation between business and government interests
to facilitate growth, a pattern of repetition with respect to using public money to promote
industry, and the (lack of) strength of groups opposed to a given proposal.
47


CHAPTER 3
HISTORY OF SPORTS VENUES IN DENVER
Introduction
When the official groundbreaking ceremony for the new football stadium took place
on August 17, 1999, the event marked the culmination of sports venue construction in
Denver. The measure that voters had approved the previous November was coming to
fruition. Like a handful of cities in the United States, Denver now hosted professional
franchises in the four major sports (the National Football League, Major League Baseball,
the National Hockey League and the National Basketball Association) and would have
modern facilities to house them. Major League Baseball's Coors field had opened in 1995
and the Pepsi Center would begin to host professional basketball and hockey teams on
October 1, 1999. Until the completion of Invesco Field @ Mile High in 2001, the Broncos
would continue to play at the old Mile High stadium, a facility begun in 1948 on the site of a
former city dump.
The Early Days
It was, literally, a dump upon which the first professional sports franchise owner in
the Mile High City began to develop a piece of real estate specifically for a pro team.
Robert Bob Howsam is the man who brought professional sports to Denver by buying a
Single-A Western League baseball team in 1947 (which he named the Denver Bears). The
Bears played one year at downtown Merchants Field but Howsam immediately began to
build a new stadium using $90,000 of his own money and raising $250,000 in private
bonds for Bears Stadium to be built on land that the City and County of Denver had been
48


using to pile refuse. During the next seven years, Denvers Single-A baseball teams drew
more attendance than any other minor-league teams including Triple-A ball clubs until
1955 when Howsam bought Kansas Citys Triple-A team and moved it to Denver
(Armstrong, 2000a). That team outdrew all minor-league baseball teams for another three
years.
Building on his success, Howsam decided to invest in a team in the Continental
Baseball League, a group of teams that was expected to rival the American and National
Leagues. In order to accommodate this more prestigious endeavor, Howsam was required
to expand the ballpark; he built the east stands and added to the south stands at an
estimated cost of $200,000 but an actual cost of $500,000 (Armstrong, 2000a). The
league failed to materialize and Howsams debt was increasing. Yet another investment
that cost Howsam was his decision to purchase a new franchise in another nascent
league: the American Football League (AFL).
The Beginnings of Football in Denver
In August of 1959, the AFL Denver Broncos were created, and in 1960 they played
their first season in Bears Stadium. Howsams financial problems continued but to try to
alleviate them, he sought to sell shares in the Denver Broncos, attempting to make the
team a publicly held franchise. At that time, there was not significant interest in the
Broncos as a lucrative asset and Howsam entertained the possibility of moving the Triple-A
Bears and the AFL Broncos to San Antonio. News of this move reached certain business
leaders in Denver and the Rocky Mountain Empire Sports consortium, whose members
included Gerald and Allan Phipps and Cal Kunz, bought Howsams teams and stadium,
thus keeping the Bears and Broncos in Denver for the next few years (Armstrong, 2000b).
49


1966 was a pivotal year in the history of American professional football. The
American Football League and National Football League merged, which may have been an
august move for the leagues, but which also placed certain demands on the cities and
venues in which the teams played. The Phipps brothers were forced by the League to
increase seating at Bears Stadium to 50,000 to meet NFL regulations but did not have the
necessary means to do so. Denver voters subsequently rejected a bond measure to pay
for the stadium expansion. At that point, the owners turned to the Denver business
community, who, along with childrens coin can drives, raised $1.8 million so that Gerald
and Allan Phipps could pay off the debt they owed on the stadium with the proviso that
they donate the facility to the City and County of Denver. In 1968, Denver renamed the
venue Mile High Stadium (Armstrong, 2000b). Eight years later, Denver voters approved a
bond measure to increase seating at Mile High Stadium to 75,000 seats for the 1977
season.
McNichols Arena is Born
Meanwhile, the City and County of Denver continued to promote professional
sports. For $16 million in construction costs, land acquisition expenses and infrastructure
improvement outlays, the City built McNichols Arena in 1975 to house the American
Basketball Association (ABA) Denver Nuggets and minor-league hockey Denver Spurs.
While the Nuggets won two ABA championships, joined the more prestigious National
Basketball Association (NBA) and remained in McNichols arena for the structures entire
lifespan, Denver's experience with professional hockey in the facility was more checkered.
In 1976, Ivan Mullenix, owner of the minor-league Denver Spurs, expected that the
National Hockey League (NHL) would grant a franchise to Denver, but that wish failed to
materialize. In actuality, the Spurs left Denver and the city had no hockey team for a few
50


months. The NHL then did award the former Kansas City Scouts franchise to Denver and
the Colorado Rockies hockey team began to play in McNichols Arena in 1976. The
Rockies were sold in 1978 and the teams new owner wanted to move to New Jersey
immediately, but the franchise remained in Denver until 1982 when the New Jersey
Meadowlands facilities were completed. Eight different hockey teams played in McNichols
during its 35-year existence, two of them in the NHL, and really only the last one, the
Colorado Avalanche, was a success financially or on the ice.
Denver Qualifies for a Major League Baseball Team
In the early 1990s, Denver hosted teams in two of the four major leagues and a
successful Triple-A baseball team. The areas experiences with professional sports
franchises were mixed at that point in time. Pro hockey had never held more than an
ephemeral presence, the basketball Nuggets remained stable but did not win, the Broncos
sold out all their home games, and the minor-league baseball Denver Bears/Zephyrs had
won several championships and had set many minor-league attendance records. A
favorable economy and desire to improve Denver's status as a leader in commerce led to
the construction of Denver International Airport, the Colorado Convention Center, the
Denver Center for the Performing Arts and numerous street and traffic improvements.
With a population base of about two million in Denver and the surrounding metropolitan
areas and a respectable sports history, people nevertheless were unsure about whether
Denver would make a successful Major League Baseball city. When the National League
announced that it would be awarding two franchises for the 1993 season, the Mile High
City was in the running for a team, provided that it could provide a new, state-of-the-art,
baseball-only stadium and suitable ownership financing.
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A conglomerate of owners formed but the stadium would not be realized until the
voters approved a one-tenth-of-one-cent sales tax to build the new ballpark. The Colorado
State Legislature mandated a special district that would be responsible for collecting taxes
for and administering the new stadium. Boundaries of this special district followed the
boundaries of the existing Regional Transportation District (that included Boulder County)
and the sales tax was also quite similar; legislators simply adopted a prior solution.
Referendum voters in the roughly six-county district approved the tax to build Coors Field,
which opened in 1995 after the Colorado Rockies baseball team played for two years in
Mile High Stadium. Rockies fans proceeded to break every Major League Baseball
attendance record. Sports in Denver were on the upswing in the mid-nineties and for the
first time, franchises in the four major sports played there. The Colorado Rockies went to
the playoffs in their third year of existence and first year at Coors Field, the Colorado
Avalanche won the Stanley Cup in their first year in Denver, and the Broncos continued to
field competitive teams and sold out every game at Mile High Stadium.
Football Proposal Follows Baseballs Lead
The Denver Broncos organization approached a sympathetic Republican Senator,
Elsie Lacy, through their lobbyists to let it be known that they wanted public financing to
help construct a new stadium. Pat Bowlen claimed to need a more modern facility so that
he could generate sufficient profits to compete with other NFL teams that had luxury boxes
that brought in revenue directly to their owners. Senator Lacy introduced Senate Bill 171
after working with the Broncos lobbyists and subsequently campaigned for its passage.
In 1996, the Colorado State Legislature created the Metropolitan Football Stadium
District, an entity that was tasked with essentially the same duties as the previous baseball
special district had been and that was drawn with the same boundaries. The new district
52


consisted of a nine-member, governor-appointed Board of Directors and was given a
handful of duties, including making a recommendation on whether or not to continue the
sales tax used to build Coors Field, deciding where to locate the proposed football stadium
and negotiating a lease between the Stadium District and the Denver Broncos. Governor
Roy Romer, a Democrat, appointed the bi-partisan Board, mainly consisting of County
Commissioners from the six metro-area counties. There were three other members
including Sam Suplizio from Grand Junction. A second, eighteen-member entity, the Site
Selection Committee, was tasked to evaluate the merits of any sites submitted by the
Districts six member counties. This committee, incidentally, was captained by former
Denver Bronco and former Mayor of Northgienn, Colorado, Odell Barry.
The Legislatures act capped any public spending on a new stadium at $180 million
but did not fund the operations of the Stadium Board. Only later negotiations in the Capitol
would increase the spending cap to the final $266 million and only an application fee
charged to the City and County of Denver for its site submission and a donation from the
Denver Chamber of Commerce would pay for the expenses of the Site Selection
Committee and the Board itself. Ultimately, voters in the six-county area went to the polls
on November 3,1998 to decide whether or not to continue the sales tax that had built
Coors Field to build a new football stadium.
Progress and Setbacks on the Road to the Stadium Measures Passage
Voters in the six-county Denver metropolitan district elected on November 3, 1998,
to tax themselves one-tenth of one-percent on retail sales to raise a total of $266 million
(plus interest) to construct a new stadium, primarily to house the NFL Broncos. The tax
would be a continuation of the tax that had built Coors Field for the National League
Rockies eight years earlier (and which was nearly paid off at the time of the football
53


stadium election). While the margin of victory for stadium proponents was 58% to 42%
and while all of the counties except Boulder returned aggregate yes votes, passage of the
referendum was not a certainty for several reasons. The following historical narrative
outlines the factors and events that contributed both positively and negatively to the
stadium measures outcome. Key elements in the debate included discussions and
debates on the floor of the State Legislature, both teamwork and lack of cooperation
among various local governmental entities, consideration of alternatives to building a new
stadium, rallies and protests by supporters and opponents, legal battles, ballot canvassing,
fund raising and endorsements by groups and individuals.
The Elections That Werent
The Broncos management was eager to hold a referendum as early as possible,
ostensibly because the organization supported the reasons it had given for needing a new
stadium: since the Broncos management claimed that Mile High Stadium was outdated
and that the team could not be profitable until a new building had been constructed, the
franchise naturally wished to have a new facility constructed quickly. The Metropolitan
Football Stadium Board had been mandated and formed in 1996 at the behest of the State
Legislature and had events progressed rapidly, the referendum could have reached voters
as early as November of 1997. But because the referendum also included certain legal
characteristics of an initiative, the measure could not be put on the ballot unless 26,000
valid signatures in support of the referendum could be gathered. (This number was later
raised to 28,700 in 1998 due to new census figures). The deadline for a November
election in Colorado is August and by August of 1997, no one had organized to distribute
petitions. Not only had that deadline passed, but also the deadline set by Site Selection
Committee for cities to propose places to build the new stadium passed virtually unnoticed
54


on April 8, 1997. No city or county had even begun serious discussion of its intent to
propose a site, and the lack of attention given to the Site Selection Committees deadline
was the first indication that that group was not playing a central role in the final proposal
that reached voters. At various points in this historical narrative, there will be interjections
of polling data that correspond to the relevant timeframe. In April 1997, the Ciruli polling
firm showed the ratio of voters for to those against at 41:55. There was discussion about a
May 1998 election, but, again, there had been no organized effort to get signatures for
such an election. Ultimately, the necessary voters endorsements were submitted in
August of 1998, in time for a November 1998 election.
Discussions in the State Legislature
Another factor that contributed to the later date for the referendum election was on-
and-off discussion of stadium particulars in the House and Senate of Colorados
Legislature. Despite creation of the Metropolitan Football Stadium Board in 1996, there
was virtually no attention given to the new stadium measure in the 1997 legislative session.
In October of 1997, various members of the State Legislature (outside the normal session)
discussed using a special state lottery to fund the stadium rather than using a sales tax,
but when the Legislature resumed session in January of 1998, there was no further
discourse on this subject. Then, on February 25, 1998, the State Senate voted on Bill 171
and passed it 20 to 15. A Ciruli poll published on January 27, 1998, showed the ratio of
potential voters for to those against at 53:38. This poll was taken after the Broncos first
Super Bowl victory. Provisions of the legislation included: 1) a retractable dome; 2) a
taxpayer cap of $266 million; 3) a requirement that the Broncos be contractually obligated
to play in the new stadium for 20 years; 4) that the team would have to pay the larger of
$1 million or 2% of the teams value if Pat Bowlen sold the team and that these funds would
55


be earmarked for youth activity programs; 5) a requirement for cooperation between the
Metropolitan Football Stadium District and the Regional Transportation District to provide
for mass transit to and from games at the stadium and 6) to allow the Broncos to sell
naming rights to the stadium and to keep the profits of such a sale. The cap on taxpayer
contributions (item 2 above) was something of a contradiction, however, since legislation
had already capped the Broncos contribution at $100 million and had specified that any
cost overruns would be covered by taxpayers. Then, on March 20, 1998, the Metropolitan
Football Stadium Board officially recommended to the State Legislature that a dome would
be cost prohibitive (item 1 above).
The Colorado House of Representatives took up the Senates bill on April 21, 1998,
and passed their own version with a few revisions: 1) taxpayer cost overruns were capped
at $75 million; 2) moved the discretion to sell naming rights to the new stadium from the
Broncos to the Stadium Board and 3) changed the boundaries of the taxing district, cutting
out most of Douglas County but keeping the potentially lucrative Park Meadows Mall in
Lone Tree. The following day, the State Senate approved a compromise bill 22 to 13, 1)
eliminating the dome requirement, 2) capping taxpayer contributions at $266 million, 3)
requiring that the Stadium Board consider fans desire to keep Mile High as part of the
new stadiums name and 4) officially setting the Broncos share of construction costs at
25% of the total. Governor Roy Romer signed the bill on April 23, 1998, the very next day,
showing his support by fast-tracking the legislation and also giving his personal
endorsement. The Ciruli firms poll of April 22, 1998, showed that 53% of people surveyed
said that they would vote for a new Broncos stadium tax referendum.
While Governor Romer said publicly that he was in support of the new stadium and
the tax to build it, he also later commented that the stadium was a pimple on someones
behind compared to items on the ballot that he considered to be more significant like
56


school funding (Williamson, 1998). Broncos lobbyist Porter Wharton expressed concern
over Romers mixed message (Williamson, 1998). But more tangible than the Governors
comments were actions by certain State Legislature members. After being outvoted in the
Legislature, State Representative Tom Tupa (D., Boulder) and two other State Legislators
attended the rally on May 13, 1998 in downtown Denver that was organized by Citizens
Opposed to Stadium Tax (C.O.S.T.). Then, on May 19, 1998, Tupa and State Senator
Dorothy Rupert supported a rally in Boulder also sponsored by C.O.S.T. Representative
Tupa was the most outspoken legislator against the stadium tax and when the votes were
counted in November 1998, Tupas Boulder was the only county that rejected the measure.
Tupas views either influenced or reflected those of his constituents on the referendum.
Cirulis polling results for May 30, 1998, showed 54% of those surveyed to have expressed
that they would voted for the new stadium.
The City and County of Denvers Experiences with the Stadium Measure
Like the State Legislature, the Denver City Council had dissenters among its body.
While the Council ultimately voted 9 to 2 (with Ted Hackworth and Dennis Gallagher
opposed) to release the Broncos from their lease with the City and to establish a new
agreement, the Citys path to hosting the new stadium was not trouble-free. Until Denver
council members could come to terms with the Broncos and the other parties involved,
there could be no new stadium.
Since Denver held the extant lease with the Broncos in the 1990s and because that
lease required that the team play in the City until 2018, Denver effectively held veto power
over any negotiations taking place. If City and County of Denver officials wanted the
Broncos to stay in Denver (and they did), then no site proposed outside the City and
County had a chance of acceptance because Denver could simply refuse to let the team
57


out of its lease had a site been selected in another county. Patently, the new stadium, if
built, would be built in Denver, but where?
Three sites enjoyed consideration: 1) the place that was at that time occupied by
Mile High Stadium and McNichols arena (the Sports Complex site); 2) the Central Platte
Valley site which was under negotiation with Ascent Entertainment and which would
potentially (and ultimately) become the site of the Pepsi Center and 3) a site on the former
Stapleton Airport complex. As mentioned above, the Metropolitan Football Stadium Board
Site Selection Committees deadline of April 8, 1997 had passed with no sites being
submitted, but Denver Mayor Wellington Webb appointed a committee to debate the merits
of various sites. On May 4, 1997, the Denver committee ruled out the Central Platte Valley
site due to Webbs concerns that ongoing negotiations with Ascent Entertainment might be
compromised by trying to tie in a Broncos stadium site concurrently (Katz and Snell, 1997).
Councilwoman Susan Barnes-Gelt was the primary advocate for the Central Platte Valley
site and she preferred it because it could share parking with the Pepsi Center, would give
fans good access to Downtown, the Elitch Amusement Park and Auraria campus. Barnes-
Gelt later voted to approve the Sports Complex site. Cirulis polling results for May 22,
1998, showed a ratio of stadium supporters to non-supporters at 55:41.
With the Central Platte Valley sites having been ruled out, the only potential
competitor for the Sports Complex site was any of a handful of potential sites on the former
Stapleton Airport grounds. The rejection of the Stapleton sites actually came from outside
the City and County of Denver when the Site Selection Committee ruled out Stapleton. By
State mandate, the Site Selection Committee was required to consult with the Urban Land
Institute and that body concluded on July 30, 1997, that any Stapleton site would require
$80 million in infrastructure costs to reroute traffic from Interstate 70. Odell Barry, Site
58


Selection Committee chairman and Pat Bowlen, Broncos owner, were both disappointed
by this finding since they had both preferred a Stapleton site (Katz and Snel, 1997).
Not all of Denvers City Council members supported the stadium measure, however.
Ted Hackworth and Dennis Gallagher were the two most outspoken opponents and they
were joined for a time by Susan Casey in opposing the stadium. Cathy Reynolds, by
contrast, was the most fervent proponent. Councilman Hackworth criticized Mayor Webb
on April 9, 1998 for using $220,000 of the Citys Mile High fund inappropriately. The Mile
High fund had been earmarked with the provision that it be used to operate and maintain
Mile High Stadium, negotiate with tenants for proposed events, plan and coordinate
events, and pay for security and services during those events. In fact, Mayor Webb used
the $220,000 to pay the Site Selection Committee for consideration of the Denver Sports
Complex site. The Denver City Attorneys office found that the money had been used
inappropriately and subsequently rewrote the description of the budget item so that it could
be used to study the merits of any potential replacement sites for Mile High Stadium.
Councilwoman Casey temporarily derailed the Denver Councils discussion of the
new stadium when she proposed her Babies First measure. Babies First would use
one-tenth of one-percent of sales taxes generated in Denver to fund a childhood
development program that would sponsor nutrition, parenting and brain development in
children under age three. If Caseys measure had passed and had been placed on the
ballot in November of 1998, it would not have ruled out the Broncos stadium measure in
Denver, but it would potentially have competed for the same funds and might have swayed
voters.
After Caseys proposal was defeated, she voted in favor of the Broncos stadium
measure, as did eight other council members. Two (Hackworth and Gallagher) voted
against the deal that ultimately was approved by the Council on August 25, 1998. On
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September 5, 1998, details of the lease were published: 1) Denver sold 80 acres on and
around the current Mile High Stadium for $10 to the Metropolitan Football Stadium Board
(after Councilman Hackworths successful challenge that the original $1 price was not
legal) but the City would get the land back after 25 years; 2) $22 million in infrastructure
improvements would be passed on to the Stadium District (and funded by taxpayers); 3)
the land around McNichols Arena would be cleared for demolition (since the Pepsi Center
deal had been concluded as a replacement venue for the NBA Nuggets and NHL
Avalanche); and 4) Broncos owner Pat Bowlen would have full control of the stadiums
events, would keep most of the profits from NFL- and non-NFL events and would be
guaranteed $30 million in gross revenues derived from the stadium. The Broncos had to
buy out the contracts of concessionaires at Miie High Stadium, were required to pay off
outstanding city bonds on the last stadium seat tax that had paid for the most recent Mile
High renovation, and agreed to pay twenty-five percent of infrastructure improvements
related to the new stadium, for a total of about $40 million. Four months before the
referendum, the City and County of Denver had concluded its negotiations with the
Broncos.
Other Governmental Agencies Experiences with the Stadium Measure
When the State Legislature created the Metropolitan Football Stadium District Board
and its Site Selection Committee, the Legislature placed certain restrictions and obligations
on the bodies, but did not provide them with funding. Odell Barry, Site Selection
Committee Chairman, accused the City and County of Denver of manipulation on July 3,
1997, when his entity still had no operating capital but had significant bills including
$60,000 owed to the Urban Land Institute for fees incurred by State-mandated
consultations with that group (Snel, 1997a). Mayor Wellington Webb countered Barrys
60


accusation that the City needed to review the Site Selection Committees expenditures
before it could pay the $220,000 application fee to have the Denver Sports Complex site
reviewed. As mentioned earlier, Barry also had favored Stapleton as a potential stadium
site, but had to settle for the Sports Complex venue once the Urban Land Institute ruled out
Stapleton as being too expensive (Snel, 1997a).
Similarly, the Metropolitan Football Stadium District Board itself had no operating
capital until January 28, 1998 when the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce raised
$50,000 for the Board to operate. By state law, the Board was not allowed to accept
money from the Broncos or from any cities. The Chamber had raised $75,000 to provide
working funds for the Metropolitan Stadium Board (who negotiated the Coors Field
proposal) years earlier. Later, on March 12, 1998, the Colorado Economic Development
Commission approved a $100,000 loan to the Stadium Board so that it could continue its
operations.
Besides operating capital, the Stadium Board had to overcome additional obstacles.
First, a small scandal arose over the Broncos donation of a luxury suite to the Stadium
Board. While team and government officials tended to consider the donation of the suite a
standard procedure that had been followed in many other venues around the country,
members of Citizens Opposed to Stadium Tax (C.O.S.T.) questioned the practice,
essentially implying favorable treatment by the Board. The Board countered that the luxury
suite would be shared among the six counties in the taxing district to use as they saw fit,
including giving away tickets to charities. At one point in time, the Board was negotiating
one luxury box for each county but settled on one shared box and considered getting that
one box an important negotiating point with the Broncos.
The second obstacle that the Board faced was a lawsuit filed against them by the
City of Lone Tree. When the State Legislature formed the Stadium Districts borders on
61


April 22, 1998, members decided to exclude all of Lone Tree except the Park Meadows
Mall. While the Metropolitan Football Stadium Board had not set the boundaries, they
nevertheless were the agency named in the lawsuit. On October 30, 1998, just four days
before the election, the U.S. District Court ruled that none of Lone Tree would be included
in the taxing district, a benefit for Lone Trees 2800 voters and a cost to the District of an
estimated $2 million over 12 years.
There was one final obstacle for the Board. Where certain State Legislature
members had openly opposed the stadium measure and where the City and County of
Denver had experienced some internal dissent, so too did the Metropolitan Football
Stadium Board. Member Jim Carrigan decided to abstain from voting in the final
deliberation over whether the Board would accept the terms of the new lease with the
Broncos and for that reason, the measure passed unanimously. Carrigan, who, like State
Representative and stadium tax opponent Tom Tupa, hails from Boulder, opposed the use
of a sales tax to fund the stadium project for a private enterprise. Carrigan had grown
more and more opposed to the stadium tax as time progressed because as negotiations
lingered, the taxpayer cost increased from $180 million to almost $270 million. Carrigan
had been suspicious that any early election would be manipulated by the Broncos and felt
that it was immoral to use taxpayer money for a private enterprise since it would involve
opportunity costs that would divert money away from the underprivileged (Snel, 1997b).
Once the measure was settled, however, Carrigan insisted that the Board sell naming
rights to the new stadium to help recover taxpayer costs.
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Proponent and Opponent Groups
Two principal organizations formed on opposite sides of the stadium measure.
Citizens Opposed to Stadium Tax (C.O.S.T.) was comprised of a handful of citizens who
raised a total of $23,800 in funds. Citizens For A New Stadium (CFANS) had more officers
than C.O.S.T. had members, raised $2.3 million (100 times as much as C.O.S.T.) and
gathered 53,000 ballot signatures to place the stadium measure on the November 1998
ballot (Imse, 1998). Two other proponent organizations formed early in the stadium debate
process but had disappeared from media coverage by mid-1998. Presumably, CFANS
was the more effective of the two organizations participating throughout the stadium
discourse and proponents carried the day on November 3, 1998, but it may be illustrative
to note how each organization went about promoting its cause and the challenges that
each side faced.
C.O.S.T. managed to attract the support of a few stadium opponents in influential
positions. Ted Hackworth of the Denver City Council, Jim Carrigan of the Metropolitan
Football Stadium Board, Tom Tupa of the Colorado House of Representatives and State
Senator Dorothy Rupert all worked with C.O.S.T. and publicly opined that the stadium tax
was an unfair measure (based on the philosophy that it was wrong to build a facility for a
private entity with public funds). Two rallies held in May 1998 attracted some media
attention. In a Boulder event, C.O.S.T. members chanted, Pro-Bronco but voting No. In
another, held in downtown Denver, a faux Pat Bowlen wearing a faux fur coat held a sign
that read, Help. Hungry. Will work for luxury boxes. Can you spare $467 million? (Lowe,
1998). The rally attracted about 125 people but one stadium proponent, Rich Goins, sports
commentator for radio station KRFX, also showed up and set a table at the edge of the
rally where he tried to collect petition signatures for the stadium measure.
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Then, in August 1998, C.O.S.T. again came into conflict with Goins and KRFX.
C.O.S.T. held a press conference in front of the radio stations building and claimed that
Jacor Broadcasting, parent company of KRFX and seven other Denver stations, was
unfairly endorsing the stadium referendum. C.O.S.T. claimed that Jacor required all of its
on-air personalities to support the stadium tax, said that Jacor did not provide time for
stadium opponents to speak and alleged that since one of Jacors stations was engaged in
broadcasting Broncos games, any position taken by Jacor was an inherent conflict of
interest. Rich Goins disrupted the C.O.S.T. press conference by engaging in a shouting
match with C.O.S.T.s spokesperson. Jacor was not fined or sanctioned after the C.O.S.T.
actions but did offer C.O.S.T. a half-hour time slot at 6:30 Sunday mornings to air its views.
While KRFXs broadcaster did not face any sanction for his part in the C.O.S.T. conflict,
another broadcaster, Tia Marlier of Colorado Public Radio, was not allowed to go on air for
about a month after she participated in a commercial for CFANS; where Jacor was found
not to have a conflict of interest, the individual broadcaster was.
On the same day (August 4, 1998) that C.O.S.T. was holding its press conference
outside KRFX, CFANS turned in 53,000 petition signatures to place the referendum cum
initiative on the November 1998 ballot, eclipsing the required 28,700 signatures. CFANS
chairman Bill Artists strategy was to execute a grass-roots campaign rather than to allow
his organization to be portrayed as an electoral tool of Pat Bowlen and the Broncos. While
$1.4 million of CFANSs $2.3 million did come from Pat Bowlen, Artist emphasized that
there were several small contributors monetarily, but more importantly, that hundreds of
volunteers had collected petition signatures. CFANS was given access to the Broncos
Quarterback Club list that gave names and addresses of thousands of Broncos season
ticket holders and fans. With this list, CFANS volunteers then asked members to circulate
petitions with the goal that each would gather ten signatures. In this way, the signature-
64


gaining campaign was run on a personal and individual level rather than being a top-down
effort guided by the Broncos organization.
Other strategies that Artist said (in the newspapers) were effective for CFANS were
to avoid using the threat of the teams relocation as a bludgeon and to keep Pat Bowlen
out of the campaign as a spokesperson. CFANS had decided that talk that the Broncos
would leave Denver if the stadium measure failed would backfire in their effort to gain
support for the referendum; the organization felt that a heavy-handed approach would lead
some voters to refuse the stadium in reaction. Likewise, Pat Bowlen had gained a
reputation among some people as a Canadian millionaire who wore an ostentatious fur
coat on the sidelines at Broncos games and for this and similar reasons, CFANS sought to
keep the Broncos owner out of the spotlight.
Actions by Individuals on the Stadium Measure
Besides actions by organized groups and public officials for and against the stadium
referendum, two incidents by stadium opponents may have shaped public opinion to an
extent. In the first of these, Alvertis Simmons, head of the Denver segment of the Million
Man March, said in February 1997 that he would organize a grass-roots campaign against
the stadium sales tax unless there could be guarantees of set-aside construction contracts
for African-American workers. In contrast to Simmons contentions, Denver Mayor
Wellington Webb (who is also an African-American) said that the Broncos organization had
done everything that had been asked of them with regard to community programs in
minority communities in Denver (Martinez, 1998). Moreover, on October 29, 1998, a group
of African-American ministers and business leaders endorsed the new stadium because
they claimed that with African-American owners in charge of the architectural and general
contractor teams, African-American workers would be employed in construction of the new
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stadium (Griego, 1998). The Ciruli poll of October 30, 1998, found that 58% of those
surveyed were in support of the new stadium. On October 31,1998, Reverend Acen
Phillips and twenty other ministers sent out young members of their churches to spread the
word that people should support the new stadium.
The second action by an individual in opposition to the stadium tax took place on
March 25, 1998, when civic activist Tico Embury planned a state-wide initiative to amend
the State Constitution. Stadium support compared to opposition was running at 57:39,
according to a March 19, 1998 Ciruli poll. In Emburys initiative, there would have been a
requirement that any public funds used to build a sports stadium could not be given to an
entity that prohibits public ownership. Only one team in the NFL, the Green-Bay Packers,
is publicly owned, so by Emburys initiative, the Broncos would have been barred from
receiving public funds. The initiative failed to gain enough signatures to qualify for the
ballot.
Renovation of Mile High Stadium
While decision-makers were discussing the merits of using public funds to build a
new stadium, certain individuals proposed the alternative idea of renovating Mile High
Stadium to bring it up to modern standards and to satisfy the Broncos desire for a more
profitable venue. In February 1997, Stuart Ohlson, a local architect, proposed that the
existing structure of Mile High Stadium which had the previous year been found to be
structurally sound could be wrapped with 600,000 square feet of luxury suites,
restaurants and retail stores. Ohlson presented his case to the Denver City Council where
he found support in Councilman Ted Hackworth. Ohlson then made a presentation to the
Site Selection Committee where the Chairman, Odell Barry, stated that a renovated Mile
High Stadium would not be adequate (Katz, 1997). In Ohlsons estimate, the cost of
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renovation would have been about $130 million. Subsequent estimates by HOK Sport
(designers of Coors Field and the Pepsi Center and official consultants to the Site
Selection Committee) placed the renovation figure at about $210 million. By April 1997,
Mayor Webb may have been entertaining the idea of renovating Mile High Stadium and
had tasked the City with creating a study to explore the merits of Ohlson's plan, which by
that time had increased in cost to $189 million. The Ciruli poll of April 4, 1997, indicated a
support to opposition ratio of the new stadium at 41:55. The City and County of Denver
spent $155,000 to pay architectural firm HOK to study Ohlsons plan. Broncos owner Pat
Bowlen and NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue opposed the renovation scheme, however.
The Stadium Board also officially ruled out a renovation plan in January of 1998.
Architecture for the New Stadium
The Metropolitan Football Stadium Board was tasked with selecting the architects for
the new stadium. On February 11, 1998, the Board met in closed session and narrowed
the field of potential designers to two: HOK and HNTB-Fentress, Bradburn. Members of
C.O.S.T. protested the closed-door session but the Board countered that they needed to
act in privacy. Of the two firms, HOK seemed to hold a favorable position since that firm
had designed Coors Field and the Pepsi Center, had been the firm to study Denvers
examination of a Mile High Stadium renovation and were the official consultants to the Site
Selection Committee. HOK had also designed ten NFL stadiums. HNTB-Fentress,
Bradburn did not have the national experience of HOK but unlike the other, Kansas City-
based firm, HNTB had had a Denver office for 24 years, had hired local partner Fentress,
Bradburn and had designed the Colorado Convention Center and the tent-roof structure of
the Denver International Airport.
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When the Board selected HNTB, though, the main reasons given were two. First,
HNTB would have 80% local participation, whereas HOK would not have any principal
participants in Denver during construction. Second, HNTB, in contrast to HOKs five
Caucasian male presenters, featured minority and women among its principal architects
(Anonymous, 1998a).
Endorsements
No groups endorsed a position of opposition to the new stadium, but a few gave their
endorsement of support. As far as endorsements by individuals, no policy makers except
those noted previously came out against the stadium and a select group endorsed the
stadium once negotiations between parties had been completed.
On October 7, 1998, the Colorado chapter of the AFL-CIO failed to endorse the new
stadium but stopped short of urging its members to vote against the referendum. The
issue at hand for the AFL-CIO was that the construction company, Turner Construction -
Empire Construction, would not be paying prevailing union wages and would hire union
employees for only 50 55 percent of the work. The union represented about 95,000
workers in the six-county referendum district. On October 13, 1998 the Police Protective
Association gave its official endorsement. Both of Denvers local newspapers endorsed
the stadium measure and local notables such as Denver Mayor Wellington Webb,
Colorado Governor Roy Romer and Quarterback John Elway backed the stadium
referendum.
Miscellaneous Factors in the Referendum Discussion
A few issues pertinent to the discourse came forth during the last days of referendum
debate. First was the threat that Broncos games could be broadcast on pay-per-view
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rather than over-the-air. On September 26, 1998, the State Legislature built into the
stadium ballot measure a provision that the Broncos could not charge for access to
broadcasts of home games. This guarantee was virtually moot, however, since the NFLs
official policy was that they would not use pay-per-view since they had deemed that pay
broadcasting would alienate fans and diminish their base of support.
On October 4, 1998, the Metropolitan Football Stadium Board required the Broncos
to accept wording in their new lease that would make seat licenses possible. Under a seat
licensing program, fans would be charged a per-seat fee that was separate from and in
addition to the price of the ticket for that seat. The Broncos organization did not want to
use seat licenses since they felt that such a measure would probably alienate fans, but the
Board required the language in order to provide a fallback revenue stream to pay off
stadium cost overruns in case the Broncos fell under difficult financial times (Imse, 1998b).
The Metropolitan Football Stadium Board had been holding public forums during the
discussion process and had received input from citizens about what they would like to see
in a new stadium. Among the issues and amenities were to (Kirksey, 1998):
Clean up the traffic mess that exists on game days on
Interstate 25 and in the vicinity of Mile High Stadium.
Give preference to local firms to manage the facility.
Build a field large enough to accommodate soccer
matches and track-and-field events.
Have a seating capacity of 100,000 so it might be used for
a future Olympics.
Include office space for the Broncos and the Colorado
Rapids soccer club.
Build a facility where the fans are close to the action and
the noise they make is magnified.
Have "potty parity" for women.
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Build a stadium where you can see the field, even if you're
sitting behind someone who is tall.
Several of these features were built into the design of the new stadium and its environs.
More important, though, fan input into the new stadium demonstrated that policymakers
were soliciting public input and heeding that input by building public suggestions into the
stadium design.
The final issue regarding the new football stadium involved the decision over
whether or not to sell naming rights. The State Legislature had given the decision to the
Metropolitan Football Stadium Board but had required that the Board consider fans desire
to keep the name Mile High. On January 29, 2001, seven months before the first event at
the new stadium (an Eagles concert on August 11, 2001), the Board sold the naming rights
to the Invesco Corporation for $60 million to offset the $266 million cost to taxpayers. The
new stadium was officially Invesco Field @ Mile High.
Conclusion
In retrospect, it may seem natural that the stadium measure would have passed,
considering the recent history of success with Coors Field and the Pepsi Center, with the
general health of the local economy and with the winning record of the Broncos on the
field. While one should not overlook the longer history of Denver with respect to using
public money to build or expand a stadium, events and conditions in the mid- 1990s seem
to have facilitated passage of the Broncos stadium measure. The evidence that: 1) voters
had turned down some previous bond measures; 2) that there was debate about whether
or not there was need for a new stadium (since the old one could possibly have been
renovated) and 3) that threats of pay-per-view and relocation may have colored the
discussion; these all may have indicated that the outcome was not a certainty. On the
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other hand, the stadium enjoyed endorsements by public officials and local celebrities,
petition-gatherers easily exceeded the number of signatures needed to qualify the measure
on the ballot, and the referendum cleared the Legislature by an overall ratio of 58:42 (and
ultimately was passed by referendum voters by exactly the same ratio).
This historical account points out certain factors that prove important in the overall
debate and they will be related in more detail in Chapters Six and Seven (Discussion and
Conclusion). First, this history suggests that the site had to be located in Denver; since the
City and County of Denver held the lease on the Broncos place of residence through 2018,
Denver held a trump card in negotiations: they could simply refuse to release the Broncos
lease unless the new stadium were built in Denver. Second, there was relatively little
rancor among elected political officials, with most supporting the measure except two or
three Denver City Council members, one Metropolitan Football Stadium Board member
and a few members of the State Legislature. Third, this historical account intimates that
proponent organizations may have been much more effective than those of opponents.
Fourth, potential obstacles to passage took place on the sidelines, not in the center of the
field. The exclusion of the Park Meadows Mall from the taxing district, the suspension of
one broadcaster and chastisement of another, and the non-endorsement of local labor
unions comprise the extent of spectacle surrounding the referendums discourse (with a
handful of other minor examples). Fifth, and finally, while the fact that the State Legislature
failed to fund the Site Selection Committee and Metropolitan Football Stadium Board could
have led to a complete inability on their part to do business, the fact that the Denver
Chamber of Commerce and the City and County of Denver ultimately made the Committee
and Board solvent could have made them beholden to the people paying their bills. As
with the other observations made in the conclusion of this chapter, this final point will be
discussed in greater detail in the Discussion and Conclusion chapters.
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Summary of Polling Data Reported in the Newspapers
The Ciruli polling firm kept track of voter support for the new stadium measure
during 1997 and 1998. For the most part, these public opinion polls revealed very
consistent numbers with one exception. First, up until January 11, 1998, support for the
referendum hovered at around 41% for and 55% against. Then, suddenly, in late January
1998, the numbers changed dramatically and support went up to between 51% and 53%
while opposition dipped to about 38%. January 22, 1998 is the date on which the Denver
Broncos won Super Bowl XXXII, their first world championship, and it is hard to imagine
that any other event could have explained the spike in poll-indicated support for the new
stadium. By March 1998, support for the referendum rose to 57% or 58%, dipped to 53%
or 54% in April and May 1998, and then reached a plateau of about 57% in October 1998,
according to Ciruli results. The stadium measure passed on November 3, 1998 with 58%
voting for and 42% voting against.
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CHAPTER 4
METHODS
Overview
This dissertation examines why voters in Colorados 1998 referendum decided to
tax themselves to build a new stadium for the National Football Leagues Denver Broncos.
The literature section (Chapter Two) examines three competing theories for the study of
why a citys citizens choose to build facilities for private enterprises using public money and
the methods selected and depicted here provide a means by which to evaluate the
effectiveness of those three competing theories. Why did voters approve the stadium:
was it because they believed that the Denver metropolitan area would benefit
economically? was it because they felt that a new stadium would be necessary to keep the
Broncos in the city and that without the Broncos, Denvers city image or city pride would
somehow be seriously damaged? and did the process by which the measure came to the
ballot resemble the workings of an urban regime? Which of these three theories provides
the best answer in this particular case, and once this answer is known, what inferences
can be drawn about how referenda in Denver pass or fail?
The economics-oriented literature suggests that cities do not benefit economically
when they spend public funds to host a professional sports franchise (Hudson, 1999;
Rosentraub, 1997; Swindell and Rosentraub, 1998 and Burke, 1997), but in an initiative or
referendum, the key is what voters believe. Did voters give approval because they felt that
as individuals they would benefit monetarily? Perhaps voters were not private regarding
in their decision but were more public regarding (Brodsky and Thompson, 1993) and
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decided collectively that the Denver economy would glean monetary benefits after
investing public money in the new stadium. Alternatively, as another relevant vein of the
literature points out, city pride or city image may play a significant factor in forming public
policy, specifically when a stadium-building debate looms (Swindell and Rosentraub, 1998;
Bergman, 1999; Brown and Paul, 2000; Riess, 1998). Did metro Denver voters consider
city image or city pride when they opted to tax themselves? Finally, as the initiative and
referendum literature indicates, by the time voters make their decisions, the language of
the ballot has already been determined and the only options left are yes or no (Walker,
2003; Romer and Rosenthal, 1979). That is, whatever public discussion, competition
between or cooperation amongst elites, political battles, coalition forming and fund raising
that has occurred up to the point of the actual vote is what forms the final shape of the
measure. What the people are deciding on is just as significant as which way they vote.
Consequently, the nature of the process leading to the final wording is critical to
understanding the entire picture. From the urban regime literature, urban regime theory
has taken the lead as a means by which to examine urban public policy formation in
general and cities experiences with stadium-building specifically (Stone and Sanders,
1987; Neill, 1995; Bachelor, 1998; Pelissero et al, 1991; Hudson, 1999; Rosentraub, 1998;
Rich, 1998). Part of the urban regime literature includes an assessment of how unified are
the elites (Zaller, 1992; Brown and Paul, 2001) and to what extent do elites control
information flow (Cox (in Lauria), 1999; Pincetl (in Jonas and Wilson), 1999)? In Denvers
case, to what extent did the coalitions for and against the stadium tax resemble an urban
regime?
The three lines of reasoning outlined above led to the three hypotheses for this
thesis. One goal of this dissertation is to answer why voters approved the stadium
measure and a why question might imply that research questions rather than hypotheses
74


would be appropriate. A second goal is to identify characteristics in this case study that
may help to explain and predict other cases in which Denver-area voters are faced with a
referendum. Again, research questions might be the usual course of action. Finally,
though, a third research goal is to compare three competing theories for their efficacy in
this particular case. By stating the three veins of research as hypotheses, it becomes
easier later to assess which of them was most effective. By using hypotheses rather than
research questions, nothing is lost in the first two goals (answering why voters approved
the measure and enriching the case data for other Denver referendum studies) and the
hypothesis approach facilitates a comparative evaluation of competing theories.
Hypotheses
H-,: Voters in the Metropolitan Football Stadium District demonstrated a belief that the
Denver area would benefit monetarily from investing public funds to build the
private stadium.
H2: Voters demonstrated their belief that hosting the Broncos contributes to Denvers city
image and that failing to build a new stadium would result in a loss of the team and
a loss in city image.
H3: Because the coalition that supported the new Broncos stadium embodied the
characteristics of an urban regime, it was more effective than the opponent
coalition.
Nature of the Research
The three hypotheses obviate the nature of this research. H, and H2 consider the
beliefs that voters held at the time they went to the polls and answers to these questions
required exploratory methods. H3 surmises that proponents formed a stronger coalition
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than opponents because they enjoyed the characteristics that define an urban regime, a
lack of significant opposition by elected officials, unification of the elites that determined
site placement, a tendency for policy makers to reason by solution sets, and greater control
of resources by the growth-oriented than the growth-opposed. Because H3 required an
analysis of the relative strengths of proponent and opponent organizations, it necessitated
research methods that, like H, and H2, could explore various possibilities.
This is a case study comprised of a single case. Case studies can use
quantitative, qualitative or combined methodology (Yin, 1994) and this research relied on a
combined structure. Tashakkori and Teddlie (2003) advocate that mixed methodology is
sometimes appropriate in the social sciences, and more specifically advise that mixed
methodology can provide stronger conclusions than methods that use only quantitative or
qualitative means. Since H! and H2 concern the beliefs that voters held at the time that
they cast their ballots, it was crucial to select a set of methods that could operationalize
voters thoughts. Similarly, H3 required an appropriate methodology, but for this
hypothesis, the set of methods was different and sought to quantify and qualify the nature
of the coalitions that formed on each side of the stadium-building issue.
Several people involved in the stadium debate made their views known through
the local newspapers. The sponsor and backers of Senate Bill 171 used the Denver Post,
the Rocky Mountain News and The Colorado Springs Gazette as means to express their
opinions on the merits of the stadium tax and, naturally, their opponents did, also. Voters,
too, expressed their personal opinions through letters to the editors. Direct quotations in
the pertinent newspaper articles provided further evidence of the beliefs in the minds of
voters and policy makers. Furthermore, accounts in the local papers provided background
information into the nature, composition and strengths of the groups working for and
against referendum passage.
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The three papers also published public opinion polls, a time-honored method for
gauging beliefs of voters. Public opinion polls were conducted by three independent
polling firms (two of which appeared in the papers) and indicated the likelihood of the
referendums passage at various points during the discussion. These polls cross-sorted
data based on demographics, geography and political affiliation. In addition to reporting on
the general health of the stadium measure as reported in the newspapers, the polls also
served as a tool for the proponent organization, CFANS, to target certain voters and to give
the organization information on how to set certain strategies for their campaign.
This information was obtained in an interview with a CFANS member and such
interviews with key informants comprise a significant portion of this research. More details
of each of the three methods (text analysis of newspaper articles, statistical analysis of
public opinion polls and interviews with informed participants) follow in the next sections.
The interviews provided a means to compare what was reported in the newspapers with
what policy makers and coalition members revealed about the process to bring the
referendum to ballot and what were the factors that influenced voters.
Phase One: Text Analysis of Newspaper Articles
The means of processing data from printed mass media has traditionally consisted
of content analysis. Content analysis is a method by which a researcher assigns values to
certain units of a piece of media (printed, spoken, broadcast, etc.) and then analyzes those
values based on his or her research goals. Kumar (1996) considers this method to be an
initial, question-finding step, while Yin (1994) labels the process of accumulating data from
secondary sources survey research. Bernard (2000: 456) argues that content analysis
is concerned with testing hypotheses, usually, but not always, quantitatively, and that this
requires creating a set of codes and applying those codes systematically to a set of
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texts. Evans (1998: 161) writes that, content analysis has played an important role in
research programs that explore the relationship between news content and public opinion
and behavior.
The intent of this dissertation was to use content analysis as a starting point from
which the other research methods could build and a caveat must be presented here. While
content analysis reveals the meaning behind the content that is analyzed, conclusions
drawn from this methodology oftentimes are not accepted to extend beyond the scope of
the content, itself. Some scholars writing in the content analysis field have begun to
establish connections between printed media and voter opinion, however. One school of
thought discusses strategic coverage (which focuses not on issues but what candidates
and issue proponents are doing by means of strategy and on who is ahead in a race).
Strategic coverage scholars have shown in early empirical research that there may be a
link between news and voter cynicism (Patterson, 1993; Ansolabehere and Iyengar, 1995;
Cappella and Jamieson, 1997) if the news focuses on winning rather than on issues. On
the positive side of the news coverage ledger, Norris (2000) finds that greater news
coverage of political debates engages the public and informs voters and Valentino,
Beckmann and Buhr (2001) find that the medias tendency to instill cynicism diminishes
when voters are more engaged and politically more sophisticated. While both sides in the
debate of the medias coverage of political contests agree that there is an effect on voters
caused by what is reported to them, it is not possible to reach a conclusion at this point
about whether the effect is positive or negative. In this research, then, the content of
newspapers will be assumed to extend no farther than the content, itself, since the studies
linking newspaper content and measurable effects on voter opinion are still nascent.
More specifically germane to gauging public opinion, some scholars have
conducted empirical studies using content analysis to determine shifts in public opinion
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during a specific referendum or initiative campaign. deVreese and Semetko (2002)
employed a content analysis of 140 newspaper front pages as part of an analysis of
Danish voters opinions in 2000 toward joining the European Union. In the Danish study,
the researchers coded political articles for content that related to strategic coverage and
the scale of that coding was dichotomous (as is the scaling for the content analysis of this
thesis). The researchers then compared responses to a panel survey of about 1000
people before and after the respondents exposure to the same newspaper front-page
stories that deVreese and Semetko had analyzed for content. The goal was to measure
the effects of news coverage on the respondents' political cynicism. The researchers
found that respondents who had read more of the news stories were more cynical about
the campaign issues. Pertinent to this researchs design, an empirical study measured the
effects of content on voter opinion. This suggests some connection exists between
newspaper accounts and public opinion but does not use the content analysis, itself, as the
measure of that public opinion.
In another empirical study, Joslyn and Haider-Markel (2000) conducted a
newspaper content analysis and an analysis of spending by proponents and opponents of
a 1997 Washington State gun restriction initiative. The researchers sought to investigate
the effects of the information environment on voters opinion (Joslyn and Haider-Markel,
2000: 355). Much like deVreese and Semetko (2002), Joslyn and Haider-Markel (2000)
used a survey instrument administered before a political campaign and then measured
how content in The Seattle Times newspaper coverage affected public opinion as
measured by a survey instrument administered after the campaign. The Washington
researchers concluded that newspaper coverage was skewed in favor of gun control
opponents and that that skew cause a shift in voter opinion.
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Because there is no pre-test, post-test design built into this thesis, the content
analysis can provide information only about what the newspapers said about the stadium-
building debate, not necessarily what voters, in general, believed and perceived.
Nevertheless, the Colorado newspaper articles contained a wealth of information about the
Denver Broncos stadium debate. In fact, a background of the entire discourse can be
traced through accounts in the three papers used here. Much of the History chapter was
written after reading hundreds of newspaper articles about the chronology of sports in
Denver, about how the Legislature arrived at the proposal that went before voters and
about the discussion that took place once it was clear that there would be a stadium
referendum. As Kumar (1996) writes, content analysis is often an initial step to other
research and Bernard (2000) adds that content analysis need not always be quantitative.
The methods used to perform a content analysis in this research are described in the
subsequent paragraphs, but it is important to mention here that a significant amount of
qualitative data emerged while conducting the quantitative analysis. While much of this is
discussed in Chapter Five (Findings), the part that pertains to how the qualitative aspects
of the analysis influenced the quantitative aspects is essential to preface.
First, a qualitative reading of newspaper articles on the Broncos stadium
referendum provided a contextual grounding from which to work: in other words, the
articles provided background. Second, all of the variables that were later tested in a
quantitative fashion emerged from a careful reading of the articles followed by categorizing
them and then combining some of those categories. Third, the names of key informants
came forth from this initial reading and many of the interviews in the next research method
took place with people identified in newspaper articles. Fourth, it was important to
understand, qualitatively, who was making certain quotations that newspaper reporters
included in their stories. If a clear stadium opponent praises the leader of the proponent
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organization, for instance, that quotation carries a certain amount of weight when analyzing
which side was better organized.
Taking the two words, "quantitative and "qualitative, literally, the quantitative
analysis provided a quantity to measure while the qualitative analysis qualified that
measure. It was important to know how many people expressed that the stadium tax was
unfair so that that sentiment could be compared to the number of people who expressed
that the Broncos bolster Denvers city image. But it was also important to qualify that
comparison so that questions of what does that mean? and why were they saying that?
could also be answered. Similarly, it is one thing to be able to conclude that there was a
strong expression that the new stadium would involve opportunity costs, but one can
strengthen that conclusion if one can show that, at least in the newspapers, thirteen of
fourteen people quoted expressed exactly that sentiment. A discussion of qualitative
results follows in the Findings chapter while a description of the quantitative methods
follows in this chapter.
Guidance from the researchers advisory committee prior to beginning this
research directed that there would be a content analysis but that it most likely would focus
on the nature of Denvers potential urban regime. The content analysis portion of this
research consists of an analysis of direct quotations by people interviewed in newspaper
articles and in letters to the editor. The articles were selected for relevance to the research
questions, so, for example, an article about the Broncos likelihood of reaching the playoffs
in 1998 was not relevant and was not selected, but an article that included the claims made
by proponents and opponents regarding job creation in the 1998 Denver referendum would
have been included. The articles were selected from Denvers two major daily newspapers
and Colorado Springs major paper and comprised all of the articles published in 1997 and
1998. Both qualitative and quantitative techniques were employed, but this section
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concentrates on the quantitative methods. Findahl and Hoijer (in Rosengren, 1981: 111)
write that:
Content analysis aims to do much more than simply relate
or narrate a story or program. Rather, content analysis
sets out to characterize, to condense and elucidate the
content, to bring out the essentials or to point out certain
typical characteristics.
Krippendorff (1980) outlines how content analysis studies may unitize larger
quantities of text into manageable segments. First, Krippendorff (1980) reports that the
content analyst must choose the sampling units, the segments selected from the whole
text. In this case, there was no sampling (other than sorting for relevance); all of the
pertinent articles were included. Specifically, there were 287 articles from the Denver Post,
the Rocky Mountain News and The Colorado Springs Gazette during 1997 and 1998 that
contained one or more direct quotations or letters to the editor. In those 287 articles, there
were 568 pertinent quotations. Once all the articles had been gathered and selected for
relevance, a database was created that included several useful tracking features such as
the full text of the article, the text of the direct quotation, the speakers name, the speakers
affiliation, the date, etc. These were record-keeping steps used to facilitate later analysis.
Then, the articles were read to identify relevant subject matter and to organize
themes into categories. The articles contained two necessary items: the pertinent subject
and the speakers stance on that subject. In other words, what was the speaker talking
about (the Subject Matter Variable) and was it a positive or negative statement (the Subject
Matter Value)? Shoemaker and Reese (1991) advise that content analysis designed to
examine humanistic questions should use a combination of qualitative and quantitative
methods, qualitative to discern the original content and quantitative to compare the content
findings. Krippendorff (1980) refers to this step of the unitizing process as selecting the
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"recording units. Based on the theoretic literature and the guiding hypotheses of this
research, certain variables were both obvious and expected. For instance, we expected to
see references to Denvers city image. One example is this quotation: Denver is
definitely considered a second-tier city. This particular quotation was entered in the
database with a Subject Matter Variable of Broncos presence in Denver bolsters city
image but with a Subject Matter Value of Negative since the speakers statement shows
her opinion that Denver has not achieved world-class status. A contrasting example would
be this quotation: This involves more than just a football team. It involves the entire city
and the entire area. Let's play in the majors. This quotation was also codified in the
database as Broncos presence in Denver bolsters city image but its value is Positive
since the speakers intent is that the Broncos do contribute to Denvers city image.
Krippendorff terms this final part of the unitizing process setting the context units.
Riffe, Lacy and Fico (1998: 75) provide classification system requirements that
outline the five necessary qualifications for context units if they are to adhere to a standard
of reliability. First, theory must drive the selection of the variables (e.g., The new stadium
would create new jobs in Denver is derived from the economics literature on stadium
building). Second, classification systems must be mutually exclusive. In this thesis, this
requirement was satisfied by selecting individual quotations as the context units, rather
than everything a particular speaker might have said in an article. So, if a speaker made a
reference to the Broncos influence on Denvers city image and to the appropriateness of
the taxing district boundaries, those two sentiments would have been treated as two
separate context units. Third, according to Riffe, Lacy and Fico (1998), categories must be
exhaustive, meaning that all pieces of content used must fit into the analysis pre-defined
classification system and that there should be no instances of dumping units into a
miscellaneous or other category. This researchs context units all fall into one of the 21
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categories; there is no miscellaneous category because only articles with relevant
quotations were included. Fourth, classification of units must be independent so that
placing a recording unit in one category does not affect the placement of other units (Riffe,
Lacy and Fico, 1998: 76). Variables in this content analysis are independent. Finally,
Each category should have a single classification principle that separates different levels
of analysis (Riffe, Lacy and Fico, 1998: 77). To satisfy this requirement, variables were
grouped by Variable Cluster (see Table 4.1). For example, where the stadium was to be
built was a different level of analysis than whether it would bring general economic benefits
to the region, so variables are clustered appropriately.
Table 4.1: Variables used in the text analysis
Subject Matter Variable Variable Cluster Hypothesis
New stadium would bring economic benefits Economic benefits of the new stadium Economics
New stadium would create jobs Economic benefits of the new stadium Economics
Stadium tax involves opportunity costs Economic benefits of the new stadium Economics
The referred measure is fair Economic benefits of the new stadium Economics
The Broncos need to replace, not renovate, Mile High Stadium Renovation versus replacement Economics
Alternative funding is favorably considered Alternatives to sales tax Economics
Threat of pay-per-view could jeopardize vote Threats Economics
Threat of teams relocation to another city affects vote Threats Economics
Broncos presence in Denver bolsters city image City image and community involvement City Image / Pride
Proponents show an advantage over opponents Proponents better organized Urban Regime
Policymakers facilitate moving the measure to ballot Political process is transparent Urban Regime
Broncos use free tickets to gain influence Political process is transparent Urban Regime
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Table 4.1 (Cont)
Subject Matter Variable Variable Cluster Hypothesis
Debate is open and above-board Political process is transparent Urban Regime
Stadium debate utilizes solution sets Political process is transparent Urban Regime
The boundaries of the taxing district are appropriate Political process is transparent Urban Regime
Central Platte Valley site is favorably considered Sports Complex site is the best location Urban Regime
Stapleton site is favorably considered Sports Complex site is the best location Urban Regime
Denver Sports Complex is favorably considered Sports Complex site is the best location Urban Regime
Teams win/loss record affects outcome of vote Wins and losses of team Other
Stadium creates neighborhood problems Neighborhood problems Other
Endorsement by a celebrity supports passage Celebrity endorsement Other
There were 21 variables identified in the text analysis, 18 of which pertained to the
thesis hypotheses and three of which did not. (These three arose after a careful reading
of all of the newspaper articles and there were enough references to them that they were
deemed worthy of mention in the analysis). There were eight variables that had relevance
to Ht, the economics hypothesis, nine that related to H3, the urban regime hypothesis, and
just one that pertained to H2, city image. The three variables that represented quotations
found in the newspaper articles that did not pertain to the three hypotheses were 1) that
the Broncos win/loss record on the field affected the referendums chances of passage; 2)
that a stadium creates neighborhood problems; and 3) that endorsement by a well known
figure would support passage of the referendum. These variables are treated in Chapter 5
(Discussion).
Table 4.1 above details the 21 variables, their Variable Cluster and the hypothesis
to which they pertain. Because the research required a value (positive or negative) to be
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assigned to each variable, the text of the Subject Matter Variables, themselves, had to
indicate a direction. For example, the variable Stapleton site is favorably considered was
coded Positive when the speaker indicated that his or her opinion that the former
Stapleton Airport complex would make a suitable site for the new stadium or Negative
when the speaker indicated that Stapleton would be too expensive or too remote, etc.
Holsti (1969) uses the term enumeration to describe this step of the content analysis
process: choosing the means by which the content will be counted. If the speaker
expressed a preference for one of the other sites (e.g., the Central Platte Valley site), then
that variable would have been the one coded, not the Stapleton variable. Because the
process to bring the referendum before the voters included political debates, the variables
used in this example (in the Sports Complex site is the best location variable cluster)
serve to show how unified policy makers were or were not in their ultimate decision to
locate the potential new stadium at the Denver Sports Complex site. Similarly, the variable
Policymakers facilitate moving the measure to ballot has a direction and pertains to the
urban regime hypothesis because it helps to measure the level of cooperation between
elected officials and the Broncos a finding of cooperation would strengthen the argument
for an urban regime in Denver.
Krippendorff (1980) stresses that the researcher must choose a unitizing scheme
appropriate to his or her research questions. While it is sometimes appropriate to use
single words as the context unit, this method tends to increase reliability at the expense of
interesting findings. Using larger context units (such as a person's direct quotation as
done in this research) can lead to a richer depth of findings, but at the cost of diminished
reliability, according to Krippendorff (1980). A single word would be an example of a
syntactical unit and [does] not require judgments in meaning (Krippendorff, 1980: 61)
while a persons opinion toward Denvers win/loss record and its potential effect on the
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