Screen tech at Empower Field shows its age compared to other stadiums around the NFL

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Broncos’ Thuundervision alongside Atlanta Falcons’ halo screen. (Photo Credit: Daktronics)

DENVER (KDVR) — Though the Broncos have made sporadic improvements to different parts of their stadium throughout the years, the 20-year-old stadium shows its age compared to some other team stadium rebuilds and new screen technology.  

Cashless payments, autonomous self-checkout and other contactless ways to participate in game-day fun are a few of the upgrades Empower Field at Mile High has done in recent years. 

FOX31 wanted to dig in to learn about the latest tech and what kind of an investment it would be.

Football is about the competition but it doesn’t stop at the score; The look and feel of the stadium can also prompt even the most loyal fans to look over their shoulder at other team venues.   

Will Ellerbruch is the sales director for Daktronics. It’s a South Dakota-based company that manufactures big video screens often used for sporting venues. He’s an expert in stadium tech. 

“We try to build them for a 10-year lifespan, but you have a lot of people like ooh, I want to go bigger,” said Ellerbruch about a big screen typically called a Jumbotron. “It really adds the fan enhancement, because it’s something unique — you’re not going to see that at home; You’re gonna go down to that stadium and go, ‘Wow, that’s pretty cool. I want to come back and watch a game.'”

The company even built the Denver Broncos’ “Thundervision” back in 2013, but the screen is nearing that 10-year expiration date. 

Broncos spokesperson Patrick Smyth said:

We invest significant resources on an ongoing basis into making Empower Field at Mile High one of the top stadiums in all of sports and entertainment. This includes a $30 million upgrade in 2013, and, more recently, a significant investment in technology/WiFi to make it one of the most mobile-friendly venues in the world. We’re also in the process of upgrading our premium spaces, including club level and suites. 

We continue to be committed to ensuring Empower Field at Mile High remains one of the top venues in sports and entertainment and have planned accordingly for that investment. We enjoyed hosting a group from FIFA at Empower Field at Mile High in October and are proud to be a candidate host venue for the 2026 World Cup.

Denver Broncos Spokesperson

The price range is very broad. You could expect to pay $100,000 for a video board that fits a high school gym or high school football stadium. Something like the 360 halo screen and all the other screens at the Atlanta Falcons stadium was about a $30 million project. 

Ellerbruch estimates a $5- to $6-million investment for an average video system today. 

A standout stadium takes some foresight, though. 

“How do I build my display and it’s gonna last as the technology upgrades in the TV world or the movie world starts building better videos?” Ellerbruch said. “We then try and look into the crystal ball and go hey, this is what this stadium would like to have.”  

Some of the latest teams to move into the future are The San Francisco 49ers, Minnesota Vikings, Detroit Lions and Atlanta Falcons.  

The Atlanta Falcons’ halo screen is a recent addition. It’s a 360-degree screen that allows fans to view the screen from pretty much any seat.  

Daktronics builds screens using 1-foot x 1-foot panels they use as building blocks to create a screen in any shape.

The dome stadium has a roof that opens and closes throughout the season.  

“That was unique, but [there was] designing the board to hang on a roof that moves in and out. So there was a lot of engineering that goes into building not only the roof structure but the video board to hang. Then as that building moves around, the video board moves, so we didn’t want our board to crush itself as it expanded and contracted when the roof moves. So there was a lot of engineering that goes into making something like that happen,” said Ellerbruch. 

Out of 32 NFL teams, how old is Mile High compared to other stadiums? 

Let’s take a look back at the Packers’ Lambeau Field, which opened in 1957; The Kansas City Chiefs home turf saw its first play in 1972, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ stadium welcomed fans for the first time in 1998. 

Play the video timeline below to see stadiums older than the Broncos’ home field.

This makes Mile High one of the 12th-oldest NFL stadiums. meaning 62% of NFL teams have newer stadiums than the Broncos. 

Broncos spokesperson Megan Boyle sent a long list of improvements to the overall fan experience the team has made to the stadium over the last 20 years.

Empower Field at Mile High Stadium Improvements

  • Installed 700+ sanitizer stations
  • Enhanced air filtration system that flushes occupied spaces with outside air
  • State-of-the-art UV lighting portable cleaning systems for escalators and high-touch surfaces
  • New Verizon DAS system for improved cell coverage and upgraded Wi-Fi to all guests at Empower Field at Mile High
  • Empower Field at Mile High boasts the most autonomous checkout locations (9) in any sports stadium, globally. These drink markets not only increase speed of service but increase variety-of-beverage options.
  • Installed handsfree restroom fixtures in every restroom (i.e. towel and soap dispensers, faucets, toilets, etc.)
  • Concession upgrades, including Downtown Mile High, a new dining concept that brings Denver favorites inside the stadium (Cherry Cricket, Tacos* Tequila*Whiskey, Osteria Marco, and Breckenridge Bourbon bar). This space provides a sit-down dining experience for fans. In addition, Top Taco, Tenders Love and Chicken, Bonanno Concepts, GQUE Championship BBQ, the Bud Light Perfect Pour beer system — a new POS system — and many other improvements have been made over the last several years. 
  • In 2021, exterior signage was improved, and Gate 4 was expanded to allow fans to easily enter/exit the stadium
  • Replaced old sports lights with new LED sports lights, giving Empower Field at Mile High some of the best quality field lighting in the NFL
  • Mile High Monument added to improve game day and non-game day around the stadium
  • Replaced all 300 level seats
  • Upgraded bathrooms and furniture in United Clubs 
  • Broncos locker room will be renovated after this season is over
  • Major improvements to life safety and building operations are completed every year, including fire alarm system, CO2 system, CCTV system, expansion joints, walk-thru metal detectors
  • Altered Ring of Fame to allow for future growth

Why are screens so important? Ellerbruch said to keep up these days, it’s a must.

“People are so used to having video experience in their house and in their pocket, that they need it almost everywhere they go. So video boards are becoming almost a requirement,” said Ellerbruch.  

It sounds like the current setup we have at Empower Field now is going to get a few more miles under its belt — at least for the foreseeable future.  

Copyright 2022 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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