O.K., Now the bad part: You're a little late. When the playoffs are done this season, Mile High is done. As you came through the gate, did you notice that giant concrete and steel spaceship right behind the South Stands? You had to see it, right? That's the future. That's where the Broncos are going to play the 2001 season, and that's where all of us are going to be. I hate to say it, but nothing is going to be the same.
Oh, they're going to try. There will be a South Stands, and everyone has signed up, requesting the same seats. John Soper Sr. even made a list of the seat numbers and names and gave it to the Broncos' ticket department. He's been assured that every effort will be made to fulfill all requests, and I'm sure the Broncos will give it a shot. But you know what? It won't work.
As we speak, there's talk about keeping the name Mile High for the new stadium, rather than accept some big advertising money, but that'll last until the cost overruns start arriving. This will be an Alltel, Intel, Do-tell, some kind of dotcom stadium like the rest. Wait and see.
There will be two giant scoreboards to bring you every slomo, stop-action replay and to sell you green beans or something during all those TV timeouts. There will be luxury boxes decorated better than most people's homes. (Soper Sr. is working, right now, as an electrician in the new stadium. He wired Broncos owner Pat Bowlen's box the other day.) There will be glitz and glamour, the showbiz approach that makes the game—the game—simply a part of the overall attraction.
In the new South Stands everyone will have an actual seat with an actual back and actual armrests and an actual cupholder. There will be actual room to cross your legs, lean back and enjoy. The up-to-date shopping plaza, with its up-to-date food courts and souvenir stands and interactive exhibits, will be outside the gates. The prices also will be up to date. Each ticket in the South Stands will cost $50 instead of $25.
"What will happen?" the Broncos' Ellis says. "I don't know. It's safe to say that as ticket prices have gone up in all sports, the fan base has changed. Will that happen in the South Stands? Probably, to a degree."
Kathryn Harding wonders what effect the new prices will have on a retired woman with a fixed income. Victor Marquez sees a rise in prices everywhere. Hot dogs will be more expensive. Soft drinks will be more expensive. Parking will be more expensive. And once a new fan base is established, Victor's ticket, which will be $50 to start, will cost more and more in coming years. Greg Oletski wonders how many games his son will be able to see, because "there aren't enough chores for him to do, not enough dog poop to pick up in the backyard to work off $50 a week."
The sad fact is that everything will be different. There will be some good parts—maybe you won't go home with your parka smelling of someone's spilled beer, and maybe you won't get hit in the head anymore by a snowball thrown by an idiot in the back of the section, and maybe a full seat and cupholder aren't entirely bad ideas—but there will be a change in the atmosphere. The new South Stands will be the suburbs. The old South Stands are the city. Tenements. The closeness will be gone. The need to connect, to meet your neighbor, greet you neighbor, to get to know him so well you eventually trade Christmas presents, will be gone.
Settle back, my friend, but not too far back. Enjoy. This is the way it used to be.