In honor of the Denver Broncos' 8th trip to the Super Bowl, we decided to take a look back at where it all started: Mile High Stadium. Since 1948 when the stadium was first built, Mile High has been an integral part of a town that's known for sports. And while ski country may not have an official football team, the Denver Broncos is as close as it gets. We've rounded up photos from Mile High throughout the decades, from its incarnation as a baseball stadium to its demolition in 2002. Get ready: this is Broncos Country.
Mile High Stadium was originally built by Bob Howsam in 1948 as a baseball stadium for the minor league Denver Bears. Located on a landfill, the original stadium only sat 17,000 people in bleachers on one grandstand that stretched from one foul pole to the other. It was called Bears Stadium.
In the late 1950s, Howsam teamed up with former Dodger general manager Branch Rickey to try to get a major league team in Denver. But in order for that to happen, Denver needed a larger ballpark, so the Bears Stadium was expanded to 23,100 seats. Plans for a major league team didn't happen, leaving Howsam with debt and a stadium too large for a minor league team. Howsam turned to football.
In 1960, more bleachers were added to the stadium to raise capacity to nearly 34,000 and the Denver Broncos played their first game at the stadium on October 2, 1960 against the Oakland Raiders. Originally, the AFL Broncos played in mustard yellow and brown uniforms.
In 1966 when the AFL and NFL football leagues merged, one condition was that the Broncos Stadium needed to be expanded to at least 50,000 seats. In 1968 the City of Denver became the new owner of the property, added second and third decks of seating, and renamed it Mile High Stadium.
The 1970s saw continued expansion. After the Broncos sold out every game in their inaugural NFL season, the stadium was expanded. In 1974 the city used a $25 million bond to add more upper decks and increase capacity to over 63,000 fans. In 1975 Denver also added Bucky, the iconic 24-foot white horse that was mounted atop the scoreboard at Mile High. By the end of the decade, the stadium could hold almost 80,000 people and was one of the largest stadiums in the NFL.
A 1986 expansion added 77 luxury suites and the 1980s saw big events like when the Jacksons performed at Mile High in September of 1984. That trend continued in the 1990s with U2 performing at the stadium in 1992 and 1997, and Mile High Stadium also hosted Pope John Paul II in 1993.
Mile High Stadium was the home to the Colorado Rockies for two seasons, in 1993 and 1994, while the new baseball team waited for construction to be finished on Coors Field.
In 1998, Denver voters approved a bond to build a new stadium and the Broncos played their last game at Mile High Stadium on December 23, 2000 against the 49ers.
The next year the team moved to the brand new Sports Authority Field at Mile High (originally called Invesco Field at Mile High) and the old stadium was demolished in January 2002.
The original Bears Stadium now serves as a parking lot for the new stadium, where Bucky the Bronco still stands.
Today's Broncos stadium holds 76,125 people on 89 acres and cost a total of $400.7 million to build. Its original incarnation stood in nearly the same spot, but held a fraction of the number of people. And although the new stadium may have had Invesco and now Sports Authority attached to its name, ask anyone in the crowd and they'll gladly tell you, "This is Mile High."