(Photo via: David Zalubowski/Associated Press)
New Broncos owner and CEO Greg Penner is sparing no expense. Penner, the chairman of Walmart, and majority owner of the Broncos, has already shown the power of his purse, as the majority stakeholder in the $4.65 billion purchase price for the team, and by committing significant extension dollars to Russell Wilson, immediately after trading for him. The merit of some of his on-field choices thus far are up for debate, but his willingness to spend money to improve the state of the organization is objectively commendable.
Penner’s most recent major financial undertaking was to replace the Broncos’ playing surface, if only for the team’s final game of the year. Penner and others in the organization were concerned with the state of the field conditions at Empower Field, as poor weather and a variety of events being held at the stadium had resulted in wear and tear to the playing surface. Empower Field is a grass field, not artificial turf, which has so notoriously played a role in recent long-term injuries. Penner had Bermuda grass sod, as opposed to the typical Rye/bluegrass blend, trucked up from Arizona during the week, to be installed by the team’s final game this past Sunday.
The replacement cost the club $400,000, which is a considerable sum for just one week, especially considering that the field will be entirely resodded and replaced in the offseason. This will be in conjunction with a recently-announced $100 million renovation of the stadium, which is expected to be completed by the beginning of next season. As a member of the NFL’s wealthiest ownership group, by a large margin, Penner is wielding his monetary advantage early and often.
The Broncos struggled mightily this year, much of which can be attributed to a litany of injuries – a whopping 22 players were placed on injured reserve this season. Penner became worried that the Broncos’ program was partially to blame for these circumstances, and sat down with NFL chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills to discuss this issue. This sort of outward concern for the health and well-being of players will certainly not go unnoticed by those within the organization, or by prospective free agents. “Too many organizations chalk injuries up to bad luck, without fully exploring every nook and cranny of the operation.”
With the backing of the strongest finances amongst NFL owners, Penner and the rest of the Walton-Penner group are attempting to set a new standard regarding player safety expenditures. Field conditions have come to the forefront in recent seasons, especially this year.  While Denver’s injuries were not a result of the dreaded slit-film turf fields, Penner’s propensity to leave no stone unturned is a refreshing one. While still new to the NFL owners’ “club,” Penner is raising the bar in terms of acceptable stadium conditions and player safety, and will hopefully force the hands of other owners to commit the necessary resources to their own clubs and facilities.
3L at University at Buffalo School of Law; BSELS Co-Vice President
MBA in Marketing;
In pursuit of a career at the intersection of sports law and sports business, specifically in professional hockey.