Denver police are rooting for a Broncos Super Bowl victory on Sunday, but the hundreds of officers forced to work are also hoping for a quiet celebration.
Their focus will be downtown, which has historically been the area for postgame revelry gone awry.
Hundreds of raucous fans ignited bonfires, smashed store windows and overturned cars downtown after the Broncos beat the Green Bay Packers in the 1998 Super Bowl, drawing tear gas from police in riot gear. And similar havoc happened after Denver beat the Atlanta Falcons the next year. Downtown revelers looted stores, set fires, and ripped down traffic signs and used them as battering rams to break windows, among other bedlam. Officials estimated $180,000 worth of property damage.
"We've learned from those events," Cmdr. Pat Phelan of the department's special-operations division said Wednesday. "Hopefully we're prepared for whatever comes our way."
Without revealing specifics, Phelan said officers of every rank and stripe, including those from specialized units such as the heavily armored SWAT team, will have a visible presence downtown, where tens of thousands of fans traditionally gather.
Police have said detectives will be on hand in the case of mass arrests. Officers also were told to be prepared to work Tuesday in the event of a Broncos parade.
Phelan said officers in recent days have been urging bar owners to bolt down their patio furniture, offer drinks in plastic cups rather than glass bottles and be careful not to over-serve drunken patrons. The city's public works department asked those who stock downtown newspaper boxes not to do so until Monday, so troublemakers will have less to torch. Out-of-control revelers in 1999 stuffed orange traffic cones with extra-edition newspapers released by the city's two dailies, set the paper ablaze and carried the cones around like Olympic torches.
Bar owners aren't taking any chances, either. More than a dozen uniformed Denver police officers and private security guards will be on duty throughout the day at the Tavern at 19th and Market streets. And the nearby ViewHouse will stop letting patrons into the bar if the Broncos win.
Phelan offered a simpler solution: "Enjoy the victory. And act like an adult."
Sadie Gurman: 303-954-1661, sgurman@ denverpost.com or twitter.com/sgurman