By Jessica DiNapoli and Tom Hals
NEW YORK/WILMINGTON, Del (Reuters) - The Denver Broncos professional football team will acquire the naming rights to its Mile High Stadium from Sports Authority after the bankrupt U.S. sporting goods retailer failed to find a new sponsor for the venue, according to a Tuesday court filing.
The deal comes less than three weeks before the Broncos' first preseason game against the San Francisco 49ers on Aug. 20. The National Football League regular season begins Sept. 8.
Sports Authority acquired the naming rights in 2011 but the chain filed for bankruptcy in March, citing, in part, debt from a buyout and loss of market shares to rivals.
The retailer extensively marketed its naming rights for the stadium as part of the sale of its assets, but no cash bids came in, according to the filing.
Sports Authority extended the deadline for bids on the rights several times, as potential buyers considered the contract, which runs for five seasons until 2021, according to an advertisement for it.
The retailer contacted more than 200 potential buyers, and seven looked at the online data room for the contract, according to the filing.
A spokesman for Sports Authority did not immediately return a request for comment.
The Denver Broncos said in a statement that the name of the stadium, Sports Authority Field at Mile High, has not yet changed, and there was no timetable for securing a new naming rights agreement.
"The Broncos look forward to working with the (owner of the stadium) in establishing a new long-term relationship with a stadium naming rights partner," the Broncos said.
A U.S. bankruptcy court judge must still approve the transfer of the contract to the Broncos, which it will share with the company that manages the stadium.
Nels Popp, a professor at the University of North Carolina, said he would shocked if the team does not find a stadium sponsor, but he expected it could take a year as the deals often involve add-ons such as conference space and season tickets.
"Fans think of it just as the name on the building, of slapping logos on the building and it's done," he said. "It tends to be a lot more involved than that."
The deal calls for Sports Authority to pay $50,000 to the team and company. The team and company will assume the obligation to make a payment of $3.6 million that was due Aug. 1 under the contract.
Sports Authority sold the rest of its intellectual property, including its e-commerce website, SportsAuthority.com, a loyalty program and customer files, to competitor Dick's Sporting Goods Inc earlier this summer.
(Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Richard Chang)