After more than three decades as a Denver landmark, Celebrity Sports Center closed in 1994, taking the eighty-lane Celebrity Lanes bowling alley with it. But the institution's good name has lived on in the nostalgic minds of anyone who grew up here during those years, as well as on the Internet, where there are several Celebrity memorial pages.
And it's the name that Cal Eichinger, who owns Elitch Lanes, and his business partners with Kelmore Development will resurrect next year when they open a state-of-the-art, sports-themed Celebrity Lanes bowling alley and entertainment center at 15755 East Arapahoe Road near Parker Road in Centennial. "Sometimes a name can become bad, but the name was good in Denver," says Eichinger, whose career in the bowling industry took him from coast to coast before he settled in Denver nine years ago and bought Elitch Lanes. "And it will follow the theme of what we are doing with this entertainment facility."
While the celebrities from the old Celebrity Lanes were the Hollywood type — original investors included Walt Disney, Bing Crosby and George Burns — Eichinger's celebrities will be more along the lines of Denver Nuggets and Colorado Avalanche players. In fact, he says, Donald Siecke and Bob Koontz of Kelmore are working on a deal with Stan Kroenke's Altitude Sports and Entertainment to name the grill at the bowling alley after the company and host TV broadcasts in the space.
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But the bells and whistles don't end there. In addition to forty lanes of bowling, a full kitchen with a chef, a patio, a large game room (not as big as the original Celebrity's, but still big) and outdoor bocce ball, Celebrity Lanes will feature four sports-themed private "boutique" rooms each with four bowling lanes, plush seating and individual audio and video capabilities. The main bowling lanes will be designed so that when the lights are turned off, UV projection will make it appear as though customers are bowling on ice; one of the private rooms will have UV lighting that makes its alleys look like center court at the Pepsi Center.
"Without these guys, I would never have been able to do something like this," Eichinger says of Siecke and Koontz. "This is going to be bowling, but it's more about entertainment. It's not going to be like anything else out there."
The sorrow and the PETA: This summer, when People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals proposed putting their maimed-chicken statue, dubbed McCruelty, on the 16th Street Mall, they said it was because this town is so darn nice. "We found that people there are compassionate and don't like to see animals suffering," explained PETA senior campaigner Ashley Burned, "that when they heard chickens were being scalded alive or having their wings and legs broken, they were horrified and didn't want any part of it."
But PETA no longer wants any part of Denver, and McCruelty has flown the coop. "After several months of trying to work with Denver officials to display our crippled chicken statue on the 16th Street Mall," says PETA spokeswoman Ashley Gonzales, "we decided our campaign resources will be better spent working to place the statue in other cities. PETA finds the city's nonchalant attitude toward freedom of speech and due process to be troubling, but right now we have to focus on our objective."