Off Limits

Last spring, staffers at the Rocky Mountain News were aghast when the paper's logo was removed from one side of its landmark 400 West Colfax Avenue headquarters and replaced with the words "Denver Newspaper Agency" -- the entity created by a joint operating agreement to handle business operations for both the Denver Post and the allegedly "failing" News. So you can only imagine how thrilled they'll be when they learn that the next sign slapped onto the building may be "For Sale."

Such a message has already been sent to local realtors; an industry source says the DNA wants upwards of $20 million for the 130,000-square-foot facility and 50,000-square-foot attached warehouse. (Four surface lots are also available.) And while DNA spokesman Jim Nolan steers clear of details, he confirms that something's going on. "It is no secret that we would prefer to operate out of one downtown facility, for obvious reasons," he says. "The economics are favorable whether we stay at the Agency-owned facility on Colfax or lease at Broadway" -- i.e., the Post's home, at 1560 Broadway -- "or elsewhere. We are presently evaluating those options in light of current market conditions."

Those conditions could be better: Denver isn't exactly suffering from a dire shortage of available office space. Indeed, the most logical suitor for the site would seem to be the City of Denver, which has been looking for a place to put a jail -- and what better way to make felons suffer than by incarcerating them a stone's throw from the Denver Mint? But there's apparently little chance that muggers and burglars will soon be cooling their heels in a location presently occupied by News editor/publisher/president John Temple. Derek Brown, director of Denver's office of asset management, says the Rocky's abode wouldn't be nearly large enough to accommodate a hoosegow as big as the one on the city's wish list, and retrofitting it for nasty criminals -- as opposed to nasty reporters -- wouldn't be practical.

Still, the presence of any new tenants, whether they're wearing stripes or not, would result in a gut shot to the morale of News employees. The News moved onto its piece of Colfax in June 1952, making this year its golden anniversary there -- and perhaps its last. During the 1980s, the building was expanded and renovated, making it the envy of most scribblers at the Post, and while it's no longer the state-of-the-art marvel it once was, the newsroom just got some new computers. (Whoops!) And then there's Gene Amole Way, a street bordering the property that was dedicated to the ailing columnist in December.

Alas, street-naming rights do not go with the building.

Sleep with the fishes: What with Mayor Wellington Webb's announcement last week that the city won't bail out Denver's ailing aquarium, it looked like the animals at Ocean Journey might have to find night jobs. But many of the fish and fauna there are already working overtime to earn their keep.

Ocean Journey's doors may close to the public at 5 p.m., but that doesn't mean it's Miller Time for the tigers, sharks, otters and horseshoe crabs. They're featured attractions at all of the special evening or weekend events -- the banquets, black-tie galas, fancy birthday parties and weddings that have become an important source of revenue for the aquarium and will become even more important as Ocean Journey tries to find a way to pay back millions of dollars of bond debt.

And then there are the slumber parties. Once a month or so, Ocean Journey schedules a sleepover event for kids ages five to eleven, along with their parents. "You've seen the aquarium during the day," reads the pitch, "but at night it can be a whole different world! Bring the family and spend the night at Ocean Journey. Explore the Colorado and Kampar Rivers, learn more about the animals and their habitats, make a craft, play games and spend time as a family. Bring your sleeping bags and snooze amongst the sharks and rays! A pizza dinner and continental breakfast are included." And it's just $40 per person for members and $50 for non-members!

"We advertise them to members most directly," says Ocean Journey spokeswoman Kimberly Thomas. "But they are open to everyone."

What's coming up? On April 26-27, it's "Midnight Snack," which involves a tour of the major exhibits and a wild lesson on what and how the animals at Ocean Journey eat; on May 10-11, it's "Sumatran Safari," which focuses on the Indonesian River Journey exhibit; and on June 7-8, "Mission Survival," which gives kids a chance to discover how animals protect themselves from predators.

On all of these overnights, kids and their parents can unroll their sleeping bags in either the Depths of the Pacific or the Sea of Cortez areas and fall asleep as the sharks swim around them. Is this the stuff of nightmares? "There haven't been too many issues so far," Thomas says. "Most of the kids are fascinated by sharks, not scared of them."

But the animals can only help out so much. Because the overnights involve a lot of work, Ocean Journey offers just one a month. Besides, Thomas adds, "we don't want the animals on exhibit too long. They need some behind-the-scenes break time, too."

A walk in the park: The Regional Transportation District will put a lot of pressure on itself when it unveils its newest light-rail line at a giant party behind Union Station on April 6. The Central Platte Valley spur, known as the C line, begins at the existing track on West Colfax and will glide by the Auraria campus, Invesco Field at Mile High, the Pepsi Center, Elitch Gardens, the Sixteenth Street Mall and Union Station, just blocks from Coors Field.

That's if the C line goes at all that day. On July 14, 2000, the last time RTD unveiled a new light-rail line, the 8.7-mile southwest route that runs along South Santa Fe Drive from Broadway to Mineral Avenue in Littleton, a major power glitch brought the entire light-rail system to a twenty-minute halt in the middle of rush hour. Luckily for RTD, it was hours after the festivities and speeches that celebrated the opening.


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