SPORTS & RECREATION

part 3 of 3

Best Lowdown on Lowriders
Royalty Car Club
James Quintana, president of Arvada's Royalty Car Club, wants to elevate lowriders to a higher calling: keeping kids out of trouble. "Nowadays kids are just trying to find something to do," he says. "We've got something that interests them. We are trying to be a role model for kids." And the club is on a roll, hosting fundraisers for charitable causes and recruiting kids interested in remodeling their bicycles before they move up to the real thing. Quintana's vehicle of choice? A '76 Chevy Caprice, of course.

Best Bargain Pool Game
Washington Park Grill
1096 S. Gaylord St.

Denver has its share of pool-playing places, but there is a place for the deadbeat. The Washington Park Grill (formerly Falcone's) sports three tables on which patrons can shoot for free. Best of all, they're of the nine-foot variety. That's not your standard billiards size, but it's also not the mutantly stubby, phone-book-size felts that pass for pool tables in some bars. Actually, the Wash Park Grill does charge for the tables: a two-drink minimum, something no Fats wannabe would be caught dead without, anyway.

Best Place to Get Shot
Rampart Range Paintball Field
Rampart Range Rd., ten miles west of Sedalia

When you need to get your aggressions out, there's nothing like blasting some loser with a gel cap full of latex. And the best place to let 'er rip is the Rampart Range Paintball Field. The field is huge (about 400 acres, part of which is rented from the National Park Service), and it boasts superb ground coverage, allowing for realistic stalking.

Best Place to Get a Fast Outdoors Fix
Lair o' the Bear Open Space Park
Hwy. 74, just west of Idledale

Had it with the urban jungle? Pining for an evergreen pick-me-up? Here's a solution that will take you only twenty minutes from Denver. Zip out to Morrison via either U.S. 285 or C-470, and drive about six miles west toward Evergreen. Just after you hit the little burg of Idledale, you'll run into Lair o' the Bear Open Space Park. A lovely little creek. A bluffside trail that's idyllic--and empty--during the winter, especially with fresh snow. Ah, wilderness!

Best Mountain Park
Elk Meadow
Hwy. 74, between Bergen Park and Evergreen

This 1,140-acre haven of natural beauty--a favorite for wildflower enthusiasts and wildlife watchers--offers twelve miles of trails for hikers, joggers, skiers and bikers. The literal high point is 9,708-foot Bergen Peak, a favorite destination of hikers and rock climbers.

Best Wildlife Course
Waterton Watershed Series
Front Range Natural Science School, Littleton

The Waterton Watershed Series also qualifies as the best use of a controversial old Denver water treatment plant just downstream from Martin Marietta. The Boulder-based Thorne Ecological Institute, which has been promoting natural sciences for thirty years, was far from all wet when it began working with the Denver Water Department to convert the mothballed facility at the Waterton Canyon Trailhead into a natural-sciences school. The result is this summer's educational series focusing on Colorado's riparian and wetland communities, offering lectures in the classroom and in the field to kids and adults alike.

Best City Park
Confluence Park
2300 block of 15th St.

Confluence Park, the true symbol of all the change that's been taking place in LoDo and the Platte Valley, is a fine bike destination for Cherry Creek and Platte cyclists, with babbling brooks and shallow pools where dogs can swim. There's the nearby Forney Museum and a trolley ride for kids (this includes some pretty big kids), and just across the water, they've broken ground for the new Elitch Gardens. How much more in the center of things can you get?

Best Sunday Drive
Bergen Park to Echo Lake to Idaho Springs
Take Highway 103 out of Bergen Park, and just about everything beautiful about Colorado's mountains awaits you. The view is breathtaking at all points of the compass, and there are several designated picnic areas along the way. About eighteen miles down the road is Echo Lake, where excellent hiking or cross-country skiing abounds. From there the road winds downhill with more gorgeous scenery. Cross-country skiers and hikers will find a number of well-defined pulloffs near access roads and trails for side trips. About twenty miles from Echo Lake, the highway runs into Idaho Springs and I-70.

Best Place to See a Mountain Man in Action
Mountain Man Rendezvous
The Fort Restaurant
U.S. 285 at Hwy. 8, Morrison

The mountain man is alive and well at the Fort Restaurant, where he's graciously allowed to partake in knife-throwing contests and black-powder shooting matches. Participants dress in buckskins and mountain-man attire, traders barter Indian goods and everyone eats buffalo stew. That means you, varmint.

Best Outdoor Ice-Skating
Evergreen Lake
Hwy. 74, west of Evergreen

It's hard to imagine a prettier place to ice-skate, especially with the addition of a new lake house that opened for business last season. The new facility, which has won several awards for design, relieves the skater congestion of past years. Large areas of the ice are kept cleared and smoothed for skaters from early December until early March, depending on the weather. Call the Lake Hotline at 674-2677 for conditions, dates and hours.

Best Indoor Climbing
Paradise Rock Gym
6260 N. Washington St., No. 5

There's no reason to hang up your pitons just because there are twenty feet of snow covering those fourteeners--winter-bound mountaineers can still rappel to their heart's content at the Paradise Rock Gym, touted to be the largest indoor climbing facility on the Front Range. For a flat rate of $9, climbers are set loose on Paradise's rock walls (sporting 24 top ropes, four leading areas and a bouldering area); they also have access to machines and weights and can take advantage of a full-service pro shop or sign up for classes.

Best Virtual Reality Experience
Boardwalk USA
Four metro locations

Boardwalk USA rotates its "Virtuality" brand VR games around its three metro locations, changing games about every other week. Purists may find these VR setups tame and the graphics primitive, but until the next great technological breakthrough, they're the best on the market. At the Aurora and Littleton locations, you can also play American Gladiator-style laser-combat war games in a cool black-light-and-fog-machine environment.

Best Indoor Amusement Center
Leaps and Bounds
Three metro locations

Leaps and Bounds takes the indoor-play concept to new extremes--more slides to slide down, more tubes to crawl through, more ball baths to jump in, and generally more opportunites for kids to exhaust themselves. Prices are reasonable, and the facilities feature security procedures to help preserve parents' peace of mind.

Best Fast-Food Indoor Amusement Center
McDonald's
1901 S. Federal Blvd.

When the weather outside is frightful, the McDonald's your kids will like best is this one, built in late 1993. The restaurant has a surprisingly large, state-of-the-art play center, replete with ball bath, slide and climbing tubes. The perfect place to work off those Happy Meals.

Best Place to Skateboard
Scott Carpenter Park
30th St. and Arapahoe Ave., Boulder

Catch some air at this state-of-the-art skateboard park, named, appropriately enough, for one of the original astronauts, hometown boy Scott Carpenter. The impeccably maintained--and totally rad--park is open seven days a week, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and again from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. (Each four-hour period runs $5, though bulk discounts are available.) Once you've signed a liability release and strapped on the required safety equipment, the entire place is yours--from the specialized indoor area to the wide-open outdoors, complete with several half-pipes and a street course. Dude!

Readers' choice: DIA

Best Place for Illegal In-line Skating
Cherry Creek Shopping Center
Just to the south, the soothing, smooth, legal Cherry Creek bike path stretches off into the distance. But sometimes you simply have to take a glide on the wild side. And that's when you hop the curb to the Cherry Creek Shopping Center, with its vast, if bumpy, old parking lots--and the seductively sleek challenges of the tightly turned and highly illegal new parking garage.

Readers' choice: 16th Street Mall

Best Place for Legal In-line Skating
Tortilla Flat Restaurant
2850 W. Church Ave., Littleton

Actually, Tortilla Flat is just the starting point for the group skates hosted at 7:30 p.m. every Thursday by Platte River Roller Sports. Each week the tour takes a new cruising route through the southern suburbs--and every trip is guaranteed free...and easy.

Best Place to Get Your Kicks
Colorado Foxes games
Mile High Stadium

The Rockies aren't the only major-leaguers in town--the Foxes play the world's most popular sport right here in Mile High Stadium, and hardly anyone knows about it. In an atmosphere reminiscent of the old Denver Bears games, where you could sit wherever you wanted after the first inning, the Foxes run, twist, kick and take on teams from around the world without ever handling the ball. You haven't really experienced athletic agility until you've seen these guys at work.

Best Over-Thirty League Team
Boulder Red Sox
One of the 28-team Mens' Senior Baseball League's older clubs--average age, 37--the Sox finished the regular season 17-4 before sweeping through four playoff teams by a combined score of 42-12. While some opponents call pitcher/manager Jonathan Cawley a junkballer ("Those are the guys going 0-fer off me"), the 37-year-old lefty prefers the term "control artist." Whatever you call him, he beat the Giants 11-4 in the finale while three or four teammates shone at the plate and the Sox played their usual sound defense. Catcher Joe Wheless, for one, hit just about .600 in the playoffs.

Best Over-Thirty League Player
J. Michael Russell
All the big power-hitting third baseman for the Astros did for his club last season was hit .528, knock in 30 runs and score 24 more. His slugging average was--gulp--.943. Russell, who in real life is a promotions man for KCNC-TV Channel 4, actually earned a tryout with the Rockies last year and appeared as one of the hero-size players perched on a mountaintop in the club's early TV spots. Alas, the Astros fell in the 1993 senior-league playoffs, but they've gotten off to a 2-0 start this season.

Best Prep Athlete
Jayson Peterson
Although George Washington hoop star Chauncey Billups gets more ink and airtime, this 6-3 right-handed pitcher from Denver East might get to the big leagues sooner. Drafted by the Chicago Cubs in early June, Peterson compiled a 29-4 record as the ace of the Angels' staff, capped by an undefeated season this spring in which he struck out 83 batters and had a 0.82 ERA. In May he not only threw heat as East won its first 5A state championship in forty years, he hit the game-winning home run.

Best Unknown Football Team
Colorado College Tigers
Competing in the NCAA's humble Division III, where there is no scholarship money and everyone puts on the pads for the love of the game, the resurgent Tigers quietly went 10-0 last fall before anyone noticed--least of all their fellow students on the tony Colorado Springs campus. Playing before 300 fans, the team that once boasted the great "Dutch" Clark got knocked out of the Division III playoffs by losing on the last Saturday of the year. The players cared, sure, but they soon got back to their physics, their chem and their Shakespeare. These high-IQ Tigers hit the books even harder than they hit opposing running backs.

Best Thoroughbred
Madame Frank
Can you say horse-for-a-course? This seven-year-old mare won three allowance races at last year's Arapahoe Park meet and her first start here this season before finishing third in the prestigious Molly Brown Stakes. The versatile California native has won at both six furlongs and a mile for owner Merle Lowrey and trainer Dean Davis, and she'll be around for the summer. Talented Janeen Painter is her rider.

Best Quarter Horse
Victory Coin
This speedster comes from a quick family--Victory Dash out of Smooth Coin. She won three of five stakes races at Albuquerque this spring, putting $25,000 in the bank for owner Leroy Martinez of Alamosa. The five-year-old Texas-bred gelding ran third in his first Arapahoe Park start, then won the next one at 440 yards. Quarter-horse specialist Donny Sandoval is his regular rider in Colorado.

Best Jockey
Carl Kutz
All right, so the local jockey colony doesn't feature a lot of guys named Shoemaker, Day and Santos. The best of the hardworking race riders here is still the veteran Kutz, whose career stretches back to Centennial Race Track days (pre-1983) and who won the Arapahoe riding title last year. He's leading again this season. At press time, Kutz had racked up 12 wins, 11 places and 9 third-place finishes in just 71 mounts. He was bred in Colorado himself and spends his winters campaigning at Turf Paradise in Phoenix.

Best Greyhound (Sprinter)
Pat C Montecarlo
This outstanding speed merchant almost died following a stakes race in Kansas from an adverse reaction to dog shots, but she's back at Mile High and better than ever. After tearing off eight straight wins at the Big Store last winter (she was 12-0-1 in fourteen races), Montecarlo won five of six starts at Cloverleaf. The top of every trifecta, Patrick Collins's new ace loses only when it snows in hell.

Best Greyhound (Distance)
Princess Sally
Carl Pritchard's dazzling 3/8-mile runner doesn't leave much to chance. Her fast-breaking, front-running style defies the odds, and it keeps her out of trouble in the turns. She won 30 of 48 races at Mile High in the winter, was 13-4-1 at Cloverleaf at press time, and trainer Greg Mowry planned to bring her back to Mile High for the summer. Have pity on kennelmate Betsy Van Gogh, will you? At one point the talented Betsy had run second to Sal eleven straight times.

Best Contest in a Bar
Hamster Races
Laddy's Restaurant and Bar
9660 Ralston Rd., Arvada

Some people will do anything to have a good time. Every Wednesday at Laddy's Restaurant and Bar, some of them wager on hamsters. MC Kevin runs the show (he also owns ten racing rodents who regularly participate), setting odds, lifting the gate and auctioning off prizes to the lucky winners. People are welcome to bring their own furry speed demons down to compete. The hamsters get the royal treatment--Kevin maintains a hands-off policy meant to protect their rodent rights--and no enticements are used to get them going down the bar's sixteen-foot track. Sometimes they even stop, clean themselves or fall asleep. Ho-hum.

Best Bar Game
RollerBall
SportsWorld Bar & Grill
12028 E. Mississippi Ave., Aurora
Barney's
15007 E. Colfax Ave., Aurora

For almost thirty years Bob Lyons has been toiling to perfect the game he invented in the sixth grade with a shoebox, a marble and a cardboard paddle. The result is RollerBall--a fast-paced cross between air hockey and foosball that somehow has escaped the notice of the rest of the country. For now, though, you can test out Lyons's invention at two Aurora bars. While the up-to-the-minute retrofitted equipment is at SportsWorld, games are free on the less-high-tech version at Barney's. Or enjoy RollerBall in the privacy of your own home: Lyons sells personal models for $2,600.

Best Sports Bar
Wazoo's on Wazee
1819 Wazee St.

Plunked down in the shadow of rising Coors Field since November, the 331-seat Wazoo's has numbers as impressive as the Big Cat's--ten pool tables, thirteen TV sets, thirty beers on tap, seating for 180 additional ball fans on the sun-splashed patio. The food is standard fare--dogs, burgers, ribs and pizza--so the secrets to success here are location, location and location. Come next April, you probably won't be able to get near the place for a Bud or a Tabernash lager.

Best Traffic Thinner
Brooklyn's
2644 W. Colfax Ave.

Don't hassle with that teeming Mile High Stadium parking lot, fans. After the game, slip into Brooklyn's for a cold one and a hamburger with blue cheese on it and let everybody else fuss and fume out in the traffic. The patio at this stylish corner bar is great, and you can catch up on the rest of the world athletic via well-placed TV sets. We still have one question, though. Why does a place called Brooklyn's, hard by the home of the Rockies, still feature such an epidemic of loser Cubs fans? Go figure.

end of part 3

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