Twenty Years of Denver
1977: Colorado is in the grip of a severe drought, yet permits for construction of new homes top 20,000 annually, to better accommodate the thousands of immigrants inspired by John Denver's lyrical vision of the state (1973's "Rocky Mountain High") and James Michener's bestselling novel Centennial (which celebrates the state that marked its centennial in 1976). The metro area--don't call Denver a cowtown!--is in the midst of a spectacular cycle of growth.
Jimmy Carter is president, Dick Lamm is governor, Pat Schroeder is Denver's congressional representative and Bill McNichols is mayor. One will serve only one term.
The anti-growth governor is a Colorado anomaly. Lamm made his political bones with the 1972 grassroots campaign to prevent Colorado from spending any public money on attracting the 1976 Winter Olympic Games and consistently vetoed construction of what is now C-470 throughout his long tenure in office. But Lamm's philosophy, "Don't build it and they won't come," doesn't stand a chance against the allied forces of the Denver Chamber of Commerce (later to be renamed the Greater Denver Chamber of Commerce).
17th Street is the Wall Street of the West, leading the nation in the number of daily bank transactions. Branch banking is not allowed. Although the OPEC oil embargo ended several years before and the Alaska pipeline is up and running, the consensus is that the local economy, although heavily dependent on oil and gas, is virtually recession-proof.
Colorado Rockies vs. San Francisco Giants
TicketsMon., Sep. 4, 1:10pm
Colorado Rockies vs. San Diego Padres
TicketsFri., Sep. 15, 6:40pm
Colorado Rockies vs. Miami Marlins
TicketsMon., Sep. 25, 6:40pm
Colorado Rockies vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
TicketsFri., Sep. 29, 6:10pm
Denver Outlaws / Major League Lacrosse All Star Game
TicketsSat., Dec. 29, 6:00pm
Oilman Marvin Davis, "Mr. Wildcatter," is worth $100 million or so; he buys the 22,000-acre Phipps Ranch at Broadway and County Line Road from the estate of former senator Lawrence C. Phipps II for $13.5 million. Phipps's sons, Gerald and Allan, own the Denver Broncos. Davis buys the Oakland A's--but does not move them to Denver, to the consternation of baseball fans in the Time Zone Without a Team who have supported the minor-league Bears for thirty years.
Villa Italia Mall--more than a shopping center!--opens in Lakewood. The Tattered Cover Book Store is a three-year-old hippie haven, a warren of rooms located on the farthest reaches of the aging Cherry Creek business district. Downtown Denver offers five major department stores for your shopping convenience: J.C. Penney, Joslins, Neusteter's, the Denver Dry Goods Co. and May D&F, with its hyperbolic paraboloid soaring beside the popular skating rink at Zeckendorf Plaza.
Coors has been the Seventies cult beer of choice, available only in eleven Western states and smuggled back east in car trunks and aboard Air Force One. Its popularity takes a hit when the AFL-CIO calls a strike at the Golden brewery over contract terms, including the routine administration to employees of lie detector tests probing mental health and sexual attitudes. Instead of settling the strike, the company brings in permanent replacement workers. The union calls for a nationwide boycott.
Cappuccino is an exotic drink available only in finer Italian restaurants in north Denver, which also serve a mean chilled Chianti. The hotspot for the young executive's business lunch--the power elite meet in the Brown Palace--is the Broker, housed in a former bank vault. Top of the Rockies offers a spectacular view west from the Petroleum Building, as well as lots of red meat, martinis and cigars.
Speaking of meat, Sid King's Crazy Horse Bar--East Colfax's poshest strip joint--is not to be confused with Barbara Davis's Carousel Ball, Denver's poshest annual fundraising event, which attracts local glitterati and their wallets in the name of the Children's Diabetes Foundation.
During KVOD's annual fundraising marathon for the Denver Symphony the last weekend in February, Gene Amole, owner of the station, early morning DJ and brand-new Rocky Mountain News columnist, leads the traditional Friday waltz in Zeckendorf Plaza, which is attended by all ages and occupations. KBCO signs on as a certified hippie station in Boulder.
The former Kansas City Scouts finish up their first season in McNichols Arena as the National Hockey League's Colorado Rockies. The Caribou play professional soccer at Mile High Stadium.
Coloradans get divorced in record numbers, with more than 20,000 marriages dissolved in 1977. (The record still stands.) A Boulder teen sues his parents for divorce.
Denver is one of the few cities in the nation still supporting two daily newspapers: the Denver Post, owned for nearly a century by the Bonfils family, and the Rocky Mountain News, Denver's first newspaper and pride of the Scripps-Howard empire.
On September 1, 1977, Westword publishes Volume 1, Number 1.
1978: With a population of 515,000, the City and County of Denver now makes up about one-third of the metro area. The population grows after the national broadcast of the 24-hour epic mini-series based on Centennial, with a stellar cast including Richard Chamberlain. Thousands more of the easily impressed head west.
After ten years in office, Mayor McNichols rates the Brown Cloud as Denver's number-one problem. On some days, metro-area air quality is second only to that of Los Angeles in terms of carbon monoxide content. Of course, the air is bad in L.A. year-round; Denver's air pollution violates federal standards only 136 days a year.
All hospitals in the city are not-for-profit; most are affiliated in some way with government or religious institutions. Consolidation of health care begins with the merger of Presbyterian Denver and Aurora Hospitals with Saint Luke's. A new kind of health-insurance plan, the health-maintenance organization, is available through the fledgling Comprecare, formed by local physicians.
The Women's Bank opens over the Broker. It attracts $12 million in deposits in its first year. The nationwide bank debit card is pioneered by Colorado National Bank. Interest rates approach 12 percent.
The Denver International Film Festival debuts, with Robert Altman's A Wedding as its feature attraction. Tickets are $3.50 per show, or $250 for a pass to the entire Ten Days in May. Clint Eastwood comes to town to film Every Which Way but Loose. Colorado's cross-dressing laws are repealed.
Glendale, the incorporated city surrounded by Denver, becomes the locus of the infection known as Disco Fever, with three dozen bars and clubs such as Bogart's and Club 4444 catering to the cocaine-and-polyester crowd.
With powdered cocaine becoming the drug of choice among the city's young movers and shakers--News editor and Scripps-Howard scion Mike Howard is known to do lines with reporters in his office--operating rooms across the city report a temporary shortage of the useful anesthetic. Nose jobs are a bit more painful this year.
Speaking of powder, Hollywood moves to Aspen when the ski area is purchased by 20th Century Fox, looking for somewhere to park all its lovely loot from Star Wars. Post columnist Jack Phinney declares the crowds at Vail "hopeless."
Mork & Mindy, set in Boulder and starring Robin Williams and Pam Dawber, goes on the air. The premise: Williams is a hyperactive alien from the planet Ork, but no one notices. It is Boulder, after all, The Little Town Nestled Between the Mountains and Reality.
Urban homesteading is all the rage, with middle-class white families moving into restored Victorian homes in the Curtis Park and Cheesman Park areas, as well as modest bungalows in Park Hill. Because of the Denver Public Schools' court-ordered busing policy to achieve racial integration, in effect since 1969, some of the children in these areas are actually bused out of their neighborhoods to predominantly white schools in the southeast part of the city.
The Broncos lose their first Super Bowl, to Dallas 27-10, with Craig Morton as QB, Red Miller as coach and the Orange Crush defense.
1979: Colorado's mining past comes vividly alive when it is discovered that Denver's ambient radiation level is three times higher than levels achieved during the Three Mile Island crisis in Pennsylvania. Part of the problem is that many streets in Capitol Hill and other older neighborhoods are surfaced with asphalt made from tailings from radium mines.
The prime rate is 15.75 percent; the money market certificate is invented.
Marvin Davis sells the former Phipps Ranch to California developer Mission Viejo for $27 million. Mountain Bell begins planning for the development by allotting four phones per home, while customers in the foothills of Jefferson County receive two- and four-party service. The minimum acceptable standard for phone service in the state, mandated by the Public Utilities Commission, is eight-party lines. Mountain Bell reports it is running short of phone numbers.
Cable TV is not yet available in most of the metro area, but HBO is beamed to subscribers from a microwave tower on Lookout Mountain.
The promoter of Science Fiction Land, a supposed theme park to be built on 1,000 acres in Aurora, is on the lam ahead of a warrant for securities fraud.
Cattle mutilations baffle Colorado.
Hot tubs rent by the hour.
Pat Schroeder dons a bunny suit for an Easter visit to the Great Wall of China. Roseanne, a local housewife, is testing her act at Denver comedy clubs.
The Seventies end, in the opinion of Post columnist Jack Kisling, at a low two on a scale of one to ten.
1980: The metro population is 1,618,446, a whopping 30 percent increase since 1970. (Thanks, John Denver, wherever you are.) Denver County, however, has lost 22,313 residents, while the suburbs have boomed; factors include DPS busing and the passage of the Poundstone Amendment in 1974, which limits Denver's growth through annexation. DPS has lost 30,000 students since 1970; white students make up 40 percent of the student body, down from 54 percent ten years earlier. Seventy-six percent of metro-area African-Americans live in Denver; 18 percent of the city's population is Hispanic.
The state gets a sixth congressional seat.
In the metro area, 316,000 jobs have been created since 1970; 82,000 are connected to the petroleum industry. Oil sells for $32 per barrel. The windfall profits tax on energy production is enacted. Inflation reaches 13.5 percent; home mortgages, 18 percent.
Denver's hometown airline, Frontier, employs 5,800 people, flies to 86 cities and makes $23 million annually.
Centennial is repeated in prime time to fill air otherwise left dead because of a Hollywood actors' strike. More of the young and the restless head our way.
Voters reject RTD's light-rail plan.
Times-Mirror Corp. buys the Denver Post from the Bonfils family, ending 88 years of local ownership. The Denver Center for the Performing Arts opens with funding from the Bonfils Foundation, flush with all its lovely loot from the sale of the Post. Next door, the new Boettcher Concert Hall is dark; Denver Symphony musicians are on strike.
National figures show an overabundance of hospital beds in Denver, but the repeal of federal regulations has resulted in duplication of expensive equipment and services. Over at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, doctors are researching in vitro fertilization.
The Avalanche play soccer--not hockey--indoors.
1981: With a mighty assist from major Republican campaign donor Joseph Coors, the Colorado mafia goes to Washington: James Watt, former director of the anti-environmentalist Mountain States Legal Foundation, as secretary of the interior, and Anne Gorsuch Burford as director of the Environmental Protection Agency. Neither make it through President Ronald Reagan's first term; the Coors-bankrolled conservative Heritage Foundation endures.
Evergreen's own John Hinckley is a rotten shot, but a record number of Coloradans--239--are murdered this year. The record will stand even through the metro area's notorious Summer of Violence in 1993, when the state records its lowest number of killings for the first half of the 1990s.
As oil prices decline, Marvin Davis sells off a large portion of his oil bidniz and buys 20th Century Fox. He begins selling off pieces of the conglomerate at mighty profits.
The first family moves into Highlands Ranch.
Downtown has more than 10 million square feet of office space.
Colorado brokers, including penny-stock wizards Blinder, Robinson & Co., handle 96 initial stock offerings worth $36 million.
Vancouver's own Edgar Kaiser, Jr., uses his mining-based riches to buy the ailing Broncos from the Phipps brothers. He hires Dan Reeves as coach. Modern competitive snowboarding begins with a late-season contest at Ski Cooper, near Leadville.
In a not-so-surprising move by the new Ohio-based owners, jazz station KADX changes to a country format. Although there are 36 stations broadcasting in the metro area, jazz will return to the airwaves only sporadically during the decade.
1982: National unemployment reaches nearly 10 percent. Exxon shuts down oil-shale operations in Parachute with no notice. Black Monday signals the beginning of the oil bust.
Mork & Mindy goes off the air. Colorado's first case of AIDS--although the disease does not yet have that name--is diagnosed.
The Equal Rights Amendment is not ratified. National figures show women earn about 69 cents for every dollar their male colleagues make. The state's marriage rate declines for the first time in twenty years. The drop continues through the end of the decade.
After forty years of producing, storing and dumping toxic weapons and pesticides at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal, the U.S. Army and Shell Oil cease operations. Lawsuits are filed to begin to sort out who's responsible for paying to clean up the most polluted place on earth.
The 16th Street Mall opens, finally.
A Christmas Eve blizzard buries the city in 25 inches of snow and paralyzes Stapleton International Airport. Mayor McNichols and Governor Lamm declare a state of emergency, but voters are unhappy with how long it takes to dig out.
The Colorado Rockies depart for New Jersey, where they become the (Blue) Devils, named after a mythical bogeyman said to inhabit the swamps and barrens of the southern part of the state.
1983: Former state representative Federico Pena defeats the incumbent McNichols (and five other candidates for Denver mayor, including Wellington Webb) with the slogan "Imagine a Great City!" and promises to get the snowplows out in a timely manner. He also favors expansion of Stapleton onto Rocky Mountain Arsenal land over building a new airport. During Pena's administrations, Norm Early becomes district attorney, former state legislator Webb becomes city auditor, and Bill Roberts becomes manager of public works. Not bad for a city controlled by the Ku Klux Klan less than fifty years earlier, but racial divisions still exist.
Beth Miller is missing in Idaho Springs. The authorities claim to have searched all known haunts of underage blond runaways but find no clues to the whereabouts of the fourteen-year-old. Nothing is done about the underage prostitutes working the truck stops, however.
Silverado Savings doubles its loans, from $51 million to $105 million, in one year. Larimer Square developer Dana Crawford begins work on the historic Oxford Hotel, across from Union Station. Much of dilapidated lower downtown is home to the domicile-deprived.
Image and reality merge at this year's Carousel Ball. Now in its third season, Dynasty, the prime-time soap opera set in Denver, places its ultra-rich fictitious characters among the ultra-rich real attendees, many of them Hollywood types flown in by 20th Century Fox owner Marvin Davis. As a result, part-time Vail resident, ex-male model and former president of the United States Gerald Ford and his lovely wife, Betty, namesake of the clinic so many of the rich and famous visit regularly, appear to be talking business with their old friends the Carringtons. Henry Kissinger, in charge of bringing the Vietnam War to a politically satisfactory end for Richard Nixon a decade earlier, schmoozes the lovely Alexis (Joan Collins) on camera.
The Colorado Lottery begins.
Pat Schroeder dubs Ronald Reagan the "Teflon" president. Local dog Pirate makes a run for the White House.
John Elway refuses to sign with the Baltimore Colts and is traded to Denver.
Westword is sold to New Times Inc., based in Phoenix, and finally goes weekly.
1984: The price of OPEC and North Sea oil is set at $29 a barrel. The nation's largest marketer of oil and gas partnerships, Petro-Lewis, lays off 80 percent of its 2,200 Denver-based employees.
Radio talk-show host Alan Berg is gunned down in his driveway in Cherry Creek by out-of-town neo-Nazis. Denver gets its first glimpse of right-wing militias that are alive and well and stalking the West. Gays are banned from the St. Patrick's Day Parade. Dick Lamm says we all have a duty to die.
Two years after the breakup of AT&T, Mountain Bell becomes US West and suddenly requires a monthly subsidy to continue upgrading party-line service in rural parts of the state. All customers pony up, courtesy of the PUC.
The average price of a single family home is $96,898.
Philip Anschutz buys the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad, originally created by Colorado Springs founder William Jackson Palmer. Marvin Davis and Australian Rupert Murdoch buy Metromedia Inc., giving them control of seven television stations across the country. M.D.C. Holdings and Silverado Savings & Loan begin buying up farmland in Adams County near the Rocky Mountain Arsenal. Investors include developer Bill Walters, president of the Greater Denver Chamber of Commerce, and his colleague, Neil Bush, son of the sitting vice president.
Holly Coors, wife of Joseph, chairs the Colorado committee to re-elect Reagan/Bush.
After fourteen happy hippie years in the herb-tea business, Boulder's Mo Siegel sells Celestial Seasonings to mega-corporation Kraft Foods.
Edgar Kaiser sells the Broncos to fellow Canadian Pat Bowlen.
The last piece of the downtown Skyline urban-renewal project, the Tabor Center, opens. With a few notable exceptions--such as Larimer Square, the Daniels & Fisher Tower and the Denver City Cable Railway Building--nearly all the buildings in a 27-block area between Curtis and Larimer from Cherry Creek to 20th Street have been razed during the eighteen-year Denver Urban Renewal Authority project. In their place are now skyscrapers and large-scale spaces including the Denver Performing Arts Complex and Sakura Square.
A team of surgeons at CU Health Sciences Center successfully operates on a fetus in the womb.
1985: Voters ban the use of public funds for abortions in Colorado, the first state to make abortion legal.
Interest rates nationally are the lowest since 1967, at 3.7 percent. Home prices in the Denver area decline for the first time in twenty years--but homeowners are now allowed to shoot intruders dead, under the "Make My Day" law.
Beverly Hills-based American Medical International buys Presbyterian/Saint Luke's Medical Center and Comprecare. Part of the proceeds of the sale of the nonprofit hospitals is used to create the Colorado Trust, a philanthropic health-care foundation whose board consists almost entirely of former P/SL boardmembers. AMI goes on a typical Eighties acquisition-and-expansion spree.
Marvin Davis sells a chunk of 20th Century Fox to Rupert Murdoch for $575 million. Murdoch combines this with his Metromedia holdings to create the Fox Network. Voters turn down a proposed new convention center on Davis's property in the Platte Valley.
Frontier Airlines, like many other Denver corporations, declares bankruptcy.
Jeffrey and Peter Coors, grandsons of founder Adolph, take over the brewing company and expand distribution to 44 states, despite the enduring boycott.
Thirty years after its invention, the Denver Boot, the state's second-most famous product after Coors beer (but lots less popular), is locked onto approximately 7,000 cars per year, producing $1.3 million in fines and removal fees.
The technological evolution of snowboards--the metal edges are fused--prompts Breckenridge to allow snowboarders on the same slopes as skiers. Snowboarding is legal at only 7 percent of the nation's ski areas.
1986: Oil sells for $9 per barrel. The boom hits bottom.
For the first time since 1950, more people moved out of Colorado--about 65,000--than moved in. Last one out, turn off the lights, please.
Samaritan House opens, serving 778,000 meals to the homeless in its first year. After three terms, Dick Lamm does not run for governor. Fellow Democrat Roy Romer is elected; the state legislature stays solidly Republican. Democrat Tim Wirth moves from the House to the U.S. Senate.
Dana Crawford sells her Larimer Square holdings to concentrate on downtown residential projects.
Raymond Burr comes to town to film his Perry Mason movies, inspiring a rash of courtroom renovations.
Stapleton has a new slogan: "It's our airport. And it's important to all of us." It's the world's fifth-busiest airport, with 34.7 million passengers per year. Frank Lorenzo's Texas International Airlines acquires Continental in the industry's first hostile takeover. This is the beginning of four years of fare- and job-slashing, asset stripping, engulfing and devouring in the airline industry.
Breckenridge builds the state's first snowboarding half-pipe and hosts the World Championships of Snowboarding, an event stolen from California. Righteous.
1987: Douglas County's population is 50,000, but it's zoned for 500,000. Eleven percent of all homes sold in the metro area (682) are in Highlands Ranch.
Anybody want a HUD home? With homeowners defaulting on mortgages at record rates, there are plenty available. Even Marvin Davis gets only a measly million or so for his Cherry Hills mansion when he moves to Beverly Hills. The Carousel Ball is canceled.
Downtown office vacancies top 30 percent; unemployment is over 7 percent. The parent company of May D&F acquires the Denver and promptly closes the downtown store. Blinder Robinson is the tenth-largest brokerage firm in the U.S. in terms of number of brokers employed. Petro-Lewis is liquidated to the bare walls for $770 million.
Federico Pena is re-elected with the help of major campaign contributions from M.D.C. Holdings, the last big developer working in the struggling Denver economy. The company is kept afloat by junk bond sales and loans from Silverado. M.D.C. chairman Larry Mizel and Silverado's Michael Wise also host million-dollar fundraisers for the Reagan and Bush campaigns.
After more than a dozen industrial banks have their assets frozen, out-of-town owners make fire-sale acquisitions along the Wall Street of the West. They begin the push for branch banking.
The stock market crashes, but Denver's been down so long it looks like up from here.
On the air-quality front, the metro-wide Better Air Campaign begins, and carbon monoxide violations are reduced to 53 days per year, thanks to the introduction of oxygenated fuels. This is the last year Denver air exceeds federal ozone levels.
Times-Mirror sells the Post to Dean Singleton's Media Group, based in Houston. Stapleton opens a new concourse.
A state highway employee accidentally bulldozes a massive boulder onto a bus full of tourists. The Harmonic Convergence of the planets doesn't happen, but the AFL-CIO calls off its decade-long boycott of Coors. After 25 years, the Bonfils Theatre on East Colfax closes.
John Elway loses his first Super Bowl, 39-20 to the New York Giants.
1988: Maybe the Harmonic Convergence is having an effect. It seems the Apocalypse is beckoning:
The lieutenant governor invites Native Americans to eat Thanksgiving dinner in a Mayflower van parked in front of the Capitol. Gary Coleman buys the "Busy Woman's Dream Home" in Highlands Ranch.
When Kraft Foods becomes part of the Philip Morris Companies, healthy herb-tea manufacturer Celestial Seasonings is owned by the nation's most aggressive tobacco company, which, coincidentally, also owns the family-friendly Highlands Ranch, through its Mission Viejo subsidiary.
Continental acquires Frontier, cuts fares and jobs, and loses the Frontier name.
Evergreen's own Gary Hart self-destructs his second presidential bid through unabashed Monkey Business. Some observers say that with press snooping so handsomely rewarded, the era of tabloid/paparazzi tactics has begun.
Colorado votes solidly Republican, as usual, and helps put George Bush in the White House. First son Neil makes his home in Denver. Voters also endorse making English the official language of the state.
Since Denver is prohibited by the Poundstone Amendment from annexing any more territory, voters in Adams County must approve transferring the land east of the Arsenal for the proposed Denver International Airport. The measure passes, and the land held by the Silverado gang becomes the prime development corridor. Silverado still reports a negative net worth of $167 million.
Public Service Company reports a profit of $125 million and closes down its Fort St. Vrain nuclear plant near Platteville.
Philip Anschutz buys the San Francisco-based Southern Pacific Railroad for $1.8 billion, then merges it with the Denver & Rio Grande Western.
For the first time, human immuno-deficiency virus infection makes the list of the fifteen leading causes of death in the state, with AIDS claiming 168 lives.
The Broncos lose the Super Bowl in San Diego, 42-10, to the Washington Redskins.
Congress enacts $20,000 in reparation for citizens of Japa-nese descent who were interred in camps, many in Colorado, during WWII, a plan championed by Denver's own Minoru Yasui, head of the Commission on Community Relations from 1967 through 1983.
Voters also endorse the establishment of the metro-wide Scientific and Cultural Facilities District, approving an 0.1 percent sales tax earmarked for the arts and other cultural institutions.
The Denver Post moves to a shiny new office tower at 16th and Broadway, leaving its home of nearly forty years, designed by Temple Buell, standing empty--except, of course, for Truth and Justice, invited to reside within by the motto over the entrance.
Banking commissioner Richard Doby resigns.
1989: With more than 35,000 business failures in two years, Denver leads the nation in bankruptcies.
The feds finally put the stake into the heart of the proposed Two Forks Dam--the first time a massive water project has been stopped. Since 1984, $40 million has been spent on planning and permitting for the dam, which would have flooded Deckers and Buffalo Creek southwest of Denver to provide water for the metro area through the end of the century.
The feds raid Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons plant.
Denver voters embark on a two-year bond binge, eventually approving more than $1 billion for public works from planting trees and air-conditioning traffic court to developing the infrastructure of the Central Platte Valley. In a special election, they also approve the new airport, six months after federal regulators finally seize Silverado. Airport construction begins in September, with Mayor Pena promising it will provide 20,000 new jobs, be open by May 1993 and cost $1.7 billion. Inaccurate prognostication is the least of the mayor's worries, as reports begin to surface that M.D.C. Holdings coerced illegal contributions for Pena's 1987 campaign from its subcontractors.
Congress approves the savings-and-loan bailout, which eventually costs taxpayers $345 billion. Denver is the regional headquarters of the Resolution Trust Corp., charged with sorting out the mess left by Neil Bush and Co. in thirteen Western states.
Dynasty goes off the air. Tanking economies ain't as glitzy as they used be.
After thirteen years, Saturday midnight screenings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, complete with costumed cultists, move from the Ogden Theatre on East Colfax to the revamped Esquire on Sixth Avenue. Attendance falls, and Rocky's lights go out two years later. Dammit, Janet.
Professor Tom Cech of the University of Colorado in Boulder shares the Nobel Prize in chemistry with Sidney Altman for their work on RNA. Cech continues to teach freshman general chem classes.
Colorado's bid for the 1998 Winter Olympics is rejected; Nagano, Japan, gets the nod. The Olympic Committee has a long memory, it seems.
Despite a decade of vigorous fundraising efforts, the Denver Symphony finally dissolves. Musicians band together to form the Colorado Symphony, which plays on.
The Rocky Mountain Arsenal becomes a wildlife sanctuary, minus the underground-dwelling prairie dogs that might get into the buried toxic wastes.
Coach Bill McCartney of the University of Colorado football Buffaloes and others take extreme umbrage at a Westword article detailing publicly for the first time his familial dysfunction. Westword's new office is directly across from the Wynkoop Brewing Co., the state's first brewpub making and serving its own beer on the premises.
1990: The rest of the country, then the world, sinks into recession, just as Colorado turns the economic corner.
The metro population is 1,842,319--a 12 percent increase over ten years despite the oil bust and other disasters. While this represents half of the entire state's population, Denver County loses another 24,755 residents to the 'burbs. Dick Lamm's nemesis, C-470, is opened by Governor Roy Romer aboard a snowplow and speeds the population drain. Wells in Douglas County begin to go dry.
Single women outnumber single men throughout the state, by 15,978 in Denver County alone, although census figures also show 1,200 more married men than married women in the city.
A sudden afternoon hailstorm shatters windows, batters cars, smashes traffic lights and shreds gardens along the Front Range to become the tenth most costly natural disaster on record to date, doing $450 million worth of damage to insured property.
After 25 years of ensnaring rush-hour motorists, The Mousetrap at the intersection of I-25 and I-70 is torn down.
Jet fuel prices increase, putting the squeeze on low-fare carriers like Continental. Traffic at Stapleton drops to 27.4 million, the lowest since 1984. Frank Lorenzo gets the ax but drifts gently to earth on a multi-million-dollar golden parachute.
Penny-stock king Meyer Blinder and others are indicted for an alleged stock swindle and international money-laundering scheme.
Southern Pacific loses $35 million. M.D.C. Holdings' 1986 junk bonds are worth 30 cents on the dollar.
Denver City Council gives Andy Schlenker, son of the owner of the Denver Nuggets, $3 million to stage the Denver Grand Prix, sending Formula One race cars at high speeds around Civic Center for two days in August--and closing off the Capitol, library, City and County Building and art museum to citizens for a week before Labor Day and the traditional Taste of Colorado bash. This happens twice before the Schlenkers depart for the deeper pockets of Memphis.
In a special election, voters approve the metro stadium district to raise money to build a baseball-only stadium, should Denver be awarded one of the two expansion teams planned by Major League Baseball. Local high-rollers are reluctant to get on board with the ownership group, so two carpetbaggers from Youngstown, Ohio, step up to the plate. The Coors family comes in for a meager 7 percent, with naming rights. Heck, fans in the Time Zone Without a Team are desperate.
The Colorado Convention Center opens next to Currigan Hall. The abandoned Post building and a block of parking garages and empty storefronts separates it from the 16th Street Mall. Plans are still afoot to get a 1,000-room hotel built nearby.
The Central Bank Building at 15th and Arapahoe is demolished for a parking lot.
Local investors buy Presbyterian/Saint Luke's back from AMI, using $60 million from the Colorado Trust. They vow to return the hospitals to nonprofit status.
Cherry Creek Shopping Center--don't call it a mall!--opens with upscale shopping previously unheard of in Denver, including Lord & Taylor.
Limited stakes gaming--don't call it gambling!--is approved by Colorado voters and soon invades Central City, Black Hawk and Cripple Creek in the name of historic preservation. Yeah, right.
The Broncos--don't call them Donkeys!--lose their fourth Super Bowl, by the biggest margin in the history of the contest, 55-10 to the San Francisco 49ers. SF QB Joe Montana is named MVP.
1991: Wellington Webb puts on his sneakers and walks the Denver neighborhoods to become Denver's first black mayor, beating district attorney and early favorite Norm Early (who relies on Yaphet Kotto for campaign strategy).
The Gulf War concludes after six months, but the regime of Saddam Hussein lives on.
Southern Pacific loses $78 million. Ross Perot's EDS gets $2.1 billion in jobs from Continental, before the airline takes Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Kraft General Foods sells Celestial Seasonings back to its original management, and the planets realign correctly.
Judith Albino is named to replace CU chancellor Gordon Gee, who takes his bow tie with him to Ohio State. She is the first woman to hold the university's top job, and the sniping by both faculty and regents begins almost immediately. Former Miss America Marilyn Van Derbur Atler goes public with her tale of incest.
On Father's Day, four employees are shot dead in the United Bank vault at 17th and Broadway. Ex-Denver cop James King is tried, but not convicted, thanks to the efforts of his attorney Walter Gerash; the money taken in the robbery is never recovered.
Big Head Todd and the Monsters go national, with a mighty shove from Westword.
1992: Voters pass Amendment 2, which bars local government from extending specific civil-rights protection to gays and lesbians. A national boycott of the "Hate State" begins and deeply divides the celebrities of Aspen. Only strong Democrats Barbra Streisand, who urges stars to stay away over Christmas, and Ethel Kennedy and her sons vacation elsewhere. John Denver and Cher both stick up for the human-rights record of the decadent little ski town, whose anti-discrimination policies, along with those in Denver and Boulder, prompted the vote in the first place.
In that same election, Douglas Bruce's TABOR amendment to the Colorado Constitution is approved--to much moaning from elected officials. It limits the amount of money the state can spend and collect through taxation without specific permission from the voters. Somehow Colorado survives.
Former California governor Jerry Brown wins the state's first national Democratic primary. Bill Clinton is the first Democrat to gain a majority of Colorado votes since 1964.
After he is fired from Phar-Mor for allegedly embezzling $10 million to fund the no-hope World Basketball League, Youngstown's Mickey Monus is bought out of his Colorado Rockies shares by partners Oren Benton, Jerry McMorris, Charlie Monfort and the Coors family. Phar-Mor declares Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Neil Bush pays $50,000 to discharge his liability in the Silverado debacle. M.D.C.'s David Mandarich is acquitted for his part in the political kickback scheme. Bill Walters, claiming to be flat broke, resurfaces in luxury digs in California.
The Brown Palace turns 100.
The Martin Luther King Jr. celebration gets out of hand when marchers confront taunting skinheads near the Capitol.
The special grand jury investigating alleged environmental crimes at Rocky Flats runs away; Westword breaks the story.
1993: Denver International Airport doesn't open. The highly touted automated baggage system develops a nasty habit of destroying luggage entrusted to it.
Voters discontinue funding for the state tourism board, so it's hard to tell if the Hate State boycott is having more of an effect on tourism than having no one there to answer 1-800-COLORADO. Even so, the state population grows by 3 percent.
Former mayor Pena is appointed to Clinton's cabinet as secretary of transportation; the boulevard leading to the airport is named in Pena's honor. Pat Schroeder scores a win with the passage of the Family Leave Act.
Presbyterian/Saint Luke's merges with Swedish Medical Center to become HealthOne. Then, after more than a century in business, Saint Luke's Hospital closes for good. Particulates in Denver's air do not exceed federal standards once this year.
May D&F becomes Foley's and closes the downtown store, abandoning the paraboloid. Another Denver institution, Gart Brothers Sporting Goods, is acquired by L.A. acquisition specialists Leonard Green & Partners.
Major League Baseball's first season opens in Mile High Stadium. After Eric Young's first-pitch home run, the season runs about as expected for the expansion Colorado Rockies. As that first pitch is thrown, however, Mickey Monus is being indicted on charges that he embezzled more than $499 million from Phar-Mor.
The Boys of Summer are followed by the Summer of Violence, as a few high-profile shootings send the city--and the media--into overdrive. But everything is quiet when Pope John Paul II brings his message of hope, love and dehydration to the youth of the world. The 16th Street Mall shuttle shuts down for the first time in history due to volume.
1994: DIA doesn't open--again--but the gala preview party goes ahead anyway, in Concourse A, to be occupied by Continental Airlines. Briefly.
Twenty percent of all people moving to Colorado come from California. In sheer numbers, however, the state ranks seventh in attracting Californians; Oregon, Washington, Nevada and Arizona take it the hardest. On the other hand, California ranks second to Texas as the most popular destination for Coloradans getting out of Denver, baby.
US West is the nation's third-largest wireless company but won't provide cell phones for customers waiting, and waiting, and waiting, for service.
RTD's new and improved light rail follows the route of one of the nation's most extensive trolley systems, abandoned in 1950 in favor of federally funded highways. Old track is ripped up for new.
Lowry Air Force Base closes.
After several attempts by state lawmakers, it is now illegal to defame agricultural products in Colorado. Colorado voters approve term limits, making it impossible for vegetables to stay in the statehouse too long.
Although Jerry McMorris emerges as a voice of reason among Major League Baseball owners, the players go on strike; there is no World Series. A Time Zone weeps, but many fans turn in their Rockies season tickets in protest.
The Jersey Devils finally win a Stanley Cup.
1995: DIA opens at a cost of $3 billion--and counting. Continental soon reneges on filling its concourse, leaving United Airlines the dominant carrier. Fares rise accordingly--but soon a new Frontier Airlines takes to the skies from DIA, offering a low-fare alternative.
Wellington Webb wins a second term.
The largest for-profit hospital chain in the country, Columbia/ HCA, buys Aurora Regional and North Suburban Medical Centers from the for-profit Humana as well as the nonprofit Rose Medical Center and enters into a joint venture with HealthOne.
Coors Field opens one block from the Westword office. The Rockies win the Western division, only to be demolished by the soon-to-be World Series champs, the Atlanta Braves. LoDo, once dismissed as a place where young people would never come for fun, is overrun by baseball fans of all ages looking for entertainment before and after the game. The hospitality industry obliges, opening countless restaurants, nightclubs and pubs within a five-block radius of the stadium. But the lessons of Skyline have been learned: 90 percent of LoDo is designated as historic, and no historic building can be razed for a parking lot.
While the development of LoDo moves urban outsdoorsmen north on Larimer, an estimated 3,300 people are on the street in the six-county metro area on any given night. Domestic violence, lack of low-income housing, and rents that have risen faster than wages are blamed for the 18 percent rise in homelessness in Colorado since 1990.
Elitch's moves to the Central Platte Valley, after more than a century of being synonymous with northwest Denver. The last of the major downtown department stores, Joslins, closes. The Tattered Cover opens a second location, at 16th and Wynkoop, across from the Post Office's Terminal Annex.
CU regents finally buy out Judith Albino's contract, but the bitterness lingers. The Resolution Trust Corp. goes out of business, its job of liquidating bad savings and loans concluded two years ahead of schedule.
John Davis, son of Marvin, produces Waterworld for sometime Aspen resident Kevin Costner. Andy Garcia shows us Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead.
After a year of unrelenting cuteness, the Denver Zoo's star polar bear cubs, Klondike and Snow, go to live the good life in Orlando. Although Channel 4's exhaustive coverage of the pair does not win an Emmy, as a consolation prize Denver receives both the news director who orchestrated award-winning coverage of the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building and the trial of the suspects in the bombing. Melissa Klinzing soon hires anchor Natalie Pujo but can't convince the station to buy the poor woman a chair.
US West meets the PUC's December 31 deadline to eliminate all party lines in the state. The company has already sold off most of its truly rural exchanges to other carriers, making the job less of a burden.
The National Hockey League leaves Quebec as the Nordiques become the Avalanche--which goes on to win the Stanley Cup during its first season on the ice at McNichols Arena.
1996: The federal government shuts down for three weeks. No one notices.
Pat Schroeder is out of a job after 24 years in Congress, and Diana DeGette is elected to represent Denver. Dick Lamm is lured by Ross Perot to run for the nomination of the Reform Party, only to have the little sociopath pull the rug out from under him.
Since 1991, the state's population has increased by a half-million, including a net gain of 30,000 newborn natives. The metro area grows 15 percent since 1990, adding close to 45,000 residents this year alone, the largest influx since 1973. Douglas County grows by 52 percent, Denver by 6 percent, and housing now costs 18 percent more than the national average. Coloradans get married at the lowest rate since 1962.
In its first full year of operation, DIA sees nearly 1 million fewer passengers than in the last year at Stapleton.
Oren Benton is relieved of his share of the Rockies. The largest of the old family companies, Gates Rubber Co., is acquired by Tomkin PLC, a London-based conglomerate that also owns gun manufacturer Smith & Wesson. Columbia has laid off more than 300 health-care workers. Omaha-based Union Pacific buys Southern Pacific for $5.4 billion, completing the largest rail merger in history. Philip Anschutz--don't call him a billionaire!--holds 26 percent of SP stock and becomes UP's largest shareholder. The UP and rival Burlington Northern-Santa Fe are the only large Western railroads left. Service deteriorates accordingly.
Vail buys Keystone, Breckenridge and Arapahoe Basin ski areas. In an ill-timed campaign, Copper Mountain tries to position itself as Colorado's last locally owned resort; a month later, it is purchased by Interwest Corp. of Canada.
The paraboloid comes down to make way for an expansion of Adam's Mark's coveted 1,000 hotel rooms. The new Denver Public Library opens, better than ever. Developers look to the nearby Golden Triangle as the next LoDo.
Park Meadows Retail Resort--don't call it a mall!--opens at the intersection of C-470 and I-25, offering upscale shopping previously unheard of in Denver. Cherry Creek Shopping Center takes a direct hit in sales and reaches out to Cherry Creek North for cooperative marketing, with craptacular results. Traffic patterns around both centers are hopeless.
Promise Keepers, a men-only group founded by former CU coach Bill McCartney to spread the word about the lessons supposedly learned from overcoming familial dysfunctions as detailed in Westword, holds 22 stadium events attended by 1.1 million weeping men.
HIV kills more people in the state than either blood poisoning or homicide.
After finally settling a raft of lawsuits against Mission Viejo over expansive soils that have cracked foundations throughout the development, the owners of Highlands Ranch take umbrage at a National Geographic photo that portrays their slice of suburban heaven as little more than a sea of overpriced dwellings set too close together, the epitome of urban sprawl and irresponsible overdevelopment.
1997: Douglas County's increasing water shortages are blamed on overdevelopment. County commissioners decide to try just saying no to developers, or at least downzoning. Permits for new home construction in the metro area are at their highest level since 1984.
Colorado is the nation's fifth-fastest-growing state, adding more than 76,000 residents since last year, 63,000 of them in the metro area.
US West is the nation's third-largest cable company, but with most homes in the metro area wired for multiple lines, another number shortage looms. Plans are afoot for a new area code to join the three already in place; through a quirk in the federal regulations, all calls between 303 and 970 are routed through US West, not the long-distance carriers that have had thirteen years to build their customer base. Local phone competition is, not surprisingly, moving more slowly than Congress expected.
Colorado unemployment is at 3 percent, 1.5 percent lower than the national average and its lowest in 24 years.
Law and order, Denver style:
Peter Schmitz is acquitted on vehicular homicide charges in the death of Rocky Mountain News columnist Greg Lopez, since the owner of the car, Spicer Breeden, has committed suicide and no one can prove who was actually driving at the time.
Timothy McVeigh gets the death sentence for the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building; Terry Nichols gets a split decision but no sentence from the jury. Victims' families need to get on with their lives.
JonBenet Ramsey is still dead, and her parents still ain't talking.
Ground is broken for Colorado's Ocean Journey, the Central Platte Valley's aquarium, after it receives a $1 million contribution from the Gay and Lesbian Fund for Colorado, headed by Tim Gill, founder of Quark, Inc.
Carbon monoxide levels have not exceeded federal standards once in the past two years.
Although he'd be proud of the taming of the Brown Cloud, the shade of recently departed Mayor McNichols has a cosmic hoot at the plight of Wellington Webb, up to his hubris in an early blizzard that closes Pena Boulevard and, for all practical purposes, DIA just two days after Webb says it'll never happen. Reports that the Broncos received a special escort behind the city's Hum-V don't sit well with those who spent the night stranded between the airport and civilization. Luckily, the election isn't until 1999.
Some of the other big names in the last two decades of Denver history who call it quits are James Michener, John Denver, Allan Phipps and Gary Davis. Yeah, and that defrocked princess who skied Vail with her kids once, too.
Roads throughout the state are a shambles, and state troopers are spread too thin to provide adequate service along great stretches of highway. School districts throughout the state remain underfunded, and standardized tests confirm that children in poor school districts get less education, regardless of race. The state, faced with a tax surplus for the first time in decades, wrangles over how to return the money to the citizens. The likely amount for each person is about the same as a round-trip cab ride between Denver and DIA. Thank you, Douglas Bruce, wherever you are.
In the first year after the end of DPS busing, the student population of 66,000 is 26 percent white, 21 percent African-American, 5 percent Asian and Native American, and 47 percent Hispanic.
Construction of the long-awaited Pavilions project on the upper end of the 16th Street Mall and bagged meters in LoDo make downtown parking well nigh impossible. Voters reject RTD's Guide the Ride plan.
Western Pacific Airlines, which had been doing enough business out of Colorado Springs to prompt the city to plan to expand the airport, moves to DIA. Not only does this leave the Springs holding the bag, but after an announced merger with Frontier falls through, WestPac promptly goes bankrupt, although its planes stay in the air. Both the Springs and Frontier breathe sighs of relief, air fares at DIA fall 21 percent, and Frontier continues to fly to fourteen cities.
The Summit of the Eight, a get-together of the good ol' boys who run the world, showcases the city in all its schizophrenic maybe-we-are-a-cowtown-what's-it-to-ya? glory, including dinner at the venerable Fort restaurant in Morrison and Sharon Magness prancing around on a big white horse. The downtown library is closed to taxpayers for the duration; U.S. 285 is closed during the banquet at The Fort. We are proud, especially once Mayor Webb makes sure the feds are going to pay their bills in full.
Plans are finalized to convert the once-proud but now abandoned Cinderella City--yes, it's a mall!--to public use. Plans are nearly finalized for redevelopment of the old Elitch Gardens site. Plans are nearly finalized to redevelop St. Luke's. Stapleton redevelopment is moving slowly.
The palatial office building constructed near the Denver Tech Center to house Meyer Blinder and his ego before their unfortunate incarceration is now occupied by PacifiCare, the health maintenance organization that is the direct descendant of Comprecare.
Red meat, martinis and cigars make a big comeback on the dining scene.
The Avalanche finally introduce their mascot, Howler. Allegedly a yeti, the big furry guy bears an uncanny resemblance to a mythical bogeyman said to inhabit the swamps and barrens of southern New Jersey.
Although snowboarding is a competition sport in the upcoming Winter Olympics, and 97 percent of the nation's areas encourage the only segment of the ski industry showing double-digit growth, boarding is still not allowed on Aspen Mountain, except when nearby Buttermilk and Snowmass are closed, dude.
Joe Montana retires from football; John Elway sells his car dealerships to Wayne Huizinga, owner of the Miami Dolphins and world-champion Florida Marlins, but keeps on playing to an AFC championship and a final trip to the Super Bowl.
The Broncos win.
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Denver, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.