To most people, the construction at Union Station is only an eyesore made of dirt and debris that has forced the Amtrak station to move many blocks away. And Denver International Airport's baggage system is only a danger to your luggage. But the Travel Channel's new show, Off Limits, explores the intricacies of places the public knows, but doesn't really know.
Host and executive producer Don Wildman and his crew just wrapped a week of filming around Denver for an hour-long show that will air some time in the spring, during what's officially the second season of the show; the first season is currently airing.
"We came up with a concept of telling the story of American cities through spaces that the public couldn't necessarily get to," says Wildman. "These might be public places. They might even be places the public can see and take tours of. But we go past that point to get to the nuts and bolts of the city and the identity through different spaces."
Last week the show's crew visited the U.S. Mint, where Wildman watched the coin-creating process from sheet of metal to legal tender. At DIA, the crew examined the baggage system and explored the white peaks that make the airport's roof. But they didn't get to explore the secret dungeons that conspiracy theorists believe are underneath the airport, or look into any other DIA conspiracy theories.
"The show is more about the physical works of a place and not necessarily the conspiracy theories behind it," explains Wildman. "But it's always fun to get some private time with these people. Most of those things make people roll their eyes. It's a problem for them from a public relations standpoint. It's nice to debunk those things, frankly."
In Cripple Creek, Wildman witnessed drilling for gold ore, then the refining and gold-pouring process.
The crew finished with a shoot yesterday at Union Station, where a $490 million project to transform the station is under way.
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Wildman has a lot of say regarding the cities where Off Limits has filmed, including Denver.
"Denver is a very good example of an American city remaking itself," he says. "In my experience, and I do this all the time, it's one of the most pre-eminent examples of that because everything you look at is in this state of transformation to a more modern city that's handling the challenges of the next century."
The Off Limits crew typically films one segment in which Wildman tours a space with an expert and asks questions about it. Wildman then returns by himself, showing his passion for such things as bus bays, and further explains the area.
At Union Station, Bill Mosher, the owner's representative for the Denver Union Station Project Authority, served as the expert. He says the construction will be finished in the spring of 2014. "It's going to change the face of downtown," says Mosher. "It's going to solidify downtown as the hub of the region. I think it's hopefully going to support all the various regional transportation systems. I think it will create a new mixed-use core of downtown that hopefully will be pretty exciting."
Wildman hopes the show creates the link between what Mosher says and what the average person sees at Union Station -- which is no trains and a lot of half-built structures.
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"I'm a busy person, who has the blinders on often," says Wildman. "I would walk by here and think, 'Yeah, yeah, construction.' Little would I know that under my feet is this enormous bus terminal. What you see is not what you get. This is going to be amazing. This is going to transform this whole city as far as I can tell.
"The general public doesn't know how intricate the works are of an urban environment," he continues. "That's my job, is to try and get on camera and make it understandable to people just like me. Because I'm not an expert. I'm not from a construction background or an engineer. I'm just some guy on television. I'm basically a representative of the general public who happens to have some kind of ability to ask some questions and connect the dots."