Dude! There is nothing cheaper than free, and free is one concept that truly befits the sport of skateboarding, which, at its best, has no rules. That's exactly how things work at this city-built facility, whose smooth expanses of concrete bowls and ramps were opened to the public last summer. The fruits of a project spearheaded by city councilwoman Joyce Foster and a bunch of restless skateboard kids who had been ousted from the 16th Street Mall in the name of progress, the approximately 60,000-square-foot park is touted to be the largest free paradise of its kind in the nation. Equally expansive are its 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily operating hours. Helmets are not required, so grind at your own risk!


South Suburban Parks and Recreation caters to its target clientele of racquet-swinging suburbanites by offering fine outdoor and indoor ball-whacking havens. But these public facilities -- for sun-lovers, the Holly Tennis Center, and for year-round fun, the Centennial Tennis Club, a winterized tennis bubble -- also ensure one-stop sport experiences by operating on-premises pro shops with reasonably priced racquet-repair services, including restringing and regripping. Bring your own string and it's even cheaper.


Your relatives are coming in from the Old Country, and you want to show them that you carry on some of the old traditions -- except you haven't seen your bocce set in years. Don't panic: Butler Rents stocks one set of the famous lawn game and will rent it out for a weekend. Instructions are included, too, just in case your arguments get heated. But you'll have to supply the Chianti and patch of grass.


An incredible site, the Apex Center features a huge swimming area complete with water slides, hot tubs and a clubhouse-like "pump station" that sprays water from every conceivable angle. There's also an excellent ice rink, workout areas, weight rooms and an enormous climbing wall, plus a place to get food so people who've just worked off lots of calories can replenish them again.


Think of recreation as a commodity: Leisure time is one of life's luxuries that everyone wants and needs in our modern buzz-saw world. South Suburban makes it easy to give the gift of game by offering gift certificates in any denomination, redeemable (and available) at any district recreation facility for whatever activity the recipient chooses, be it dance lessons, pottery classes, lap time in the pool, a round of mini-golf or a spot in a spring softball league.


Although it's not on the scale of Albuquerque's justly famous balloon extravaganza, the Rocky Mountain Balloon Festival, which took place last year in late August, is turning into an annual blast. The balloons at the 2001 event ranged from corporate tie-ins (Tony the Tiger, the Energizer Bunny) to generic but still vibrant models that early risers could see up close and personal for the cost of entrance to the park. And they can be viewed from miles around for free: C-470 near Wadsworth was lined with looky-loos parked on the highway's shoulder. This year's version is scheduled to take place August 23-25. Up, up and away!


The giant corn maze at Chatfield Nature Preserve, which is open from Labor Day until October 31, is a great way to get temporarily lost. Thanks to clues located at strategic spots on the five-acre site, most people will be able to find their way out in about twenty minutes. But as soon as they reach the exit, kids will be ready to go right back in again -- especially during the big Halloween finale, when the maze is haunted by scary (but not too scary) creatures.


Stockton's is close enough to the city to be accessible, but far enough out to seem like it's in the country. Visitors can ride horses or go on hayrides through some beautiful scenery. Also, part of the property is an indoor arena perfect for staging large-scale events with a Western theme -- and each Halloween, the place features Haunted Hayrides complete with professional storytellers and a haunted maze.


Born in turmoil and baptized in controversy -- does it really look like a diaphragm or a half-finished prop from E.T.? -- Invesco has failed to win the hearts and minds of fans, despite a cost of nearly half-a-billion dollars. Yet the new stadium has some great attributes, chief among them the larger-than-life sculptures -- of a kicking tee, cleats, shoulder pads and a metallic face mask -- designed by Littleton native Melissa Smedley and two partners. Unlike the stadium's interior, this sculpture park is free and open to all.
The stadium turf sale was cleverly advertised with the slogan "Own a piece of Mile High History!" Last October, football fanatics who participated were able to purchase a slab of turf six feet long and eighteen inches wide for a mere $10, providing them with the least-expensive stadium souvenir conceivable. Betcha they never forget to water that part of their lawns.


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