Red Rocks Amphitheatre won't announce its 2009 lineup until this spring, but no matter who takes the stage — whether it's Lyle Lovett or 50 Cent — concert-goers will likely pay an extra fifty cents to see him. But don't cry into your smuggled-in flask of vodka. Those two shiny quarters will help pay for the maintenance and upkeep of Denver's unusual, underfunded and oft-forgotten 14,000-acre, 25-park mountain parks system.
Red Rocks is one of those parks. So are Winter Park, the Mount Evans area, Lookout Mountain Park (and the Buffalo Bill Grave and Museum, not to mention the best souvenir store in Colorado) and Genesee Park, where some of the city's buffalo roam. Last August, Denver Mountain Parks completed the first draft of a new master plan (a final draft is due any minute) that looked into who uses the system, how it can be used better — and whether Denver should continue to maintain and pay for it. The plan also included ways to raise more money to support the parks, which currently have no maps, few signs and only one ranger overseeing all of them.
The city's Theatres & Arenas division has already stepped up; it's raising the per-person facility fee it charges concert promoters to use Red Rocks from $4 to $4.50. It's up to the promoters whether they want to absorb this extra cost themselves or pass it along to concert-goers.
"Mountain Parks provides a service to us," says Theatres & Arenas spokeswoman Jenny Schiavone. "It's not like we're raising your price for some out-there kind of reason. The people who use it are really benefiting from it."
Susan Baird, the parks department project manager who is overseeing the master plan, hopes the fee will raise about $150,000 in 2009. The mountain parks system is "a huge asset in terrible times," she says. It's not only a great amenity that Denver can use to market itself, but it maintains places where people can enjoy themselves in the mountains — for free.
Isn't that worth another fifty cents to see 50 Cent?
Rocky roll: Rumors are rife at the Rocky Mountain News that bigwigs from tabloid owner E.W. Scripps will come to Denver this week to announce that — no surprise — a buyer for the paper hasn't been found. Why? Scripps CEO Rich Boehne told Westword's Michael Roberts that his firm would consider its options, which include closing the paper, if a sale wasn't in place by the middle of January — and January 16 is just past the midpoint.
Rocky editor/publisher/president John Temple acknowledged hearing this buzz — but insists he has no further information. "I don't know why anybody would say or believe that, other than that they said they would speak about the issue again in the middle of January — and that's a pretty vague time period," Temple said in an interview available at westword.com. "I personally have no knowledge of any planned visit or return by Scripps executives."
But those words have done nothing to ease Rocky newsroom anxiety, and each day that passes without word of rescue by a newspaper angel ratchets up the tension. For more on the possible future of the Rocky and other media outlets in Denver, check out Roberts's More Messages blog at westword.com/latestword.