Denver Boone rises again -- near DU, if not on campus

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If things had gone according to plan, the University of Denver would be rolling out its "Evolution of DU's mascot" event right now, highlighting past icons and introducing a new mascot, chosen after the 76-member Mascot Steering Committee studied the subject, narrowed down the options, then surveyed its constituents. But the survey was so inconclusive that that the school had decided not to decide. So the Pioneers play on without an official symbol -- while beloved former mascot Denver Boone rises again.

At least on the roof of The Pioneer. Yesterday, the Little Pub outpost at 2401 South University, finally unveiled its new rooftop deck. And there, along with the bar and firepit, was an unexpected amenity -- a seven-foot tall sculpture of Denver Boone, which served as DU's mascot from 1968 to 1998, when it was banished.

The Boone sculpture was made by owner Mark Berzins's father, who does all the design work for his son's watering holes (23, at last count).

"We thought it was a great way to connect with the alumni to bring back the mascot," says Berzins, who'd already incorporated pictures of Denver Boone on the menu and the outside of the building when he remodeled the old Chinese restaurant that had been at the address, creating a bar "that feels like a college hangout that's been here forever."

The original Boone, a cartoonish frontiersman, was designed for the University of Denver by a Walt Disney artist; it served the school for thirty years before it was booted as being too Daniel Booneish, and replaced briefly by Ruckus, the red-tailed hawk. Then in 2008, the school allowed alumni to bring Denver Boone back to sporting events -- but protests this past winter put an end to that, and Boone was not even considered as a new mascot possibility. Instead, the committee offered images of a mountaineer, a jackalope and an elk -- none of which registered well with the greater DU community.

Berzins attended Stanford and remembers when that school dumped the Indian as its mascot in the '80s and moved to a cardinal. Compared to that, complaints about Boone "seem like a little bit of a PC reach," he says. "I've been in a situation where I have to be sensitive, and this isn't one of them...it's just a Disney character."

From the Calhoun: Wake Up Call archive: "Denver Boone is dead. Long live Denver Boone."

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