Longform

DIA Conspiracies Take Off

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And what looked like a gamble in 1995 seems to have paid off for Denver. Today, DIA is considered one of the world's most efficient, spacious and technologically advanced airports. It is the fifth-busiest in the nation and tenth-busiest in the world, serving some 50 million passengers in 2006.

Peña knows all about the statistics — but he hadn't heard about any of the DIA conspiracies. They "have no basis in fact," he asserts, but still manages to put them in a positive light, suggesting that it's a compliment that Denver International Airport has attracted so much interest. "If it were a boring architectural structure, if it were a minor cog in the complex system of aviation traffic around the world, it probably wouldn't get very much attention from anybody," he says. "So in a way, I would think of this as a somewhat interesting observation that people make of DIA, which means that people give it a lot of importance, which it deserves. So I think it's good in that sense."

DIA spokesman Chuck Cannon has heard all about the DIA conspiracies. He's been getting questions about the underground bases and the airport's connection to the New World Order since before DIA opened, at a rate of about one a month. And his response hasn't changed over the years. With all of the intense public and media scrutiny of the airport project, he asks, how could these supposed underground facilities have been built without somebody seeing them or reporting them?

"Sometimes these conspiracies are fun to read about, but they're hokum; they just don't hold water," Cannon says. "And the people who say they've been out here and worked on the project and saw all of this stuff being built are smoking something stronger than what they can buy at their local supermarket."

The strangest theories he's heard are that the capstone in the main hall is a beacon for the mothership, and that underneath the basement is a camp for political prisoners. "When I tell them it's bunk, they say, 'Well, of course you'd say that. You work there. You're part of the conspiracy, too!'" he says. "Well, if they think that's true, why did they bother calling me?"

No one has bothered to call Charles Ansbacher, now the conductor of the Boston Landmarks Orchestra, which gives free classical concerts at public landmarks around the Boston area. But as the co-chair of the now-defunct New World Airport Commission, which orchestrated DIA's opening festivities, Ansbacher would be a prime candidate for the conspiracists' Illuminati puppet master. Back in 1990, the longtime arts advocate was living in Denver and working as an aesthetic design-policy advisor for DIA when he decided to start a not-for-profit organization that would help promote the new airport to the people of Denver, and enlisted big-name corporate and civic names to serve on the board.

Ansbacher can't quite remember how he came up with the name for the organization, but he guesses it might have come from Dvorák's New World Symphony. The New World Airport Commission name emphasized that DIA was the newest airport in the world, and the first new airport built in this country since Dallas/Fort Worth in 1973, he says; it did not symbolize that DIA was a monument to the New World Order. "The idea that there is anything secretive about this is totally preposterous," Ansbacher says.

The group's main function was to plan both an air show and a public gala in 1993, which went on despite the fact that the airport was delayed. He was there the day the capstone, which is also a time capsule, was dedicated. The Masonic symbol was placed on the stone because it was provided by a local Masonic lodge. "One of the remaining things they do is provide time capsules," he points out.

Ansbacher was also a force behind the plan to make art a pervasive part of the new airport. With a budget of more than $7 million, DIA's art program grew into the largest single-facility public-art program in the nation. "We are definitely not a Greyhound bus depot," says Colleen Fanning, DIA art program manager. "We're not just a bland environment. We have a transitory public that oftentimes has a little bit of time to spend as they make their way through security. We definitely want to enhance and humanize our spaces here at the airport and just beautify the experience."

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Jared Jacang Maher