Off Limits

Worn out
Colorado Rockies fans shielded their eyes during a day game at Coors Field last week as the hometown heroes and their opponents, the Atlanta Braves, donned space-age togs for Turn Ahead the Clock Day, Major League Baseball's latest attempt to rejuvenate its fan base.

But horrified fashion monitors are crying foul. The Rockies' look of tomorrow -- supposedly the year 2021 -- pumps up the team's mountain-peak logo to monstrous proportions and pastes it to the players' chests. On their backs, the athletes' names are spelled out in a "futuristic" typeface that's been around since Space Invaders, and unwieldiness reigns as the players' names run down the right sides of the uniforms. The Braves' uniforms were similarly hideous, and even the beer-and-hotdog set concluded that the designer should be sealed in a time capsule until 2021. The costumes were accessorized by sci-fi details: Player stats were ranked in the National Galaxy; the first 15,000 fans received cosmic-looking Rockies caps; the Jumbotron's ski-to-chairlift-to-bike race had morphed into a space-shuttle race; and the players were referred to as "units," which, in this climate of free agency, is already appropriate. The promotion, which plays out in every baseball city this season, was sponsored by -- guess who? -- Century 21, "the official real estate organization of Major League Baseball."

Really, if you were in charge of a Rockies makeover, wouldn't you do a better job of mixing in a competitive edge with that Denver style? We did, and we're proud to introduce our own line of Rockies uniforms.

Forget power hitters. The team preserves its unique homefield advantage by circling the wagons and throwing on some pinstriped denim shirts, purple jeans, black chaps (gray for the road) and cowboy boots. Ten-gallon batting helmets with a small Rockies brand in the center give the lineup the courage to face the inside fastball -- and what opposing infielder will try to make the tag when big Blake Street Bombers like Larry Walker and Vinny Castilla slide into base spurs first? Lassos are a nice accessory and can be used to rope in pesky base-stealers.

Purple one-piece skisuits with fur-lined collars not only look sleek, but they'll help the team get off to a hot start during those cold and blustery -- or snow-delayed -- home games in April. Goggles will ensure that no outfielder ever loses a ball in the sun. Sorry, ski poles stay in the dugout. Fans can wear purple-and-gray ski masks to hide their shame if the Rockies have another season like this year's.

They already play with leather gloves, so a step into leather jockstraps -- a home run for Denver's leather crowd -- shouldn't be that big of a deal. Protruding from the groin like the snout of a purple Labrador retriever, these tough undergarments will scare off opposing teams as well as endear the Rox to a whole new group of fans. Besides, Tim Robbins wore Susan Sarandon's garter in Bull Durham, and look what it did for his game.

Rockies left-fielder and fan favorite Dante Bichette and his teammates return to the Elvis pompadour and long black sideburns that Dante sported during spring training in 1998. It's exactly the flamboyant rock-and-roll image the hapless ballclub could rally around.

For the time being, however, it's back to the same old uniforms. Now we know why they call them duds.

Out of shape
The 65 chromatically tuned bells have been installed in the carillon, the 74-foot spire has been covered with 28 pounds of gold leaf, and the Daniel L. Ritchie Center for Sports & Wellness is set to be officially dedicated on September 15.

But already the sheen on the $70 million sandstone centerpiece has dulled for some faculty and staff members.

Earlier this summer, DU employees were informed that working out on campus would no longer be free, as it had been previously at the small but functional Field House gym. Not only that, but membership at the brand-new Coors Fitness Center, located inside the Ritchie Center, would cost $30 a month plus a $100 initiation fee for a total of $460 a year -- a premium price equal to or higher than that of other colleges and some commercial fitness clubs.

The response of the masses made DU sweat. Recreation director Larry Lee handled complaints about the fees in person and met with fifty employees who expressed concerns, according to a university statement.

A few weeks later -- in early August -- the university announced a revised fee structure. "Over the past few weeks we have heard your opinions and thoughtful comments regarding the recently announced Faculty and Staff Usage Fee Schedule for the Coors Fitness Center," reads a conciliatory memo. "As a result...we reviewed the previous announcement and decided to provide additional flexibility in the membership policy."

The university waived the $100 initiation fee; it kept the $30 monthly fee but offered a reduced rate of $10 a month for employees who agree not to use the gym -- which opened on June 4 -- between the peak hours of 4 and 8 p.m.

"I did meet with some individuals, and the fee system was changed due to discussions, constructive criticism and talking, all of which gave us an opportunity to address it," Lee acknowledges. "I haven't gotten any complaints since we implemented the new one."

Lee says the amenities at the 14,500-square-foot center more than justify the $30 fee, which, according to his research, is still higher than both the University of Colorado in Boulder ($267 per year) and the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley ($205 per year). The fitness center, named in honor of a $2.5 million donation from the Adolph Coors Foundation, features all the latest cardiovascular and aerobic equipment; a two-story climbing wall; rooms for dance aerobics, martial arts and yoga; free weights; one squash court and two racquetball courts; and fitness classes and personal training.

"That's pretty good for what is probably the finest fitness facility in Denver," Lee adds. "People who have come over to use the center are grateful about the reduced price. The majority of people thought even the prior one was reasonable."

The rate reduction won't put a squeeze on DU's budget, however. Only 400 employees used the old gym, but the university plans to attract 1,200 to the new one, including members of the public who will have to pay full price for the honor of burning calories in a facility named after a beer -- $60 a month and a $125 initiation fee for a total of $845 a year.

That might even be enough to buy some more gold leaf.

Shop till you drop
Can it have been only three years since Denver's dailies killed all of those trees in their rush to cover the opening of Park Meadows, the self-billed "retail resort" that made the southern 'burbs safe for shopping in August 1996? Although the purpose of Park Meadows was clearly to shake down consumers, management insisted that the complex was not a shopping center and most certainly not a mall. It was a resort -- and had the lodge-style design and Ranger Rick-like guards to prove it.

But now, several years and lots of snickers later, Park Meadows has reconsidered and actually admits in print (the phone book) that it is, indeed, a shopping center. As the center advises its tenants, however, the descriptive term "mall" is still forbidden.

Off Limits is compiled by Jonathan Shikes. If you have a tip, call him at 303-293-3555, send a fax to 303-296-5416, or e-mail [email protected].

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