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Off Limits

You know Rocky and Dinger and Thunder and Howler. But do you know Denver's most famous mascot?

Neither did we until we had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Bones, the Museum of Nature & Science's bag o' bones, and his handler, puppeteer Tim Seeber, when they ushered in the Metro Denver Convention & Visitors Bureau's new 16th Street Mall visitor information center on Tuesday. Wooly, the Mammoth's frontman, and a couple of cowboys from the National Western Stock Show were also on hand for the dedication, joining the group inside the 2,200-square-foot space for coffee and pastries. Meanwhile, Seeber, who wears the thirty-pound "osteosaur" like a hat -- one of those crazy John Galliano-type confections with legs and bones and a head engulfing his black-clad body -- worked the crowd outside, enticing and/or terrorizing the occasional passerby.

The usual luminaries, including quite a few wearing "Mares for Mayor" buttons, turned up -- which could be why Mayor Wellington Webb bailed. Instead, his deputy mayor, Manager of Public Works Stephanie Foote, delivered the city's best wishes for the achievement.

"We've been planning this for two years, but we've wanted it for longer," says Jill Strunk, the bureau's spokeswoman. "We moved into the 1668 Larimer site about five years ago. We wanted to get a center on the 16th Street Mall, but we just couldn't get a site."

Now that it's open, the new center will offer traditional visitor fare -- maps, guides, postcards, lodging information -- as well as upgraded services, including an RTD kiosk and Internet access for trip planning, restaurant reservations and ticket sales, filling the gap left by the Ticket Bus's departure four years ago. "It will be a lot like a hotel concierge," Strunk promises.

And despite the fact that the center's location between Champa and Curtis streets is just blocks away from Only in Colorado, Denver Gifts & Souvenirs, Wild West of America Souvenir Market and Souvenir Warehouse, it will boast a gift shop for eager Griswald-esque tourists. "A lot of those are kind of kitschy, standard souvenir shops," Strunk says of the other stores. "This will be high-end caliber."

That explains why the T-shirts in the back of the center, all festooned with the words "Mile High City," are on sale. It's time to clear out the inventory and make room for all the high-end stock bearing the city's new slogan -- whatever it's going to be.

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