Denver regards itself as remarkable for its height, climate and wealth. It is exactly a mile high from the 13th step of the west side of the Colorado State Capitol Building, the gold dome of which is covered with 250 ounces of 24-carat gold leaf. There is a lot of talk of weather in Denver, much mention of altitude. But they let money do its own talking: the older rich and their families take it for granted the newer are too busy making money to talk about it.
Gold, discovered at the confluence of Cherry Creek and the Platte River in 1858, first attracted people to Denver. Silver strikes followed, then vast deposits of oil and gas in the western Rockies for a time made Denver a center of North American oil and gas operations. Uranium discoveries in recent years, the largest in the U.S. further enriched the community. Denver is the wholesale trade center for one-sixth of the U.S. The Federal Government has more offices there than any place outside Washington and San Francisco, with a payroll last year of about $85 million. Among the slogans prevalent in Denver, besides "Climate Capital of the World." and "The Mile High City," is "Carnation Capital of the World," because Colorado produces more carnations than any other state.
Hundreds of thousands of tourists visit Colorado each year en route to its 29 ski areas, many clear lakes, 14,554 miles of trout streams (stocked annually with 15 million trout) and hunting grounds for deer, elk, bear, antelope, bighorn sheep, pheasant and duck. "Colorado," as one of its publicity slogans puts it, "is a sportsman's smorgasbord."
Denver claims a minimum of 300 sunshiny days a year—an obvious appeal to golfers, campers, tennis players and swimmers. Tourists last year spent about $98 million in the city.
January 17, 1966
The big spectator sport in Denver is football, pro and college. The question that recently rocked residents—aside from the students' right to demonstrate about Vietnam—was whether the professional Broncos are equally good on offense and defense. The Broncos, now under the ownership of Gerry and Allan Phipps, second-generation native millionaires, sold 22,858 season tickets last year, contrasted with 7,996 in 1964. The University of Colorado often draws an attendance at Folsom Field Stadium of around 27,000. It plays at Boulder, less than half an hour's drive from Denver.
Baseball is another story. The Denver Bears, Class AAA Pacific League, have been throttled by the combination of the majors and television. Denverites will not turn out as they used to in 1949 to watch minor league ball when they can get a couple of majors on TV. Basketball, though, is big at the University of Denver, University of Colorado and several other nearby colleges. The AAU tournament has been held there since 1935—except in 1949, when it moved to Oklahoma City and flopped. High school basketball draws sellout crowds for the mid-March state tourney. The University of Denver has champion ski, hockey, soccer and swimming teams.
Centennial Race Track, nine miles from Denver, has Thoroughbred racing in spring and summer, with quarter-horse racing in the fall. Greyhound racing draws the largest crowds—"the dinner bucket trade," as one contemptuous sportswriter calls them—to the Mile High Kennel Club from June through August.
Every major men's and junior USGA golf tournament has been held in or near Denver at least once in recent years. The most fashionable links are the Cherry Hills and Denver country clubs—rolling, sunny courses. There are also six 18-hole municipal courses and four good private ones.
From November until late April the Stapleton International Airport, 15 minutes from downtown Denver, resembles a lumberyard. Skiers flock to Colorado in increasing numbers, and this year there are 300% more reservations than last. Colorado's fluffy powder snow is making skiing one of the city's big industries.
Aspen—105 air miles from Denver—is dominated by the international set, Vail by the jet set, and Winter Park, municipally owned but privately operated on a nonprofit basis, is used by skiers of that largest set of all: the people of modest means.
Ice skating is also popular in Denver and its environs on lakes, in city parks and farther afield. In ex-Courthouse Plaza, now Zeckendorf Plaza, opposite the Denver Hilton, is a Rockefeller Center-type rink.
If you want day life, you would do well to go to Denver and the surrounding country; if you want night life, you might do better in Budapest. "It's just a little old cowpoke town," said a native taxi driver, who would not live anywhere else, and he is right. (Natives are as rare in Denver as in New York, many of them are taxi drivers, and the immigrants love the climate and the opportunities for healthy living.) The city seems to shut down after 6 in the evening, except for a few "go-go" girl shows for conventioneers, of whom Denver gets thousands each year.
Sonny Liston says he chose to live in Denver because it is "nice and quiet." And his days are quiet. He hunts rabbits, spends an occasional afternoon at the racetrack and dreams of boxing—of starting a gym to train youngsters, or even of going into training himself.