Thursday, April 16, 2009

Thoughts on Denver


One of the benefits of planning these sports trips is getting to places that I probably wouldn't get to otherwise. Denver falls into this category - its location is a bit far for a quick drive from either coast and there aren't that many sports teams in the surrounding states that make a road trip possible. With the relatively short (2 weeks or so) vacations that I took while I was working, I couldn't afford the 3 or 4 day drives both ways. But I've wanted to go to Denver for several years, since a couple of friends live there and it was one of my favourite cities during the 2001 trip.

So when I found out that Las Vegas was to be the Blue Jays AAA team and would be opening in Colorado Springs, I had the beginnings of a trip plan to Denver. The schedules worked out unbelievably well. The Nuggets would host Oklahoma City while the Avs would take on the Canucks, a team I still root for. The Rockies would open the same weekend against the World Champion Phillies, and there would even be an NBDL game up in Broomfield. So the tickets were booked and away I went.

Downtown

I really like the Denver downtown area. It's small enough that you could walk from one end to the other, but with the Free Mall bus every minute or so, you can also quickly get where you are going when time is a factor. I liked the diversity of establishments devoted to drinking - of course, ESPNZone is great, but there were some smaller, local places that I'd like to visit next time I'm there. With 16th street being a pedestrian mall except for the buses, there were lots of outdoor patios as well that must be hopping during the summer months. Having all 3 stadiums near downtown is also a big plus, and the crowds around game time add a lot of energy to the LoDo area, which has come along nicely over the past decade.


Union Station, near Coors Field

At the other end of downtown, the Civic Center provides non-sports fans (yes, they exist) with more cultural options such as the Denver Art Museum, Colorado State Capitol, Denver Mint, and Denver Public Library. One can easily spend a day here touring and taking pictures of the interesting and diverse architecture on display.


Denver Art Museum


State Capitol


Ampitheater

I didn't spend as much time down here as I would have liked as the games took up most of my time, but I think that Denver provides a good model for how a mid-sized downtown core can be developed with both cultural and sporting institutions forming the backbone of two separate areas that can be linked by the central business district.

RTD

I spent a lot of time on the light rail from the southern suburbs and was impressed with its speed and convenience to all of the downtown stadiums. But there are still a couple of problems that should be addressed. First is the parking system in the Park and Ride lots. Separating cars into "In District" and "Out of District" by license plate is not intuitive. And $4 to park plus a $7 round trip ticket from means that any touring couple will drive downtown as it will be cheaper. I realize that light rail is really for commuters, but everyone should be encouraged to use it. The other problem is the train schedule - in some cases trains are every 20 minutes or longer. I know I am spoiled living in Tokyo, and likely not enough people ride it to support more trains, but I wonder if increased service might lead to increased ridership.

Also, there needs to be more ticket machines at the stadium stations, and they all have to be working after the games. It's silly to have 10 people waiting on a single machine while their train pulls away.

I'm a big fan of public transit, and think that the RTD has done a great job in a city as large as Denver. But as with anything, there's still room for improvement.

Airport

The airport is really far away. This is because it is quite new, having opened only about 15 years ago. But even airport hotels are 10 miles from the actual airport, which means that the shuttle trip can be 15 minutes or longer. The RTD bus service is worthwhile, but those with a lot of luggage may want to seek other options unless you can get right to your destination. The taxes on the rental cars there are a rip-off as elsewhere.

The terminal itself is decent, with the unique roof resembling the nearby Rocky Mountains. They've spread the security checkpoints around and you can walk to Terminal A (Frontier and a few others) which seems a bit quicker than the underground train. There are plenty of seats at the gates, and the food options were diverse, at least in terminal A. Free wireless internet is also available.

I think DIA is one of the better airports in the country, but its location will always be a problem. Try to avoid flying in the winter, you may end up stuck there for a day should a large blizzard hit.

Overall, Denver is a great city that seems to offer year-round entertainment for sports fans as well as world class skiing nearby. There's a chance the 2022 Olympics will be held here, but I expect to be back before then!

Gratitude

Thanks again to Meg for her hospitality and to Tai for the rides and the beers. And thanks to all the people in Denver who made my stay there so enjoyable. Hope to see everyone again soon!

Best,

Sean


1 comment:

  1. I find it interesting when I post a comment that I get Japan date and time. To me, that's posting in the future.

    Sean, you are always welcome here when you visit the states. I'll see you next year in Japan!

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