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DENVER has so many sports teams it is surely dribbling, running, shooting and skating its way to the brink of a crisis – a shortage of nicknames.

The capital city of Colorado is home to the Broncos (gridiron), Rockies (baseball), Nuggets (basketball), Rapids (football) and Avalanche (ice hockey). Its colleges, meanwhile, house the Buffaloes, Tigers, Rams and Pioneers.

A resource which is not dwindling, however, is its vibrancy which is immediately evident to the visitor to its city centre where Denver embraces openly not just its sporting heroes but also the worlds of art and music.

The streets are an open-air gallery to a series of sculptures ranging from the depiction of boys playing baseball to stilt walkers towering over the pavements. While captivating as a collection, the concept of displaying such work is not unique to Denver. What especially grabs the attention is a sprinkling of a dozen or so individually decorated pianos at which anyone may sit and play.

It is easy to imagine the worst happening back home in England, with the instruments and/or their artwork being abused; here in Denver the pianos are treated as if in the family home, played well by some, not so well by others –
but cared for by all.

To avoid any bum notes, sports lovers planning a visit should consult the various teams' schedules if they want to straddle as much of Denver's sporting spectrum as possible.

The National Football Association thwarted my aim of seeing both the Broncos and the Rockies during a two-week visit by sending the former on the road on consecutive Sundays.

The Broncos' Sports Authority Field stadium is a couple of miles out of town but the Rockies' Coors Field home is a two-block walk from the Union Station. Built five years before the end of the 20th century, its dual aim was to provide modern facilities within a stadium which carries echoes of baseball from the early part of that century. My ambition of attending a baseball game in the US owed both its creation and nurturing to Hollywood depiction of the sport and so Coors Field's ambience enhanced my experience from the moment I entered the ground under the gaze of its old-fashioned clocktower.

A visit to nearby Lookout Mountain took me even further back in time, to the site of the grave of Buffalo Bill, the cattle herder turned showman whose fame was enhanced with every tour, including three which brought him to Yorkshire in 1891, 1903 and 1904, visiting such places as Leeds, Sheffield, Huddersfield, Hull and a seaside trip to Scarborough.

His spectacular show involved a cast of hundreds and his appearance in front of Queen Victoria in England in 1887 as part of her Golden Jubilee celebrations is accredited with aiding relations between  the UK and the US.

The Lookout Mountain site–which is also home to a museum of fascinating artefacts which enhance a history of his life – is intriguingly titled "The one, and the only, grave of William E 'Buffalo Bill' Cody". The town of Cody, Wyoming disputed Buffalo Bill's widow's assertion that he wanted to be buried in Denver.  

In 1948, more than 30 years after his death, the Cody chapter of the American Legion offered a reward for the return of the body. The Denver chapter's response was to place a guard over the grave until a deeper shaft could be blasted into the rock, Buffalo Bill's coffin being laid lower to rest and cemented in place.

Sounds like that might have been thirsty work; fortunately Golden is home to the Coors brewery – the largest brewery facility in the world. Not to have visited this monument would have been a dereliction of duty although there was time only for the "short" tour, which involved free sampling of its wares.

It could also have been seen as providing Dutch courage for my visit next day to the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, an hour's drive from Denver, where I took the ghost tour at the place which helped inspire horror writer Stephen King to create The Shining. King and his wife were the only residents one night during the hotel's winter closure in 1973 – the author's wallet having helped open doors which would otherwise have stayed closed – at a time when he had been asked to re-think his work in progress, which he had set in an abandoned amusement park.

While his wife made her way safely to their lodgings – Room 217 – King became a little disorientated after a spell in the bar and wandered by accident up to the fourth floor, which is said to be among the most haunted of this 140-guest room hotel – and its ambience both inspired and fired him. The Shining was re-written and completed within seven days.

The film, starring Jack Nicholson and which King disliked intensely, was not filmed at the hotel but the later TV mini series – which the author much preferred as it was far more faithful to the book – was, and helps attracts thousands of visitors annually to the Stanley.

Nerves in need of calming, it was back to Golden to visit the In The Zone Sports Bar and Grill where good food, an impressive selection of beers and a yet more impressive collection of HDTVs – more than 80 – meant I could not only keep track of the Broncos, but also the Rockies, a US golf tournament, boxing, and MTV's British Hits hour.

Heaven or hell? It's a personal call but for me, with great food and engaging company thrown in, it was paradise.

And it also offered my first viewing of beer pong, the one sport for which Denver appears not to have a nickname for its team.

Denver

Published: February 5, 2012

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