Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

The last cards have been dealt as the iconic Mirage closes its doors on the Las Vegas Strip

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A final blast from The Mirage’s signature volcano marked the passage Wednesday of an aging Las Vegas resort that wowed crowds when it opened in 1989 and went on to revolutionize the casino resort industry and reshape Las Vegas as a tourist destination.

“What would The Mirage be without one last volcano eruption?” asked Joe Lupo, property president of The Mirage, as he ended a closing ceremony that drew hundreds of onlookers, including 137 employees who worked at the 3,044-room resort from the beginning.

Jim Allen, head of the property’s new owner, Florida-based Hard Rock International and Seminole Gaming, said work would “literally start tomorrow” to raze the volcano, which rumbled and gushed nightly for nearly 35 years.

Plans call for a 600-room hotel in the shape of a guitar that renderings depict with guitar string-like beams spiking into the night sky from a purplish 660-foot (201-meter) tower. Allen promised more details in months to come.

Lupo, who remains the property president following the change of hands, said the new Hard Rock Las Vegas will open in 2027.

Elaine Wynn, billionaire philanthropist and ex-wife of casino mogul Steve Wynn, who built the property, recalled that two performing tigers belonging to resort headliners Siegfried & Roy were the first “guests” through the door in November 1989. She said the first wave of people stopped, stared and applauded beneath the entry atrium. It featured lush tropical foliage beneath a domed glass ceiling and a faint piña colada scent in the air.

Its last week drew a frenzy of standing-room crowds wagering to win a total of $1.6 million in slot machine progressive jackpot winnings that state regulations said had to be disbursed to clear the books before the doors closed. Slot players lucky enough to get a seat vied for daily prize pots totaling up to $250,000 per day. Nevada Gaming Control Board spokesman Michael Lawton said Wednesday that he could not by law provide information about how the effort went.

Costing $630 million, The Mirage was no simple gambling hall. It was the world’s largest hotel when it opened. Visitors were met by two bronze mermaid statues on the way to check in at a desk with a huge shark and fish tank behind it.

It had glitzy shops, celebrity chef restaurants and theater-size showrooms featuring headliners like Johnny Mathis, Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton. The illusionist duo Siegfried & Roy and their tigers performed for 14 years, ending in 2003. Later, it became home to The Beatles-themed Cirque du Soleil show “Love,” which ended its 18-year run this month.

“Instead of neon, a garden of dozens of rich Canary Island palm trees and a cool refreshing waterfall,” Steve Wynn recalled in a statement of recollections he released Monday through his Las Vegas attorney, Donald Campbell. Wynn titled it “An Homage to Lady Mirage.” He did not attend Wednesday’s ceremonies.

In his statement, Wynn noted that The Mirage was the first new hotel in Las Vegas in several years and opened amid competition from casinos in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and the expansion of tribal gambling in California. He pointed to a decade-long resort building boom that followed, helping make Las Vegas one of the fastest-growing cities in America.

“To call The Mirage a catalyst would be an understatement,” Wynn wrote.

By 2000, more than 30,000 new hotel rooms were added as new Las Vegas Strip resorts went up: Excalibur, Luxor, Treasure Island, MGM Grand, New York-New York, Monte Carlo, Bellagio, Mandalay Bay, Venetian and Paris Las Vegas. Many were funded by Wall Street bonds. Wynn bought and demolished the 50-year-old Desert Inn to build and open his eponymous Wynn Resort in 2005.

Wynn, now 82 and living in Florida, paid a $10 million fine to Nevada gambling regulators last year and cut ties with the industry he helped shape to end a yearslong legal fight stemming from media reports in 2018 that he sexually harassed or assaulted several women at his hotels. He has always denied the allegations.

Bo Bernhard, director of the International Gaming Institute at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, studies the emergence of what he terms the “fun economy” around the world. The Mirage, he said, set a standard for resort development in places like Singapore and Sydney.

“The Mirage changed the image Las Vegas projected to the rest of the world,” Bernhard said. It was “much more than just gambling” and “transformed everything,” he said.

The Seminole Tribe acquired the Hard Rock brand in 2007 from an MGM Resorts International deal worth nearly $1.1 billion. It became the first Native American operator in the lucrative and competitive Las Vegas Boulevard corridor. The tribe also operates seven casinos in Florida and owns the Hard Rock Hotel & Casinos business with locations in 76 countries. It purchased naming rights in 2016 to Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida.

An off-Strip former Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas was separately owned. A group that included billionaire Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, acquired that hotel-casino in 2018 for about $500 million. It was renovated and reopened in 2021 as Virgin Hotels Las Vegas.

“Las Vegas always reinvents itself,” said Michael Green, a UNLV history professor whose father dealt blackjack for decades at casinos, including the long-ago-imploded Stardust and Showboat. “The Mirage is no longer state-of-the-art.”

 

An Alaska tourist spot will vote whether to ban cruise ships on Saturdays to give locals a break

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Each year, a crush of tourists arrives in Alaska’s capital city on cruise ships to see wonders like the fast-diminishing Mendenhall Glacier. Now, long-simmering tensions over Juneau’s tourism boom are coming to a head over a new voter initiative aimed at giving residents a respite from the influx.

A measure that would ban cruise ships with 250 or more passengers from docking in Juneau on Saturdays qualified for the Oct. 1 municipal ballot, setting the stage for a debate about how much tourism is too much in a city that is experiencing first-hand the impacts of climate change. The measure would also ban ships on July 4, a day when locals flock to a downtown parade.

The “ship-free Saturdays” initiative that qualified this week will go to voters unless the local Assembly enacts a similar measure by Aug. 15, which is seen as unlikely.

Juneau, accessible only by water or air, is home to the Mendenhall Glacier, a major draw for the cruise passengers who arrive on multi-story ships towering over parts of the modest downtown skyline. Many residents of this city of about 32,000 have concerns about increased traffic, congested trails and the frequent buzz of sight-seeing helicopters transporting visitors to the Mendenhall and other glaciers.

Deborah Craig, who has lived in Juneau for decades, supports ship-free Saturdays. Craig, who lives across the channel from where the ships dock, often hears their early-morning fog horns and broadcast announcements made to passengers that are audible across the water.

The current “overwhelming” number of visitors diminishes what residents love so much about Juneau, she said.

“It’s about preserving the lifestyle that keeps us in Juneau, which is about clean air, clean water, pristine environment and easy access to trails, easy access to water sports and nature,” she said of the initiative.

“There’s this perception that some people are not welcoming of tourists, and that’s not the case at all,” Craig said. “It’s about volume. It’s about too much — too many in a short period of time overwhelming a small community.”

The current cruise season runs from early April to late October.

Opponents of the initiative say limiting dockings will hurt local businesses that rely heavily on tourism and could invite lawsuits. A voter-approved limit on cruise passenger numbers in Bar Harbor, Maine, another community with a significant tourism economy, was challenged in federal court.

Laura McDonnell, a business leader who owns Caribou Crossings, a gift shop in Juneau’s downtown tourist core, said she makes 98% of her annual revenue during the summer season.

Tourism is about all the “local businesses that rely on cruise passengers and our place in the community,” said McDonnell, who is involved in Protect Juneau’s Future, which opposes the initiative.

Some schools recently closed due to factors including declining enrollment, while the regional economy faces challenges, she said.

“I think that as a community, we really need to look at what’s at stake for our economy,” she said. “We are not in a position to be shrinking our economy.”

The cruise industry accounted for $375 million in direct spending in Juneau in 2023, most of that attributable to spending by passengers, according to a report prepared for the city by McKinley Research Group LLC.

After a two-year pandemic lull, cruise passenger numbers rose sharply in Juneau, hitting a record of more than 1.6 million in 2023. Under this year’s schedule, Sept. 21 will be the first day since early May with no large ships in town.

The tourism debate is polarizing, and the city has been trying to find a middle ground, said Alexandra Pierce, Juneau’s visitor industry director. But she noted there also needs to be a regional solution.

If the Juneau initiative passes, it will impact other, smaller communities in southeast Alaska because the ships, generally on trips originating in Seattle or Vancouver, Canada, will have to go somewhere if they can’t dock in Juneau on Saturdays, she said.

Some residents in Sitka, south of Juneau, are in the early stages of trying to limit cruise visitation to that small, island community, which is near a volcano.

Juneau and major cruise lines, including Carnival Corp., Disney Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean Group, agreed to a limit of five large ships a day, which took effect this year. They more recently signed a pact, set to take effect in 2026, seeking a daily limit of 16,000 cruise passengers Sundays through Fridays and 12,000 on Saturdays.

Pierce said the overall goal is to keep total cruise passenger visitation around 1.6 million, and to even out daily numbers of visitors that can spike to about 18,000 on the busiest days. Peak days in the past have felt “a bit suffocating,” she said. Juneau traditionally has been the most popular cruise port in the state.

A number of projects around Juneau are expected to help make existing cruise numbers feel less impactful. Those include plans for a gondola at the city-owned ski area and increased visitor capacity at the Mendenhall Glacier recreation area, she said.

Renée Limoge Reeve, vice president of government and community relations for the trade group Cruise Lines International Association Alaska, said the agreements signed with the city were the first of their kind in Alaska.

The best strategy is “ongoing, direct dialogue with local communities” and working together in a way that also provides a predictable source of income for local businesses, she said.

Protect Juneau’s Future, led by local business leaders, said the success of the ballot measure would mean a loss of sales tax revenue and millions of dollars in direct spending by cruise passengers. The group was confident voters would reject the measure, its steering committee said in a statement.

Karla Hart, a sponsor of the initiative and frequent critic of the cruise industry, said the threat of litigation has kept communities from taking steps to limit cruise numbers in the past. She was heartened by legal wins this year in the ongoing fight over the measure passed in Bar Harbor, a popular destination near Maine’s Acadia National Park.

She believes the Juneau initiative will pass.

“Every single person who is going to vote has a lived experience and knowledge of how the cruise industry impacts their lives,” she said.

Cherry Creek Arts Fest set for July 5-7

The streets of Cherry Creek North in Denver will be filled with art and artists July 5-7 for the 33rd annual Cherry Creek Arts Festival, one of the largest and most competitive fine arts festivals in the U.S., and the signature event of year-round arts advocates CherryArts.

The festival is free and open to the public. This year’s schedule:


Friday, July 5: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. (accessibility hour from 9 to 10 a.m.)

Saturday, July 6: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Sunday, July 7: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

 

250 National and International Juried Artists

This year’s roster of artists—selected from 1,942 applicants—includes 35 from Colorado, three from countries other than the United States, and 52 who are exhibiting at the festival for the first time. Last year, sales averaged $18,381 per artist, with more than $4.4 million in total sales.

 

Expanded Emerging Artists Program

In honor of the 20th year of the Emerging Artists Program, CherryArts awarded five emerging artists a $5,000 Emerging Artist grant each. The unrestricted funds allow each artist to pursue any investment that supports their work and includes a mentorship program with established artists and a booth at the festival.

 

Opening Night on Wednesday, July 3, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.

This year’s opening event includes an intimate preview of a full block of artists, live entertainment, hors d’oeuvres, and drinks. Tickets are $110 and support CherryArts’ mobile education program.

Free Art Activities for Children at Creation Station

Presented by UCHealth, Creation Station offers free, family friendly art activities for children of all ages each day of the festival, a large-scale collaborative mural, and daily cultural performances.

Free Live Music all Weekend

Fourteen acts will perform over three days at the Canvas Credit Union Main Stage on Fillmore near 2nd Ave., including DJ Fa’Dorah, Soul School, Mary Louise Lee Band, and Groove ‘n Motion.

Return of the Transformative Student Art Buying Program

Students from 22 Colorado schools will attend the festival on July 5 to meet artists and purchase an original work of art for permanent display in their schools with $500 provided by CherryArts. This art-buying experience is the culmination of an in-school art curriculum from CherryArts.

 

Annual CherryArts Art Auction

Launching on Monday, July 1, and continuing through the festival, the annual art auction features donated work from 90 festival artists, with proceeds benefiting arts education in Colorado.

 

Art Kits

Students from three partner schools will be at the festival selling CherryArts Art Kits, which are ready-to-use art experiences for students of all ages. CherryArts will donate one Art Kit for each Art Kit sold at the festival.

The Cherry Creek Arts Festival is produced by CherryArts, a Denver nonprofit that supports artists and arts education year-round throughout Colorado. Last year, CherryArts directly served more than 40,000 students with mobile outreach programs designed to spark creativity and empower the next generation. These programs include a mobile art gallery, art kits, the Student Art Buying Program, Mobile Art Cart: Printmaking, and the Alliance Project.

The commemorative poster for this year’s festival features “We All Listen to His Blah, Blah, Blah” by Colorado printmaker Mami Yamamoto. The poster is available for purchase here, including a limited number of signed editions.

 

Frontier Drive Inn ushers in outdoor movie season

It doesn’t involve hiking, mountain biking, fishing or other summer activities usually associated with the great outdoors of Colorado, but it’s one of the state’s more unique attractions: the Frontier Drive Inn, where you can watch movies, gaze at stars under pristine night skies and spend the night in a hotel suite or yurt.

The outdoor theater in the San Luis Valley, located on Highway 285, about 10 minutes from Del Norte and about a four-hour drive from Denver, opened in 1955 as a traditional drive-in theater. The family business closed in 1986 after 30 years but re-opened under new ownership in 2016 with 14 guestrooms and a fully restored movie screen. The grounds also include adobe structures called Skylos for gazing at literal stars after you’ve finished watching the figurative ones on the silver-screen.

Films are shown every Thursday through Saturday now, through October. Movies include:

6/27–6/29 Bollocks
7/18–7/20 Christmas in July
8/1–8/3  Happy Campers
8/22-8/24  A Little Bit Country
9/12–9/14  Cycling Aliens
9/26–9/28  90s Baby
10/31–11/2  Sir Alfred’s Spooks

 

For more information visit www.frontierdriveinn.com.

TSA says it screened a record of nearly 3 million people Sunday, and bigger crowds are on the way

The number of air travelers moving through U.S. airports hit a record Sunday, and the new mark might not last through next weekend.

The Transportation Security Administration said it screened nearly 3 million people at airports Sunday, breaking a record set on May 24, the Friday before Memorial Day.

TSA forecasts that it will break the 3-million barrier on Friday, when many people will be getting an early start on their July 4 holiday travel plans.

“We expect this summer to be our busiest ever and summer travel usually peaks over the Independence Day holiday,” TSA Administrator David Pekoske said.

Sunday’s TSA count was 2,996,193, or about 45,000 more than the 2,951,163 who flowed through checkpoints on May 24. Seven of the 10 busiest days in TSA history have occurred this year, as travel continues to roar back from the coronavirus pandemic.

TSA expects to screen more than 32 million people between Thursday and July 8, the Monday after the holiday, for a daily average of 2.67 million. That would be a 5.4% increase over the July 4 period last year.

Airlines for America, a trade group representing the largest U.S. carriers, predicts that air travel this summer will rise 6.3% over last year.

Former Denver Bronco Bobby Massie Launches Wanderland Outdoors — Promising Inclusive, Luxury Outdoors Experiences

Wanderland Outdoors, a brand-new luxury outfitter with a unique mission of making the outdoors more accessible to everyone through culturally competent guided excursions, launches its first season of guided fly fishing trips, mindful hiking experiences, trail rides, and more. Wanderland’s guided trips to several exclusive Colorado locations will launch in mid-May and run through October.

READ: How the EXPLORE Act is Boosting Outdoor Recreation on Public Lands

What makes Wanderland unique among outfitters is “The Wanderland Way” – a unique gold-medal standard that extends from top-notch equipment, such as Bare Bones chairs, Simms waders and Winston fishing rods with Bauer reels, down to the small-but-crucial details, such as gourmet excursion meals featuring locally grown produce, Wagyu beef, tomahawk steaks, and black and white truffle.

Take, for example, the “Food x Fire,” experience, a three-course gourmet dinner amid a backdrop of the burbling waters of the Arkansas River with the majestic Capital Peak and snow-capped Aspen ranges just miles away.

Other journeys will take guests on backcountry fly-fishing tours to some of Wanderland’s exclusive, 33 miles of private, gold-medal waters; on horseback trail rides through Jefferson County, in the Indian Peaks Wilderness, wrangling by Brown Family Ranch; and on guided hikes through Rocky Mountain National Park, focusing on mindful movement, breathwork and meditation, culminating with a tea ceremony by fire. Through 2024, excursions will feature Colorado’s vistas as their backdrop; but expect new voyages to the wilds of Montana and beyond in coming seasons.

Founded by longtime journalist Angel Massie and former Denver Bronco Bobby Massie — both lifelong outdoors enthusiasts, anglers, and hunters — Wanderland Outdoors is a mission-driven outfitter that prides itself on the lived experiences of its Black, Navajo, and Tongan guides and mindful offerings intended to energize the mind as well as the body. Each voyage begins with a land acknowledgement; indigenous practices are also used whenever possible as Wanderland fosters memorable outings ideal for everyone from veteran outdoorsmen, to families to novices.

“Wanderland Outdoors was founded not just because we have a love for the outdoors — it’s because we had several experiences where we went to outfitters, and we just didn’t feel a sense of welcome, or accommodation,” says Angel Massie, a certified Kripalu Mindful Outdoor Guide.. “We didn’t feel the guide was interested in creating a good experience.”

The Massies take a more inclusive approach, elevating guides of color and encouraging Black and brown people to venture into the outdoors as they journey to some of the nation’s most beautiful settings.

READ: Why The Consumer Plays An Important Role In Supporting Black Business Growth in Colorado 

Bookings for the 2024 summer season begin May 1. For more information, visit www.wanderlandoutdoors.com.

Metro State Unveils ‘Cannabis Hospitality’ Program

A new certificate program at Metropolitan State University of Denver aims to serve as a catalyst in reviving the state’s reputation as the “Silicon Valley of Cannabis.”

READ: Weathering the Storm — How the Colorado Cannabis Industry Can Thrive Amidst Market Disruption

MSU Denver will be the first higher-education institution in the nation to offer students a comprehensive view of cannabis hospitality, with an emphasis on the supply chain, said Shannon Donnelly, an affiliate professor in the University’s School of Hospitality and a former cannabis regulator for the City of Denver.

Students in the program will study a wide range of topics that will focus on the responsible sale and consumption of cannabis in dispensaries and in food preparation, she said.

“This represents a significant leap forward in formalized cannabis education,” said Donnelly, who developed MSU Denver’s cannabis curriculum. “We’re defining cannabis in hospitality.”

The University will offer an entry-level Cannabis Hospitality Specialist certificate and a more advanced Cannabis Hospitality Manager certificate. Both certificates will be offered to degree-seeking and non-degree-seeking students, with classes to begin this fall.

“We want to equip those working in the industry with the knowledge and skills to create an elevated experience, centered on high-quality, responsible customer service that can only truly be perfected through the hospitality lens,” said Donnelly. “If we’re going to create spaces that are safe enough for users of all levels to consume, we need to understand the entire supply chain.”

Along with the certificates, MSU Denver is forming state and international advisory boards that will provide recommendations to the University and collaborate on joint initiatives. The state board will aim to enhance student opportunities, develop curricula, promote social equity in the industry, foster research collaboration and identify financial resources.

READ: Cannabis Cares Program Aims to Provide Relief to Coloradans with Physical Disabilities

The international board, meanwhile, will aim to contribute to the global standardization of cannabis education, explore international job-placement opportunities, promote student-exchange programs and provide insights on global drug-law reforms.

“It’s encouraging to see MSU Denver hoping to optimize new methods of consumption that allow people to interact with each other in hospitality settings, while keeping safety and responsibility in mind,” said MSU Denver graduate Albert Gutierrez, owner and president of the cannabis company Bud & Mary’s and a member of the state advisory board.

Gutierrez emphasized the importance of the leadership and management courses that will meet a significant need in the industry. “We need people who know how to navigate relationships, since so many regulatory departments have to visit facilities to ensure compliance,” he said. “Sometimes, that professionalism is missing in this industry.”

Exploring the Riches of Colorado’s Wine Country: A Journey Through Vineyards and Vintages

Perched above the Colorado River, surrounded by Palisade’s prized peach orchards, you’ll discover Restoration Vineyards, where co-owners Linda and Gary Brauns grow six varieties of grapes across 10 acres opening to stellar views of the Book Cliffs. Nestled in the vines there’s a winery, tasting room and expansive lawn — the perfect place to watch the sunset while sipping Sauvignon Blanc, or maybe a glass of Barbera, their flagship red.

It’s not Napa, but that’s a plus for tourists demanding a novel wine-tasting experience. Colorado’s arid landscape offers an incredible setting for wine lovers, says Kevin Webber, CEO of Carboy Winery, Colorado’s largest sparkling facility.

Attesting to the area’s natural beauty, USA Today named Carboy’s Palisade tasting room (one of four the company runs statewide) the sixth-best wine-tasting room in the country in 2023.

Beyond the landscape, a uniquely Colorado experience enhances local vino. Many area wineries, Restoration and Carboy included, incorporate all elements of winemaking into the customer experience, from growing and harvesting to processing, aging, production — and tasting, of course. “We include hands-on learning as much as possible,” adds Linda Brauns.

Technically, craft beer has never been the state’s only local pour. Colorado’s wine-production industry dates back to 1890, when former Colorado Governor George A. Crawford planted 60 acres of wine grapes near Palisade. The industry didn’t really take off, though, until the following century, with legislation in 1977 and 1990 permitting small farm wineries and establishing the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board, respectively.

READ: A Colorado State of Wine

John Garlich and Ulla Merz, co-owners of Bookcliff Farms, came to the scene in 1996 and have seen the development of Colorado’s wine industry firsthand. From a handful of wineries in the 1990s, the industry has grown to include more than 170 licensed wineries, including 25 cideries and 16 meaderies, plus a sake producer, according to the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board, which is housed under the Colorado Department of Agriculture.

Last year, Garlich and Merz sold the winemaking portion of their business, Bookcli Vineyards, with tasting rooms in Palisade and Boulder, but they’ve continued farming on the Western Slope.

“In the beginning, enthusiasm carried us,” Merz says, thinking back to the 1990s, recalling a tight-knit group of dentists, geologists and engineers (like Garlich) who’d been pulled to the region by a common passion. “We’ve since attracted business-oriented professionals and trained winemakers,” Merz adds.

Fresh blood led to an increase in quality. Wine Enthusiast recently reviewed 21 Colorado wines that received an average score of 88.2. Seven wines received 90 points or higher, including BookCli Vineyards’ 2019 Reserve Merlot (91 points) and Carboy Winery’s 2019 Malbec (90 points). Winery at Holy Cross Abbey in Cañon City raked in several 90-plus scores. “We’ve made huge strides in classic wines,” says Merz, noting, “The industry here is very receptive to innovation.”

Maybe it’s the trifecta of passion, quality and innovation that explains how Colorado has managed to climb the ranks as a top wine destination. Hu Post listed the Grand Valley as a top U.S. wine destination; the inflight magazine Hemispheres dubbed Palisade a wine region to watch; Wine Enthusiast named The Infinite Monkey Theorem one of the best urban wineries in the U.S.; and Forbes noted the economic growth the wine industry has brought to Colorado.

Colorado grapes hold their own secrets.

It’s the combination of climate, soil and the environment that makes any wine special, explains Horst Caspari, state viticulturist and professor at CSU’s Western Colorado Research Center. “The place a wine is from has a certain expression that can’t be copied anywhere else,” Horst says.

In Colorado, a drier, mild-temperature climate paves the way for one-of-a-kind grapes.

“It’s a misconception that Colorado is a cold-climate grape-growing region,” Jayme Henderson says. She and her husband Steve Steese co-own The Storm Cellar, a boutique winery in Hotchkiss. (In case you’re curious, Henderson clarifies, “The challenges our region experiences surround our compact grape-growing season. We struggle, at times, to get our grapes ripe in time.”)

Mountainous terrain, Henderson continues, channels wind to deliver a warming effect. Local grapes also benefit from drastic diurnal temperature swings that preserve acidity within the grapes, leading to flavorful wines that are crisp and refreshing.

Speaking of acidity, Colorado’s soils are generally more alkaline than the acidic soils of California. Local Merlots might taste like Bordeaux, and Colorado Syrahs can seem closer to Rhône Valley reds than Australian Shiraz. Suffice to say, Centennial State wines taste uniquely Colorado.

Local grape growing regions range in elevation from 4,000 to 7,000 feet, making them the highest in the northern hemisphere.

In addition to elevation, Colorado has sunshine — plenty of it. “The region’s UV intensity produces smaller berries with thicker skins,” Steese says, adding, “The growing season is short, but intense.”

“The trend we are seeing on the growing side is more traditional, cold hearty cultivars that tend to be a crossover of European cultivars,” Horst adds.

Colorado’s nascent wine industry is having a modest yet meaningful economic impact.

According to a 2017 national study conducted by WineAmerica, Colorado’s wine industry contributes more than $300 million to the state’s economy, with the impacts of wine tourism activities on the Front Range and the Western Slope accounting for more than half of the total economic impact.

In 2021, the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board published its own economic impact study, finding that tourism accounts for 25 percent of the wine industry’s economic impact. The same 2021 study showed Colorado’s wine industry contributed less to the state’s overall economy, just $162 million. That last figure seems low to Kyle Schlachter, executive director for the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board.

“Despite the differences in numbers, tourism is an important part of our industry,” he says. The industry has sustained an average annual growth rate of well beyond 10 percent over the last two decades, the WineAmerica study showed.

Wine tourism really took off in Colorado during the pandemic, particularly during lockdowns. “People couldn’t travel and were looking for unique experiences,” Garlich recalls. Webber, too, has noticed “a huge uptick in visitors in Palisade and the Grand Junction area.”

Where should I go to sample Colorado wine?

If you haven’t visited the Western Slope in a while, now’s the time.

“In Colorado, we have two federally designated AVAs (American Viticultural Areas), the Grand Valley and the West Elks,” Schlachter explains. From Palisade to Grand Junction, Grand Valley vineyards make up roughly 85 percent of Colorado’s share. Meanwhile, the West Elks, found along the North Fork of the Gunnison River between Paonia and Hotchkiss, add another 10 percent.

“Everyone says the West Elks is a hidden gem. Um, no, we’re just a gem,” Steese says.

Wine grapes have also taken root in Montezuma, Fremont, Boulder, Larimer, Delta and Montrose counties. Local wineries offer seated tastings, wine-paired dinners, wine trails and live summer concerts. But if you’re looking to broaden your reach, consider one of several large festivals, which have been major drivers of Colorado wine tourism.

Recognized by USA Today as the Best Wine Festival in the U.S., Colorado Mountain Winefest is the big shebang, taking place in Palisade over the third weekend of September. This year’s event is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 21, and is expected to attract thousands of visitors to the region.

But first, kick things off at Barrel into Spring — April 19 to 20 and May 10 to 11 — a Grand Valley tradition featuring self-guided tours or seven wineries plus barrel tastings and food pairings. Also in May, the Brauns family collaborates with several Palisade wineries to deliver Sip into Spring, a late-spring festival on Saturday, May 4.

Closer to Denver, Carboy Winery offers Rosé La La La on Friday, June 7, a celebration of Colorado rosé wines. The main event in Hotchkiss is North Fork Uncorked, scheduled for the first weekend in June, when wineries and cideries kick off their spring releases.

The Colorado Wine Industry Development Board hosts its annual Colorado Governor’s Cup Competition, bringing in world-renowned wine experts to evaluate a variety of Colorado wines, some of which will be showcased at a signature November tasting event, Colorado UnCOrked.

The Colorado wine industry might be relatively small compared to other wine-producing regions, but it’s poised to become an increasingly important part of the state’s economy and tourism industry. “Our business is primarily direct-to-consumer,” Linda Brauns says. One of the best ways to support local wine, then, is to visit a farm or vineyard.

We’ll raise a glass to that.

When Voters Say ‘No’ to New Stadiums, What Do Professional Sports Teams Do Next?

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Like a loss in the playoffs, voter rejection of a stadium tax plan will force the Kansas City Royals and Chiefs to reevaluate their approach.

The defeat Tuesday of a three-eighths cent sales tax to fund a new downtown Royals ballpark and renovate the Chiefs’ Arrowhead Stadium was almost assuredly not the end of the matter. Other teams and cities have faced similar setbacks, and that hasn’t slowed a wave of stadium construction underway across the U.S.

READ: Is the Future of Luxury Sports Suites Less… Luxury? Or Just More Practical?

“The next page in the playbook, if they lose this referendum, would be to threaten to move,” said Brad Humphreys, an economics professor at West Virginia University, who researches sports stadiums.

But that doesn’t mean relocation is imminent, or even likely.

Moving to a new stadium within the same region or another state is just one of several options. Teams could tweak their plans and ask voters again. They could build or renovate stadiums without public funds. Or they could avoid a referendum by seeking approval for public subsidies directly from a legislative body such as a city council, county commission or state legislature.

“Usually, team owners just find a new way to get money, and they’ll go the legislative route,” said Geoffrey Propheter, an associate public finance professor at the University of Colorado Denver. “Rarely do team owners just straight up leave.”

DECADES OF DECISIONS

From 1990 through 2023, voters cast ballots on 57 stadium and arena proposals across the country, approving 35 and rejecting 22, according to data compiled by Propheter.

In December, Oklahoma City voters overwhelmingly approved a 1% sales tax for six years to help fund a new downtown arena for the NBA’s Thunder that is expected to cost at least $900 million.

But last May, voters in the Phoenix suburb of Tempe rejected a proposal for a $2.3 billion entertainment district that would have included a new arena for the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes. The defeat marked the latest seatback for the hockey team, which underwent a 2009 bankruptcy and is currently playing in a 5,000-seat arena shared with Arizona State University.

The Coyotes haven’t given up on the Phoenix area yet. The team is looking into bidding on a 95-acre tract in north Phoenix.

READ: Live from Colorado — The Future of Sports Betting

NO REFERENDUM NEEDED

Public subsidies for stadiums and arenas often get approved by elected officials without going on the ballot.

Last year, the Nashville City Council approved $760 million in local bonds to go along with $500 million in state bonds — all to help finance a new $2.1 billion football stadium for the Tennessee Titans. There was no public referendum.

Construction also began last year on a new football stadium for the Buffalo Bills that is projected to cost more than $1.6 billion. A total of $850 million is coming from New York and Erie County, with no public referendum.

The proposal from the Royals and Chiefs went to voters because the Missouri Constitution requires a public vote on local taxes. Only voters in Jackson County got a say, because the proposed tax applied only to sales in that county.

Voter approval might not be necessary if the teams can finance their stadiums without a tax. One option is privately financed bonds, but those would still need a funding stream for repayments, said Brent Never, associate public affairs professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Clouds gather over Kauffman Stadium before a baseball game in Kansas City in 2017. (AP File Photo/Charlie Riedel)

MAKING AN END RUN

After losing elections, some teams subsequently sidestep voters to get new stadiums.

In 1997, voters in 11 southwestern Pennsylvania counties rejected a proposed half-cent sales tax to replace a stadium shared by the MLB’s Pirates and NFL’s Steelers with two separate facilities and to fund a convention center expansion. But the next year, a regional development district approved public financing for the new facilities without going back to voters.

Similar scenarios played out elsewhere in the mid-1990s. When voters in King County, Washington, rejected a tax plan for a Seattle Mariners ballpark, owners threatened to put the team up for sale. Within a month, state lawmakers authorized a new financing plan for a new baseball stadium.

After Wisconsin voters rejected a sports lottery for a new Milwaukee Brewers ballpark, the state legislature authorized a regional sales tax to help pay for it. Last year, Wisconsin’s governor signed a law authorizing an additional $500 million of public aid for stadium renovations, again without a voter referendum.

TRYING AGAIN

Teams sometimes bounce back from a stadium election loss to achieve victory with voters.

After Houston voters defeated a new downtown arena for the NBA’s Rockets in 1999, supporters tried again the next year and easily won.

The San Francisco Giants are perhaps the greatest example of electoral persistence.

Voters said “no” to new stadium plans twice in San Francisco, once in Santa Clara County and once in San Jose, before the Giants put forth a privately financed stadium that finally received voter approval for a needed San Francisco zoning change in 1996.

MOVING OUT

The Oakland A’s received MLB approval last year to relocate to Las Vegas, following the path of the NFL’s Oakland Raiders who were similarly lured by a new publicly subsidized stadium. But those deals didn’t involve public votes.

The NFL’s Chargers are the most recent team to move following voter rejection of a stadium referendum. San Diego voters in 2016 defeated a plan to raise hotel taxes for a new football stadium and to expand a convention center. The Chargers then moved to a new privately financed stadium in Los Angeles, sharing it with the Rams, who relocated from St. Louis.

The NBA’s Charlotte Hornets moved to New Orleans in 2002 — later rebranding as the Pelicans — after voters defeated a sweeping plan to fund a new basketball arena, minor league baseball stadium, museums and cultural centers.

But just six months after the team left, the Charlotte City Council approved a plan for a new downtown arena without submitting it to voters. The NBA then awarded Charlotte an expansion team, which later assumed the Hornets name.

Colorado Gold Guide: Top 7 Upscale Public Golf Courses

Here are seven of the state’s most upscale public-access golf courses for those who need a country club just for a day. By 2025, Rodeo Dunes, a project by the developers of Bandon Dunes and Sand Valley, could join the list.

In the meantime, expect outstanding course conditions, nifty golf apps and first-class service at all of these and an elevated food and beverage experience where noted.

READ: How Colorado’s Golf Heroes are Tackling Staffing Shortages, Inflation and Record Traffic to Keep Courses Lush and Green

Arrowhead Golf Club

To soak in the indigenous landscape of Colorado, music lovers go to a Red Rocks concert and golfers head south to Littleton to play Arrowhead. It’s indescribably breathtaking and we the public are lucky to have access to such a beautiful, wild-feeling yet well-maintained golf course. If you’re hosting out-of-town guests in the Denver area, this is your place. Takes reservations up to 30 days in advance at arrowheadcolorado.com.

The Golf Club at Bear Dance

The Colorado PGA section’s home course has a reputation for both its splendor and its difficulty, and the client who is an excellent golfer will want to play here. In Larkspur, it’s a bit of a ride south from Denver, and at 6,800 feet, it’s worth the wait until summer for the Pikes Peak views. The large practice facility and cozy restaurant offer lots of accessory talk time. Takes reservations up to 90 days in advance at beardancegolf.com.

CommonGround Golf Course

The home course of the CGA, in Aurora just over the line from Denver, has a lot going for it. With an acclaimed design by Tom Doak overseen by award-winning superintendent Mitch Savage and a renovated clubhouse opening this spring, the course stands strong as the only walker-friendly layout on this list. And the big plus for business golfers: CommonGround’s free caddie program of middle and high school students creates a wonderful mentoring opportunity for them and a possible source of future interns and employees for you. Takes reservations as far out as 90 days at commongroundgc.com.

Fossil Trace Golf Club

It’s the northern equivalent of Arrowhead, in Golden, with easy access to both Boulder and Denver. But here, beyond lovely views of Table Mountain, there’s a more explicit history, of dinosaurs, no less, and an actual outdoor fossil museum that’s worth a pause after playing the 12th hole. The Jim Engh design is fun for all levels, and Footprints might be the best golf course restaurant in the state. Would love to research that further. Come the first of March, advance tee times will open for the season at fossiltrace.com.

Green Valley Ranch Golf Club

Here’s a unique idea for business travelers with conventions and meetings in Denver. Meet up at Denver International Airport and head for Green Valley Ranch for four blissful hours of golf before you get to the city or, after your hectic business time, reverse the process. Try to include time for the only golf course TrackMan range in the state before the round and Green Valley Smokehouse and Oyster Bar after. Tee times are available up to 90 days in advance at GVRgolf.com.

The Golf Club at Redlands

The Golf Club at Redlands Mesa: Let’s not forget the hard-working folks on the Western Slope, who deserve the occasional fairway business meeting. Redlands Mesa wins national awards, including past recognition as the top public course in the state, and it’s a treat to play. With 11 of the 18 tees elevated atop pristine fairways and greens, vistas include the neighboring and towering Colorado National Monument. Dinner at Ocotillo Restaurant and Bar stands a good chance at sealing that deal. Tee times are available two weeks out at redlandsmesa.com or (970) 255-7400.

The Ridge at Castle Pines North

As the Denver area’s only Troon-managed public course, the well-staffed Ridge offers coun- try-club level service from the moment you drop off your clubs until… well, it’s a stunning 19th hole but you have to walk to the window to order. Like Fossil Trace, the layout is fun for all levels – provided you play from the tee that matches your game. Negotiate that carefully as you stand looking down at the first fairway. It’s as close as many will get to playing the neighboring privates: Castle Pines Golf Club, the Country Club at Castle Pines and the Sanctuary. Tee times are available up to 90 days in advance at playtheridge.com.

If you’re wondering why Berthoud’s TPC-Colorado, Windsor’s acclaimed Pelican Lakes and Colorado’s newest course, RainDance National, didn’t make the list, that’s only because as semi-private clubs they’re difficult to reserve in advance unless you have a group of 12.

For overnight business meetings, Colorado’s most fantastic guest-only golf destinations include the Broadmoor, Flying Horse and Garden of the Gods — all in Colorado Springs. Rain Dance has plans to emulate their exclusive access of members and resort guests in the years to come.