When is nothing better than something?
Published: July 12, 2009 at 8:55 PM
Elitch Gardens was, uh, not one of my favorite parks. Built on a slab of asphalt next to Denver's Pepsi Center arena, Elitch offers nothing that looks like a "gardens." It's a run-of-the-mill iron park, with low capacity and resulting long waits.
The Denver Post's John Wenzel wasn't too impressed with Elitch's, either, smacking down the park in today's edition of the paper.
During a recent weekday visit, families and middle-aged couples were sparse. Teenagers traveled in noisy packs, glued to their cellphones and cigarettes, generally making anyone over 18 feel ancient.
As I waited in line for the Tower of Doom free-fall ride, a group of dudes taunted another group of dudes with violent threats, one guy lifting his shirt to display his tattoos, sloshing beer here and there while he yelled. Just when it seemed they were going to clash, a portly security guard called the ringleader over to the fence and carted him off.
Wenzel questioned whether the park should remain open, given its lackluster state.
Would the space be better used as an extension of the Highland and Platte neighborhoods, with their locally owned eateries, boutique shops and similarly hip clientele? Or would doing that just add to the unaffordable condo values and menagerie of ridiculous haircuts?
We've invested so much in downtown over the past 15 years to maintain its growth and vitality. If Elitch's can't keep up, it's time to decide what we want that crucial urban space to look like.
My wife, who grew up in Denver, tells me that Elitch's wasn't always this way. It once stood on a different site (moving in 1995) and had, well, actual gardens. The site was small, though, and when the city moved to redevelop the Central Platte Valley near downtown, the park's owners - who would later go on to obtain Six Flags - jumped at the chance to move to this larger site.
But they didn't do much with it, except move over some off-the-shelf rides and install a dreaded Vekoma "Mind Eraser."
The Post writer doesn't seem to have much love for theme parks, though I'm inclined to forgive that attitude given the lack of positive role models in the U.S. Mountain West. But the questions, now raised, seem to me worth asking:
When is nothing better than something? And at what point do fans just go ahead and let a park die?