Rachel and I are working on a story about Aurora residents becoming US Citizens. Little did we know that we would become students ourselves.
Here’s your big chance to hit the high note, Aurora. Ray Rinaldi of the Denver Post is reporting today that it looks like rumors about Denver wanting to oust the Colorado Symphony Orchestra from its home at the Boettcher Concert Hall at the Denver Center for Performing Arts looks are true. The Post reports that the leading idea for the space is to tear it down and build an outdoor amphitheater. The symphony would have to suck eggs or shack up with Opera Colorado and the Colorado Ballet at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House.
Sad. Very sad. Denver already has an outdoor amphitheater, Red Rocks. A smaller one at Civic Center Park is nothing to sneeze at. If the complaint is that the aging Boettcher Hall doesn’t get enough use, just wait until a Downtown Denver outdoor theater sits vacant 6-9 months a year.
Oh well. Their loss could be Aurora’s big gain. Here’s what we should do. Let’s build the CSO a new home right here. Right at City Center, where the new light-rail line will stop. We can show Colorado that Aurora has the class and classics and classes that Denver’s so anxious to snub. The beloved symphony is just getting started with plans to make what they do more accessible and available to everyone in the metro area. Realize, of course, that the minute the CSO moves into new Aurora digs, they bring with them Tier II status dollars from the Science and Cultural Facilities District. Funding, folks, real funding. In addition to that, the symphony has a loyal following that wants to see the CSO get the respect it deserves. This symphony is innovative, talented and world class. An Aurora center could underscore that instead of sniff at it.
That money and influence could help offset operating expenses for a cultural arts complex in Aurora that has a concert hall as its focal point, complete with other theaters studios and venues that permit a wide range of classical and contemporary concerts, theater, dance and comedy. The complex could house the Aurora History Museum and art studios or even a museum.
This is your chance, Aurora, to make good on decades of ignoring City Center and cultural facilities needs. The site is perfect for a facility like this. It’s near at RTD bus hub. It will be connected to the rest of the region’s RTD light-rail line, allowing easy light-rail access from everywhere. And the site at East Alameda and Sable Boulevard is minutes from Lowry and is easily accessible from I-225.
Best of all, an Aurora cultural arts facility with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra as the centerpiece would finally define what City Center, hundreds of prime acres, will be. Aurora and developers have been struggling to figure out just what to do with a giant chunk of valuable, empty real estate that’s going to have excellent commuter access and a light-rail line. This is it. Instead of a smattering of chain restaurants and ho-hum shops, Aurora can makes this an arts Mecca. This is where the metro area will come for their kids’ dance classes, choir practice, violin lessons. This is where endless summer camps are held and ballet recitals occur. The metro area spends hundreds of millions of dollars on the arts and arts education and everything associated with them. Aurora can parlay this site, some cash, its growing influence, a prime piece of real estate and the goodwill of thousands of CSO supporters into something its been missing for decades.
Don’t sneer. Just think about. The Aurora Center for Colorado Arts. Sounds good.
— Editor Dave Perry
Chase Vaughn is a long way from Smoky Hill High School.
The former Aurora prep standout with the Buffaloes in the mid-2000s has worked his way all the way up to a shot with the hometown Denver Broncos, who began training camp for the 2014 National Football League season on Thursday.
Vaughn, a 6-foot-1, 242-pound linebacker who starred at Division II Colorado State-Pueblo, signed with Denver in May and is on the 90-man roster that begins training camp.
Previously, Vaughn played in several professional football leagues, including the Arena Football League (with the Spokane Shock), United Football League (with the Las Vegas Locos), Canadian Football League (Calgary Stampeders) and Indoor Football League (Colorado Ice).
Due to construction at the Broncos’ Dove Valley headquarters, fans won’t be able to attend training camp practices as they have in the past, however the team will conduct a workout from 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Gates open at 10:30 a.m. and parking and admission are free.
— Sports Editor Courtney Oakes
The final numbers prove Regis Jesuit High School’s fantastic 2013-14 athletic season ranked right up among the best in country.
According to the CBS MaxPreps Cup national rankings released on July 22 (and listed below), the Aurora high school — which has a separate Boys Division and Girls Division — had the 12th-most successful athletic program in the country according to a formula that awards points based on championship or runner-up finishes in state and association level. The size of playoff classification, size of state and type of sport (major vs. minor) also was factored into the formula.
Regis Jesuit captured a total of six Class 5A team championships in 2013-14 including 5A titles in boys and girls swimming, boys and girls golf, girls basketball and boys lacrosse. The school’s baseball team finished as the runner-up to Rocky Mountain. The results netted the school 739 points, putting Regis Jesuit just ahead of Westminster (Atlanta) with a 13th-place total of 732 and just behind Rock Bridge (Columbia, Missouri), which came in 11th with 743.
No other Colorado high school appeared in this season’s MaxPreps top 25. Cherry Creek won top honors for Colorado in 2012-13 and finished 23rd in the national rankings.
Bentonville, Ark., was the clear No. 1 program in 2013-14 with a total of eight state championships.
2014 CBS MAXPREPS CUP NATIONAL RANKINGS
1. Bentonville (Ark.), 1,120 2. St. Pius X Catholic (Atlanta), 985 3. Punahou (Honolulu), 980 4. St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), 967 5. Marist (Atlanta), 918 6. American Heritage (Plantation, Fla.), 834 7. Carmel (Ind.), 832 8. Deer Creek (Edmond, Okla.), 804 9. The Pingry School (Martinsville, N.J.), 799 10. Wayzata (Plymouth, Minn.), 766 11. Rock Bridge (Columbia, Mo.), 743 12. REGIS JESUIT (AURORA), 739 13. Westminster (Atlanta), 732 14. Cardinal Gibbons (Raleigh, N.C.), 730 15. Webb (Knoxville, Tenn.), 715 16. Tottenville (Staten Island, N.Y.), 710 17. Summit (Bend, Ore.), 702 18. Bozeman (Mont.), 686 19. Madison Central (Miss.), 676 20. Bedford (N.H.), 674 21. Darien (Conn.), 664 22. Aquinas (Overland Park, Kan.), 662 23. Mountain Brook (Birmingham, Ala.), 650 24. Montgomery Academy (Ala.), 648 25. La Salle Academy (Providence, R.I.), 642
— Sports Editor Courtney Oakes
You can’t hum while holding your nose closed.
You knew you thought you could. It’s so odd, illogical and stupid, that you can’t believe it’s true. Just as implausible? Half of Colorado backs the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing Hobby Lobby owners to prevent its health insurance company from offering some forms of birth control — because of the company owners’ religious preferences.
When I read the results of that recent Quinnipiac poll this morning, I flashed back to the day Sen. John McCain introduced Sarah Palin as his presidential running mate. It was just too odd, too illogical to fathom.
Why? Why would anyone think it’s a good idea to let employers dictate what health care services are and aren’t offered to employees based on the religious beliefs of the employer?
But sure as chickens dream, half of adults in Colorado think it’s a good idea to let bosses decide which form of birth control their insurance plan can and cannot offer. This became an issue because Hobby Lobby owner David Green is serious about his extreme Oklahoma religion. Leaders of his church have told him some forms of modern birth control are sinful. Green objects that under federal healthcare laws, birth control prescribed by doctors is considered a medical issue and must be treated that way by insurance companies.
Here’s what you may not know. Green is a Pentecost. You know, the people who gather on Sundays for some serious praising and sometimes end up speaking in “tongues” and writhing with the spirit. This is a religion that believes in faith healing, where you put your hands on cancer victims and draw the “holy spirit” into a body to do what doctors can’t or even haven’t had the opportunity to try.
That’s Green’s religion. That’s what’s driving the health-care decisions for Hobby Lobby employees.
As U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg pointed out, this extraordinary decision could allow companies to dictate to insurance companies what health services are not covered, based on the religious preference of company owners. Since this same court has ruled that corporations are people, just about any corporation can assume a religious doctrine dictating what the company health plan will or won’t pay for. While Justice Samuel Alito said this ruling affects only birth control, it opens the doors for states sympathetic to such nonsense to write laws allowing greater leeway into shaping employee health benefits. Under a likely Texas law, if your boss’s religion doesn’t allow for blood transfusions or blood-based treatments, such as those often used for leukemia, you’re on your own. If that means you hemorrhage and die on the operating table because you can’t afford to pay for such services, and the courts haven’t sorted all this out, well, then it’s because the Lord decided it was time to call you home.
I guess a lot of Colorado residents think, “it’s just birth control — no big deal.” But don’t think for a second that people who believe God will keep you well if you’re bitten by a poisonous snake or drink poison, or that your holy underwear can keep you safe from fire and Satan, would be unable to wreak untold havoc in your personal life. I think this is a good place to point out that almost every deadly skirmish on the planet these days stems from disagreements about religion.
We’re not talking about casserole-carrying Lutherans from the Midwest here. The special undies and snake dancing faithful are the kinds of religious disciples motivated to decide what your health insurance should and shouldn’t cover, or what you should or shouldn’t wear to work. Since corporations are people, and you really have no idea who or what runs the corporations these days, Saudi Muslim money unhappy with the way American women dress at work could easily dictate head coverings and modest, full-length dresses. The Supreme Court said that when serious religious convictions are at stake, they must be appreciated.
This has all shocked me. What conservative thinks it’s a good idea for anyone to impose their religion on another American? If any one offense seems to be agreed upon here, it’s that one. The Baptists don’t want the Jews or the Catholics telling them what to do, ever. Forcing anyone’s religion on another person is about as un-American as you can get without snatching their guns.
All I can think of is that too many Colorado residents are misled about the decision, or they’re just not paying attention. It was a bad call that opens a door to all kinds of bizarre problems, and if you don’t think someone will try and run with this, think again, long and hard. In what way have the majority of employers not consistently looked for ways to get more from their employees and pay less for it? What religion, other than your own, do you think should be advising health insurance companies and doctors about meting out care? Honestly, do you even trust your own religion’s leaders to make health-care decisions for you?
I didn’t think so. While we may be cavalier about the dilemma’s of others, when it comes to our own lives, we want science to call the shots for science, not politicians, lawyers or religious leaders.
It’s unclear how Americans are going to be able to protect themselves from their employer’s religious convictions. But there’s little doubt that some brave lawmakers in Colorado or Congress with give it a shot. And when they do, they’re going to need your support. If we permit the country’s employers to make even some health-care decisions for some employees on some religious principles, none of us will have a prayer.
Months later, Bud Thomas and the seniors on the Mercer men’s basketball team got to celebrate their greatest triumph again.
The Regis Jesuit High School grad and his teammates pulled off the shocker of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament on March 21, as the 14th-seeded Bears knocked off third-seeded Duke 78-71 at PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C.
Thomas scored just two points against coach Mike Krzyzewski’s Blue Devils — one of the teams Thomas always followed in the NCAA tournament growing up — but dished out five assists and played strong defensively for Mercer, the Atlantic Sun Conference champion which lost in the next round to Tennessee.
The Mercer seniors were in the crowd in Los Angeles when the award was presented Wednesday night. The Mercer upset topped Connecticut’s victory over Florida in the NCAA men’s basketball national championship game and Chris Weidman’s upset knockout of 10-time UFC champion Anderson Silva.
Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning also won two ESPY awards, for Best Record-Breaking Performance as well as Best NFL Player.
2014 ESPY WINNERS
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Winners at the 2014 ESPY Awards presented Wednesday:
Best Breakthrough Athlete: Richard Sherman; Best Moment: U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team; Best Game: Iron Bowl; Best Record-Breaking Performance: Peyton Manning; Best Play: Chris Davis; Best Female Athlete: Ronda Rousey; Best Male Athlete: Kevin Durant; Best Team: Seattle Seahawks; Best Upset: MERCER; Best Female Action Sports Athlete: Jamie Anderson; Best Male Action Sports Athlete: Nyjah Houston; Best Female Athlete with a Disability: Jamie Whitmore; Best Male Athlete with a Disability: Declan Farmer; Best Female College Athlete: Breanna Stewart; Best Male College Athlete: Doug McDermott; Best Coach/Manager: Gregg Popovich; Best MLS Player: Tim Cahill; Best NBA Player: Kevin Durant; Best NFL Player: Peyton Manning; Best NHL Player: Sidney Crosby; Best MLB Player: Miguel Cabrera; Best WNBA Player: Maya Moore; Best Female US Olympian: Jamie Anderson; Best Male US Olympian: Sage Kotsenburg; Championship Performance: Kawhi Leonard; Best Bowler: Pete Weber; Best Female Tennis Player: Maria Sharapova; Best Male Tennis Player: Rafael Nadal; Best Comeback Athlete: Russell Westbrook; Best Female Golfer: Michelle Wie; Best Male Golfer: Bubba Watson; Best International Athlete: Cristiano Ronaldo; Best Fighter: Floyd Mayweather; Best Driver: Ryan Hunter-Reay; Best Jockey: Victor Espinoza
Jimmy V Perseverance Award: Stuart Scott; Arthur Ashe Courage Award: Michael Sam; Pat Tillman Award For Service: Josh Sweeney
— Sports Editor Courtney Oakes
Hannah Sparks has the talent to jump far, but she’d rather jump higher.
The recent graduate of Aurora’s Cherokee Trail High School passed on a number of scholarship offers to compete in track — where she was a talented long and triple jumper and relay runner — to pursue her love of basketball.
According to her father, Andre, Sparks — a first team All-Centennial League and second team Aurora Sentinel All-City selection for the 2013-14 season — is headed to Western Nebraska Community College in Scottsbluff, Nebraska. The 5-foot-7 point guard signed her national athletic letter of intent for a full ride basketball scholarship in April, but wasn’t part of Cherokee Trail’s larger signing ceremony.
In three varsity seasons at Cherokee Trail, Sparks averaged 12.7 points, 3.0 assists and 2.6 steals per game. She posted career bests in all three categories as a senior when she led the Cougars (11-14) in scoring at 15.0 ppg, assists at 3.4 apg and steals at 3.2 spg.
At Western Nebraska, Sparks is set to join up with another Aurora standout — Smoky Hill grad Brooke Zimmerman — as a teammate and roommate. Aside from going against each other in Centennial League play twice a season, the two play together with the Aurora-based Colorado Lady Swoosh club team.
Western Nebraska has a successful tradition, featuring 26 straight seasons of 20-plus victories and a tally of 77 players who have moved on to play at four-year schools. The Cougars added four Colorado players to the roster in Sparks, Zimmerman, Abriana Lujan of Highlands Ranch and Doherty’s Angela Vigil.
Sparks could stay at Western Nebraska for one season or two as larger schools track her progress and consider offering her a scholarship.
A number of other Lady Swoosh basketball players are headed to play collegiately, including Cherokee Trail grad Lily Hartley (Western State) and Eaglecrest grad Jamie Stoner (Nebraska Wesleyan).
— Sports Editor Courtney Oakes
Congratulations to some local golfers who have recorded recent holes-in-one on Aurora golf courses. To report holes-in-one, have courses send faxes to 720-324-4965 or email firstname.lastname@example.org:
May 19: Dottie Biggs, Fitzsimons G.C., No. 9, 95 yards. Witnesses: Lala Bomholt, Judy Peters.
May 27: Alyssa Nance, Springhill G.C., No. 17, 120 yards. Witnesses: D.J. Fuller, Cornell Heaps.
June 4: Jason Allen, Aurora Hills G.C., No. 7, 195 yards, 5 iron. Witnesses: Brian Howley, Sarah Boggie, Robert Lee.
June 8: Deon Williams, Fitzsimons G.C., No. 9, 136 yards, pitching wedge. Witness: Keith Vaughan.
June 10: John Thomas, Fitzsimons G.C., No. 5, 104 yards. Witnesses: Gregory Curry, Ron Henry, Larry Coles.
June 12: Gail Kloppel, Saddle Rock G.C., No. 5, 109 yards, 7 wood. Witness: Rita Bartels.
June 12: Brandon Stepter, Fitzsimons G.C., No. 5, 85 yards, 60 degree wedge. Witness: R. Rishmanehi.
June 12: Grant Wolfe, Fitzsimons G.C., No. 9, 124 yards, 9 iron. Witnesses: Jackson Lamb, Robert Seaman.
June 20: Don Keeley, Fitzsimons G.C., No. 5, yardage UA, lob wedge. Witnesses: Carla Stonbreaker, Kendra Schurich, Merl Steel
June 21: Cliff Schopf, Murphy Creek G.C., No. 5, 153 yards, 6 iron. Witnesses: Todd Smith, Daryl Fengler, Dean Kirsch.
June 25: Kent Wilmes, Aurora Hills G.C., No. 13, 178 yards, 8 iron. Witnesses: Jim Damon, Bryan Hogan.
July 7: Jon Dialk, Saddle Rock G.C., No. 14, 169 yards, 7 iron. Witnesses: Willy O, Turk, BC.
July 12: Peter Brandner, Murphy Creek G.C., No. 5, 138 yards, 9 iron. Witnesses: Matthew Berry, Kathy Freibarghaus, Rob Vogt.
— Sports Editor Courtney Oakes
Near the end of the second half, in the waning minutes of a tie game, a curious voice pipes up over the drone of chatter and forks colliding with knives collecting straggling bits of gravy.
“So what happens now?”
Three voices reflexively answer, albeit slight variants of each other.
“Overtime. Two, 15-minute halves. PK’s after that if no one scores.”
If conventional wisdom dictates that Americans have a limited appetite for soccer, someone forgot to tell everyone at Helga’s German restaurant in Aurora. Granted during a World Cup final, in the middle of a German restaurant, you’re likely to find a few scholars of the sport — probably akin to asking Home Depot shoppers how far apart wall studs should be spaced. But appetites are why most people are here anyway. Potatoes cover the bar. Gravy covers the potatoes and everything else, maybe except for the beer. If watching the World Cup requires nearly three hours of concentration, that easily spans one meal. Helga’s can serve you the caloric equivalent of three, on the same plate.
I don’t get the feeling that Milton Hunholz counts calories in the same way I do. Which is not to say the Aurora man (who is a dead-ringer for actor Bill Murray’s quasi-famous brother Brian) is a big man. The rancher, who lives in Aurora and raises cattle in Watkins on his family farm, says he eats Helga’s food 3-4 times a week and I get the feeling he doesn’t count leftovers.
Hunholz is friends of the family: Helga, her brother and their mother, who died a few years ago. He can remember going to Helga’s many years ago, when it was a Hoffman Heights restaurant that collected native German-speaking Aurorans in the tiny dining room with 12 tables. Back then, Helga’s was a place that German immigrants in Aurora could gather over bowls of goulash. Now, nearly 100 people crowd the restaurant near the Town Center at Aurora transfixed to the television broadcasting Germany vs. Argentina in the world’s most-watched sporting event. Swarm or not, Hunholz says the family atmosphere is the same now as it ever was, evidenced by the regulars that cycle in and come to shake his hand on the way to their seats.
“Doesn’t take long when everyone comes in, has good beer and good food. You get to know everybody,” he says.
For that reason, Hunholz is the best navigator for my three hours of fandom for Die Mannschaft, German beer, German food and the transmogrification of a potato into 12 different foodstuffs.
(In the interest of full disclosure, I am personally a fan of Italian soccer. Long ago when I covered sports, I divorced myself for personally rooting for any team because I thought it mattered. Now, as I get older, I understand that my news judgment is neither clouded nor consequential if I “root” for a team in a bar for three hours in a game that has less consequence than a U.N. resolution. The short of the long: No one cares.)
Pointing to the empty hooks above the bar, Hunholz shows me where regulars hang their steins. Considering very few of them are up I’m guessing that it’s mostly a familiar crowd today.
“I know some of these people, not a lot though,” he says.
I stand corrected.
“There’s just a lot of people here,” he replies.
There’s no referendum on whether soccer can survive in America at Helga’s. Tim Andre, the manager, is equal parts host and cheerleader in a German soccer jersey. Donald Ellis, who lives in Aurora, waxes on whether Germany benefits from taking the game to penalty kicks — the most-fair and least-fair way of deciding a game in all of sports right now. Soccer is alive, it’s way beyond surviving.
Hunholz is more than a casual fan of the game, he knows the intricacies even if he doesn’t know some of the players’ names. When German striker Miroslav Klose, the most prolific goal scorer in World Cup history, exited the game for likely the final time in his career, Hunholz’s big, weathered hands clapped the loudest.
When Manuel Neuer, Germany’s outstanding goalkeeper, sent another goal kick into sub-orbit, Hunholz paid attention: “Maybe the Broncos could sign that guy.”
But as my guide, Hunholz navigated the game, his history and his lifelong connection to Helga’s for 117 minutes, paying close attention to details like what beer I should drink, throughout.
Then, as Germany scored the winning goal, in the 11th hour of the final game, Hunholz stopped being my lone guide and started hosting the group of people who had come to shake his hand earlier.
“So, what now?” I ask.
“We get another round. Want one?”