How Denver plans to turn a forgettable city park into summer’s hottest urban destination.
—Courtesy of John Robledo
Sure, Ecclesiastes (and the Byrds) declares there’s a season for everything, and at Denver’s Ruby Hill Park, that season has always been winter. That’s about to change. Long the domain of sledders bombing down snow-covered slopes, Ruby Hill is set to receive a $16 million facelift, much of which will be finished during the next two years—including a new amphitheater and a mountain-bike park—ensuring its ascendance as the city’s new king of summer. The transformation has already begun with the playground, and by next summer, bulldozers and backhoes will have taken over the park. They’ll pause this month for a free concert from the world-music collective Playing for Change on July 2, then get back to making the changes that will turn (turn, turn) Ruby Hill into an urban oasis.
The Levitt Pavilion nonprofit plans to host 50 free concerts each year at a new 7,500-person amphitheater, which shares the organization’s name. Once it’s completed in 2016, the pavilion will be the first true outdoor concert facility within Denver city limits. The group has helped cities across the country construct similar venues and has pledged $100,000 annually to help Denver book the music.
Boulder’s Valmont Bike Park, which boasts four miles of trails and wooden jumps on 42 acres, is the pinnacle of Front Range bike parks. The new Ruby Hill option, set for completion in 2015, aims to surpass Valmont with at least twice the mileage—including everything from thigh-burning climbs and long cruisers to fast descents and technical features.
Bordered by the park’s tree-lined promenade, Ruby Hill’s quieter southeast corner will feature a xeriscape (low-water) demonstration garden, swaths of native grasses, stands of mature trees for shade, and an art garden.
Work has already started, and will finish in late 2015, on an “up in the clouds”–themed fun zone that will offer rope-climbing towers, a 30-foot-high slide structure, and a light-and-shadow maze for the youngsters. Parents can look forward to a nearby shaded seating area in 2016.
When the mercury rises, you’ll be able to cool down at Ruby Hill’s astral-themed splash pad with hooplike walk-through sprinklers called “cloud portals,” climbable, squirting “comets,” and water cannons. Unlike the public pool it will replace, admission to the spray park (expected completion: summer 2015) will be free.