2016 Hall of Fame Inductees

The Denver & Colorado Tourism Industry Hall of Fame was created to recognize outstanding individuals who through their leadership, dedication and professionalism have made significant contributions to the tourism industry in Denver and Colorado.

Joe Ellis, President & CEO, Denver Broncos

It would be impossible to overestimate the economic and publicity value of the Denver Broncos to Denver’s tourism industry. The Broncos are the first thing mentioned in tourism word association tests about Denver and in 2014 were recognized by a Harris poll as “America’s Team”—the most popular football team in the U.S. More than 1.4 million fans watched the Broncos play in person in 2016, while hundreds of millions of people around the world watch them every season, exposing them to tourism images of Denver and Colorado. The publicity from the Super Bowl 50 victory alone was valued at $190 billion from the more than 108,000 stories told around the world. In 2016, Joe began his sixth season as president of the Denver Broncos and his third year as chief executive officer. Having worked with Owner Pat Bowlen for nearly three decades, Joe has been entrusted to operate the team with full authority while serving as the Broncos’ representation for all league matters. Joe owns extensive experience and expertise at both the club and league level through his 22 seasons with the Broncos and 29 seasons in the NFL. Joe’s leadership skills and business knowledge have helped the Broncos strengthen their reputation as one of the most successful and fan-friendly franchises in all of professional sports. He has earned significant recognition from his peers and throughout the Rocky Mountain Region for the Broncos’ emphasis on community involvement and civic responsibility. For his work in making the Denver Broncos a symbol of the city and a professional organization that gladly works with the tourism industry to promote the Mile High City, Joe Ellis is inducted into the Denver & Colorado Tourism Hall of Fame.

Holly Arnold Kinney, owner of The Fort restaurant and founder of Tesoro Foundation

Holly Arnold Kinney literally grew up in one of metro Denver’s most famous tourism icons, The Fort restaurant. The Fort, a replica of Bent’s Old Fort on the Santa Fe Trail, was built by Holly’s father, Sam Arnold, as a private home in 1963, but turned it into a restaurant specializing in authentic foods of the mountain men era in the Southwest. Holly grew up in an apartment in the upstairs portion of the restaurant, with Sam Arnold’s bear, “Sissy,” as a pet. After a career in advertising and marketing, Holly formed a partnership with her father to manage the restaurant in 1999, and took over full ownership of The Fort restaurant in 2006, after her father passed away. Holly has not only kept the Western traditions of The Fort going, but she has expanded on them. In 1999, she started the Tesoro Culture Center, a non-profit committed to protecting and making available to the public the artistic treasures and history of the Southwest. They have group and school tours teaching Bent’s Fort history, historic lecture series, and many events such as the Indian Market Powwow that attracted the nation’s top Indian artists. In the fall, a Mountain Man Rendezvous that preserves Colorado history with artists, demonstrations, and music. New in 2017 Tesoro is opening The Fort from 11am-3pm during weekends for their new Living History Experience from June 1-Oct. 15 featuring artists, Indian dancing, demonstrations and music of the early West. For her lifetime of work in promoting the history, culture, traditions and cuisine of the Southwest through the Tesoro Center and The Fort restaurant, Holly Arnold Kinney is inducted into the Denver & Colorado Tourism Hall of Fame.

Roy Romer, Former Governor of Colorado

Roy Romer was the 39th Governor of Colorado and the last governor to serve three terms. The former owner of a ski area, he was governor during a pivotal time for Denver and played a key role in the decision to build Denver International Airport (DIA). Perhaps no single event has been more important to Denver’s tourism industry than the decision to build DIA, and it is impossible to imagine that happening without the support of Governor Romer, and the work he did in lobbying for statewide support for the project. He was a strong supporter of tourism and under his reign the Colorado Tourism Board (CTB) became a model for the entire country. When the CTB was eliminated due to the TABOR being passed, Governor Romer worked to get at least some funds to keep information centers open. He also lobbied the state legislature to supply $125 million to purchase the land for the Colorado Convention Center. Without that support, the center never could have been built in downtown Denver. Because of his support of the two biggest tourism projects of the 20th Century, the building of DIA and the construction of the Colorado Convention Center, former Colorado Governor Roy Romer is being inducted into the Denver & Colorado Tourism Hall of Fame.

William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody

Col. William F. Cody was the world’s first superstar and the man who made the American West one of the world’s great tourism destinations. The romantic images and stories of the West that he created have endured for more than a century and are still an important factor in why people visit Denver and Colorado. Today it is difficult to imagine Buffalo Bill’s popularity. From 1883 to 1913, he and his show, “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West,” toured the globe, bringing the thrill of the American West to a thousand cities in a dozen different nations. At its height, the show played before the crowned heads of Europe, crisscrossed America in a special train of 52 box cars, and employed more than 640 cowboys, Indians, vaqueros, rough riders, and support personnel. As a comparison, Beyonce’s world tour in 2016 employed less than 100 people. In 2017, it will be 100 years since Buffalo Bill died in Denver and was laid in-state in the Colorado State Capitol. At his request, he was buried on top of nearby Lookout Mountain, which offered views of the plains and the Rocky Mountains. More than 25,000 people attended his funeral – the largest in Colorado history with a progression of cars that stretched from downtown Denver, up the Lariat Loop Trail to his gravesite at the top of the mountain. His grave and a museum honoring him have been ranked as one of the top 10 paid attractions in Denver for more than 20 years. For all that he did in promoting the romance, adventure and beauty of the American West and for being the “star” of one of Denver’s most popular and long-lasting tourism attractions, Buffalo Bill is inducted into the Denver & Colorado Tourism Hall of Fame.

2016 Tourism Stars

“Tourism Star” awards are presented to organizations and attractions that had a significant impact on Denver’s tourism industry during the preceding year.

NCAA Division II National Championships Festival

The NCAA Division II National Championships Festival brought more than 750 student-athletes to the Metropolitan State University of Denver in May for a competition that featured 76 teams and 20 other qualifying individuals competing for NCAA titles in six sports: men’s and women’s golf, women’s lacrosse, softball and men’s and women’s tennis. The festival also included opening and closing ceremonies and community engagement activities throughout the week. The festival is unique in the NCAA championships mix because it has an Olympic feel and is structured specifically to enhance the student-athlete experience for those who earned berths to the Division II championships. This was the ninth NCAA Division II national championships festival and the first one to be held in the Western region of the country.  Opening ceremonies took place Monday at Mile High Stadium. This event was particularly important for Denver since it showcased to the NCAA the ability that Denver has in hosting major sports events, and opens the door to future NCAA championship events.

Coors Light NHL Stadium Series at Coors Field

The first outdoor NHL game in the history of the Colorado Avalanche was a smash success, playing before a sell-out crowd as well as on prime time NBC television across the country. The game, witnessed by 50,095 people, shows the possibility of outdoor winter sports in Denver and Colorado, and coming on the heels of last year’s World Alpine Championships in Vail, establishes Denver and Colorado as a center for outdoor winter sports. The Avalanche played their arch rivals, the Detroit Red Wings, who they have faced six times in playoffs (the winner going on to take the Stanley Cup in four of those years). Between the two teams, they won the Stanley Cup five times in a seven year period. Unfortunately, the Red Wings won this game, but Denver was the real winner with a wildly successful and popular outdoor winter event.

Denver Art Museum

In 2016, the Denver Art Museum opened Star Wars™ and the Power of Costume, a dramatic presentation of more than 70 original costumes from the Star Wars™ saga, including 300 additional objects sourced directly from Skywalker Ranch. Chewbacca, Princess Leia, R2-D2, C3-PO, Queen Amidala, and Darth Vader are among the many iconic cinematic characters featured in the exhibition. The creative process, a driving force behind the exhibition narrative, focused on bringing characters to life by presenting historical design context and artist concept drawings in a quest to transform the essence of George Lucas’ memorable characters into a dynamic reality. Star Wars™ and the Power of Costume was developed by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service in partnership with the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art and in consultation with Lucasfilm Ltd, and will be on view at the Denver Art Museum through April 2, 2017.

Denver Outlaws

In 2016, for the second time in three years, the Denver Outlaws won the Major League Lacrosse Championship, becoming the definitive champions of this growing sport. The Outlaws have led league attendance for nine of the past 10 years, and were also champions in 2014. But the Denver Outlaws are an organization not only committed to winning MLL Championships, but also to growing new lacrosse fans, making a positive impact on the community, and providing superior entertainment, value, and service. They have been a strong partner to the tourism industry and to Denver and are one of the reasons that Denver has been called “The Sports Capital of the U.S.A.”

Denver PrideFest

Denver PrideFest, produced by the GLBT Community Center of Colorado, is the largest LGBT event in the Rocky Mountain West, which in 2016 not only celebrated its 41st anniversary, but also set huge attendance records with an estimated 380,000 people attending the two day festival at Civic Center Park. The Coors Light PrideFest Parade had a record 147 entries with more than 120,000 spectators watching the parade as it marched down Colfax Avenue. PrideFest attracts visitors from across the nation, and particularly from the Rocky Mountain West, where there are a limited number of similar events. “This is a wonderful expression of how we celebrate diversity and inclusivity in Denver, and we are grateful to PrideFest, not only for the tourism they bring to the city, but for their 41-year history of bringing music, art, and fun to Civic Center Park,” Scharf said. This year’s PrideFest was particularly poignant because six days before the festival, 49 people were killed and 53 wounded in the deadliest mass shooting in American history at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Instead of responding with fear, PrideFest turned out record numbers with participants flocking to a special memorial at the center of Civic Center Park created by local artist Lonnie Hanzon. Guests wrote their thoughts and expressed their emotions with colored chalk on a giant black cube created in memory of the Orlando victims.

Denver Zoo

Denver Zoo hosted Washed Ashore, Art to Save the Sea, presented by CH2M, an exhibit that was as much fun as it was educational. Some 15 giant sea sculptures from sea turtles to parrot fish were made from debris that has washed ashore on beaches around the world. The exhibit chose a whimsical way through art to educate the public about the challenges of pollution. Lead artist Angela Haseltine Pozzi organized people of all ages to help her remove thousands of pounds of debris from beaches and then turn it into gigantic works of art, 90 percent of which were made from petroleum-based products such as plastics, nylon ropes and fishing nets. This was the first time this exhibit had appeared in a land-locked city, helping children and adults understand the dangers that pollution presents to our oceans.

Red Rocks Amphitheatre

Even with 9,525-seats, Red Rocks Amphitheatre is not large enough to hold all the accolades, awards and distinctions it has already received as the greatest outdoor concert venue and amphitheater in the world. But for its 75th Anniversary, it was time for the tourism industry to recognize how much Red Rocks has meant to Denver. “There is probably no greater single icon for Denver that is more revered and known around the world than Red Rocks,” Scharf said. In its 75th year, Red Rocks staged numerous special events and photo contests and city officials began preparations to add an additional 98 acres to the park, which will allow for more hiking trails. In recent years, Red Rocks has dramatically grown the number of paid events at the amphitheater, setting a record high 138 paid shows in 2016 that drew more than 1 million people – nearly three times the amount who attended paid shows in 2006. In addition to these shows, the venue hosted many other activities including the world renowned Film on the Rocks, high school graduations, fitness programs, weddings, private meetings and a wide range of tourists visiting from across the country and the world. The revenue generated from all these events not only pays for all Red Rocks operations, but also helps fund other Denver cultural facilities and events.

The Scientific & Cultural Facilities District (SCFD)

In 1988, metro-Denver approved a first-of-its-kind regional Scientific & Cultural Facilities District (SCFD), funded by a dedicated sales tax of one cent on every $10 spent. Today, SCFD provides financial support to nearly 300 small and large cultural facilities with an estimated $50 million of funds each year. Since the district began in 1989, attendance at cultural facilities has climbed 95 percent and today SCFD provides funding to twice as many cultural organizations as it did when it was created. SCFD has a tremendous impact on the region’s economy, generating $1.8 billion in annual economic activity, creating 10,731 jobs. Equally important to the tourism industry, it spurs $520 million in tourism spending every year. For residents, SCFD funding provides 4 million educational experiences for school children. More than 100 free days are provided by recipient organizations annually. “If we look back at the history of Denver, certainly the turning point in the city’s reputation as a cultural destination was the creation of SCFD, and we are thankful to the organization and to the voters in Metro Denver for once again re-affirming this valuable addition to the city,” VISIT DENVER President & CEO, Richard Scharf, said.

Get more details about the 18th Annual Tourism Hall of Fame Dinner

The Denver & Colorado Travel Industry Hall of Fame was created to recognize outstanding individuals who through their leadership, dedication and professionalism have made significant contributions...

“Tourism Star” awards are presented to organizations and attractions that had a significant impact on Denver’s tourism industry during the preceding year.