DU alumni may remember it as the old Sports Authority building on Broadway. Old-timers may remember it as a former Chrysler dealership. However, surely the most entertaining era for this iconic structure was as the Gart Brothers Sports Castle.
The Sports Castle building, located at 1000 Broadway, was built in 1926 as a Chrysler showroom by the Cullen-Thompson Motor Company. Gart Brothers sporting goods opened a second retail location there in 1971 and operated at the location for 22 years. Sports Authority took over the space from 1993 until 2016. Devoid of a full-time tenant since 2016, the 100,00 square foot building was recently sold by the Gart family to construction executive Tom McLagan who plans to redevelop the building into offices and event space.
Generations of DU students, faculty and locals drove to Gart Brothers to buy ski gear and other sports equipment beginning in the early 70’s. Sports gear customers were treated to a giant 20′ X 60′ hand-painted mural at the start of the downstairs auto ramp depicting sports figures. Auto ramps, formally used to ferry autos from different levels to the Chrystler Showroom, supported 6-passenger golf carts that carried sporting goods shoppers to different store levels.
Gart Brothers sporting goods was the primary public ski supplier for Denver residents. Its huge sales floors and funky architecture drew shoppers from around the metro as well as out-of-town visitors. Gart Brothers even claim to be the first big-box specialty store in North America. Besides offering a one-of-a-kind indoor ski ramp and rooftop tennis courts, the Gart Sports store brought chaos to their south Broadway neighborhood every Labor Day with its “Sniagrab” ski sale, sometimes called the largest ski sale in the world. The sale, which was “bargains” backward, was a tradition Jerry Gart started in 1954 at another storefront in LoDo and brought over to Sports Castle when Gart Sports opened.
During Labor Day, the carnival atmosphere spilled outside onto the parking lot, adjacent to the Sports Castle, where skis, boots, poles, gloves, hats, goggles and clothing were put on sale for the general public. This writer remembers University students carpooling the six miles to Gart Brothers to stock up on ski equipment for winter or purchase other sports equipment.
The original stained-glass windows and ornate masonry facade have been the focal points of preservation by local residents and the new developer, after improvements, plans to submit the building to the National Register of Historic Places.
Most Denver students and alumni have experienced various iterations of the ‘Sports Castle’ over nearly 100 years. What were your memories of the Sports Castle?
Photo: Courtesy of BusinessDen