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Apollo Hall opened soon after the city's founding in 1859 and staged many plays for eager settlers. In the 1880s Horace Tabor built Denver's first opera house. After the start of the 20th century, city leaders embarked on a city beautification program that created many of the city's parks, parkways, museums, and the Municipal Auditorium, which was home to the 1908 Democratic National Convention and is now known as the Ellie Caulkins Opera House. Denver and the metropolitan areas around it continued to support culture. In 1988, voters in the Denver Metropolitan Area approved the Scientific and Cultural Facilities Tax (commonly known as SCFD), a 0.1% (1 cent per $10) sales tax that contributes money to various cultural and scientific facilities and organizations throughout the Metro area. The tax was renewed by voters in 1994 and 2004 and allows the SCFD to operate until 2018.
Denver also has a nearly complete beltway known as "the 470's". These are SH 470 (also known as C-470), a freeway in the southwest Metro area, and two toll highways, E-470 (from southeast to northeast) and Northwest Parkway (from terminus of E-470 to US 36). SH 470 was intended to be I-470 and built with federal highway funds, but the funding was redirected to complete conversion of downtown Denver's 16th Street to a pedestrian mall. As a result, construction was delayed until 1980 after state and local legislation was passed. I-470 was also once called "The Silver Stake Highway", from Gov. Lamm's declared intention to drive a silver stake through it and kill it.
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Denver has been home to two National Hockey League teams. The Colorado Rockies played from 1976 to 1982, but became the New Jersey Devils. The Colorado Avalanche joined in 1995, after relocating from Quebec City. While in Denver, they have won two Stanley Cups in 1996 and in 2001. The Denver Nuggets joined the American Basketball Association in 1967 and the National Basketball Association in 1976. The Avalanche and Nuggets have played at Pepsi Center since 1999. The Major League Soccer team Colorado Rapids play in Dick's Sporting Goods Park, an 18,000-seat soccer-specific stadium opened for the 2007 MLS season in the Denver suburb of Commerce City. The Rapids won the MLS Cup in 2010.
Tornadoes are rare west of the I-25 corridor; however, one notable exception was an F3 tornado that struck 4.4 miles south of downtown on June 15, 1988. On the other hand, the suburbs east of Denver and the city's east-northeastern extension (Denver International Airport) can see a few tornadoes, often weak landspout tornadoes, each spring and summer—especially during June with the enhancement of the Denver Convergence Vorticity Zone (DCVZ). The DCVZ, also known as the Denver Cyclone, is a variable vortex of storm-forming air flow usually found north and east of downtown, and which often includes the airport. Heavy weather from the DCVZ can disrupt airport operations. In a study looking at hail events in areas with a population of at least 50,000, Denver was found to be ranked 10th most prone to hail storms in the continental United States. In fact, Denver has received three of the top 10 costliest hailstorms in United States history, which occurred on July 11, 1990; July 20, 2009; and May 8, 2017 respectively.
Denver has many nationally recognized museums, including a new wing for the Denver Art Museum by world-renowned architect Daniel Libeskind, the second largest Performing Arts Center in the nation after Lincoln Center in New York City and bustling neighborhoods such as LoDo, filled with art galleries, restaurants, bars and clubs. That is part of the reason why Denver was, in 2006, recognized for the third year in a row as the best city for singles. Denver's neighborhoods also continue their influx of diverse people and businesses while the city's cultural institutions grow and prosper. The city acquired the estate of abstract expressionist painter Clyfford Still in 2004 and built a museum to exhibit his works near the Denver Art Museum. The Denver Museum of Nature and Science holds an aquamarine specimen valued at over $1 million, as well as specimens of the state mineral, rhodochrosite. Every September the Denver Mart, at 451 E. 58th Avenue, hosts a gem and mineral show. The state history museum, History Colorado Center, opened in April 2012. It features hands-on and interactive exhibits, artifacts and programs about Colorado history. It was named in 2013 by True West Magazine as one of the top-ten "must see" history museums in the country. History Colorado's Byers-Evans House Museum and the Molly Brown House are nearby.