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Best Western ever? Colorado hotel to become dinosaur playground

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The Best Western Southwest Denver is expected to reopen in April with its dinosaur theme.Courtesy Greg Tally

A Colorado Best Western is getting a facelift — right back to the Jurassic.

The Best Western Denver Southwest will become a dinosaur haven over the next few months, as owner Greg Tally transforms the typical hotel into a natural history-themed destination featuring fossil displays and life-size dinosaur statues. Construction crews broke ground on the renovations Tuesday.

Tally is working together with local paleontology museums as well as Matthew Inman, the Seattle-based creator of the webcomic "The Oatmeal." Inman was on-hand Tuesday to sign books and comics for attendees at the groundbreaking. The ultimate goal, Tally said, is to draw attention to Denver's paleontological history, including Dinosaur Ridge, a site 10 minutes from the hotel where the footprints of long-necked sauropod dinosaurs are preserved.

'It's just your average road trip with a stegosaurus and a cave bear.'

- Best Western Denver Southwest owner Greg Tally

"I could not think of a more unique differentiator than the history of Dinosaur Ridge," Tally told LiveScience from Missouri last week, where he was headed to pick up lifelike prehistoric statues for the hotel. "It's just your average road trip with a stegosaurus and a cave bear," Tally said.

Mere minutes from the Denver area's most-visited attraction, the Red Rocks Amphitheater, Dinosaur Ridge and surrounding fossil beds were the site of some of the earliest fossil discoveries in the United States. Known as the "Bone Wars" and characterized by a bitter rivalry between paleontologists Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh, this period in the late 1800s was characterized by distinctly unscientific behavior, including theft and bribery.

It's that human history Tally hopes to capture, alongside the paleontological facts, in his hotel, he said. The renovated hotel, which is expected to reopen in April, will feature reproduction fossils, dinosaur lithographs and field notes to explain the history of fossil discovery in the region. [Images: Dinosaur Utopia in Colorado]

"You could strip away the dinosaur stuff and it would feel like a really nice western hotel, but rather than having reproduction Remington cowboy statues there will be Allosaurus skulls laying around," Tally said.

The hotel's restaurant will also feature a model tylosaur, a species of ancient marine predator that hunted the shallow inland sea covering much of what is now the American West and Midwest during the late Cretaceous period about 66 million years ago.

Tally said his hotel currently sees few tourists headed for Dinosaur Ridge and other fossil hotspots, but he hopes to change that.

"I feel that people don't know about Dinosaur Ridge, and it is a lack of marketing dollars, not a lack of enthusiasm or interest," Tally said. "And we're hoping to help change that and help educate the public."

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