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Literally just 113 facts about DIA

This is everything you ever needed/slightly wanted/maybe didn't really have to know about Denver International Airport.


Feb. 28, 2020 marks the 25th anniversary of the opening of Denver International Airport. 

During those 2 1/2 decades, the airport has been the subject of fascination for people in Colorado and around the world. Keep reading for more than 100 of the most random facts we could find about DIA.

And by the way, we aren't finished with our fact-finding. This will be updated whenever we learn more!

RELATED: DIA is turning 25: Here's all of our coverage

RELATED: Interactive timeline: The history of Denver International Airport

  1. Denver International Airport is the 20th-busiest airport in the world and the fifth-busiest airport in the U.S. 
  2. DIA’s land covers 53 square miles, or 34,000 acres, making its property larger than Manhattan, San Francisco, Boston and Miami (as defined by official city limits). The four airports busier than Denver — Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta, Chicago O'Hare, Los Angeles International and Dallas Fort Worth — could all fit onto DIA’s property.
  3. The biggest plane to ever land at DIA was an Airbus A380, with a wingspan of 262 feet and a length of 239 feet.
  4. The airport's average water bill is $115,000 per month.
  5. Most noise complaints against the airport come from a small group. In 2019, more than half of the noise complaints came from three people.
  6. The most complaints came from one man in Strasburg, who was responsible for 25% of calls. That’s significantly down from 2016 when he made 74% of the complaints.
  7. The number of households with noise complaints went up slightly to 56 in 2019, up from 54 in 2018. But overall, complaints went down: There were 3,370 in 2018 and 2,389 in 2019.
  8. DIA has a wildlife management program to help keep the grounds safe for planes — with birds being the big concern. There were 391 reports of "wildlife strikes" at DIA in 2019. The reports were mostly about birds, but also some small mammals, like jackrabbits, which can then attract predatory birds.
  9. The airport’s roof is covered in white tents made of fiberglass “as thin as a credit card.” There are 34 peaks total, meant to resemble the snow-capped mountains in Colorado and “[evoke] the early history of Colorado when Native American teepees were located across the Great Plains.”
  10. The roof is maintained by airport employees and contractors who are certified "rope access technicians." They dangle 150 feet over the airport floor to clean and maintain the tents.
  11. A DIA spokeswoman said the original expected lifespan of the roof tents was supposed to be 25 years, meaning they expire in 2020. DIA told us in 2019 that they think they've extended the lifespan, and they don't expect to replace the roof in their next five-year financial plan.
  12. Denver’s mayor appoints DIA’s CEO, but the city council has oversight over the airport’s contracts and purchasing
  13. 35,000 people work at DIA.
  14. Medics believe only one baby has been born inside of the airport in the 25 years it's been open.
  15. One study claims DIA has the second-fastest airport WiFi (the winner was Seattle-Tacoma International Airport).
  16. DIA goes through 400 cases of toilet paper per week, and there are 96 rolls a case. That’s 38,400 rolls of toilet paper per week. This number has held steady since 2018, though the airport said it will increase its order to 500 cases during holidays and busy summer weeks.
  17. Partial rolls of toilet paper that get changed out during the day are donated to nonprofits. They donate three to four tons a year.
  18. DIA also told us in 2018 that it goes through 400 cases of paper towels per week. Per the airport, that’s 16,500 miles of paper towels every year. DIA told us they compost the used paper towels. Once again, the airport will order 500 cases of paper towels during busy weeks.
  19. The first flight to depart DIA was United Airlines Flight 1062 to Kansas City International Airport.
  20.  The first flight to arrive at DIA was United Flight 1474 from Colorado Springs. The first passenger to get off the plane? Elrey B. Jeppesen.
  21. DIA’s main terminal is called the Jeppesen Terminal. It was named for Jeppesen, who developed flight charts and wrote the Jeppesen Airway Manual, with data on routes used by other pilots. He moved to Denver in 1941 and died at his home in 1996. A statue honoring Jeppesen is on Level 5 of the airport.
  22. The airport connects to a Westin Hotel that opened in 2015. The hotel was designed to resemble wings: “Building upon imagery of flight and aviation, the sleek form resembles a bird with wings extended, framing and accenting the acclaimed tent-like roof of Jeppesen Terminal.”
  23. The last flight out of Stapleton International Airport was Continental Flight 34 to London Gatwick.
  24. DIA closed for more than 45 hours during the Dec. 20 and 21, 2006 blizzard. DIA changed its weather plan because of that storm. 
  25. A total of 69,015,703 passengers traveled through DIA in 2019.
  26. That’s a record. There were 98 days in 2019 that were busier than the busiest day in 2018.
  27. DIA's busiest day ever was on July 19, 2019. A DIA spokesperson said 227,497 passengers traveled through the airport that day.
  28. When DIA launched, it tried to implement a new, automated baggage system that involved 22 miles of tracks and conveyor belts. But it didn’t work as planned, and instead, “chewed up and spit out bags.” The setup of the defunct system still exists underground at the airport.
  29. Now, airport workers use underground tunnels and carts between the terminal and the concourse to move baggage.
  30. DIA also opened about 16 months later than planned. The delay and the baggage problems were the inspiration for what's now a retro music video from 1995 that was voiced by 9NEWS legend Ed Sardella.
  31. Utah ski resorts thought DIA would be a failure based on the highly-publicized issues with the baggage system and sent out advertisements that said: "In Denver, you could lose your luggage. In Utah, you could lose yourself."
  32. Actor Macaulay Culkin called DIA “the scariest place I’ve ever been in my life.”
  33. Birds live inside the airport. DIA said they get in through jet bridges and cargo areas all the time. They tend to hang out in the concourses and sometimes even the terminal. Since there's so much square footage inside the airport, it's nearly impossible to get them out of there. DIA said even the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture has previously tried to put up nets to catch some of the birds but only caught a few. This isn't just a Colorado problem. A lot of airports have issues with birds.
  34. Though birds live in the airport, a DIA spokesperson said crews rarely find dead birds inside the terminals or concourses. In fact, that only happens once or twice a year. Birds usually find ways out of the buildings. Those that do die in the airport typically aren't perishing from old age or starvation. It's because they flew into a window or wall. 
  35. 9NEWS anchor Gary Shapiro had the first beer served at DIA: “The night Stapleton closed, I did the 10 p.m. news at DIA as a reporter…I was doing a 10 p.m. live shot from the Red Rocks Grill, and said, “Can I have a beer to do a toast at the end of my live shot?” They said, “We can’t serve you because our liquor license doesn’t kick in until midnight.” I said, ”OK, that means you can’t sell me a beer, but you can give me one, right?” They said, “I guess we can do that.” So the owner of the bar and I toasted the closing of old Stapleton and the opening of DIA on the air, and I drank the beer after the live shot… I did the morning show the next day as an anchor. In between, I ran home and changed clothes, drove back in the snow, and caught a cat nap in the media center they had built on the fifth level.”
  36. There are three concourses at the airport, and you have to take a train that runs inside the building to get from concourse to concourse. Each train makes 120 round trips per day and transports 100,000 people per day.
  37. The same 16 train cars have been in use since 1995. Each car travels about 200 miles per day, and they have probably traveled 1.3 million miles in their lifetime. The airport plans to replace these 16 cars with new ones and add 10 more by the end of 2020.
  38. 9NEWS anchor Kim Christiansen is one of the voices on the train that runs through DIA. Denver voted to have her take over for former 9NEWS anchor Adele Arakawa. Kim said it took at least six hours to record all the commands and get them just right. The second train voice is that of Alan Roach, who also lends his talent to Olympic games, Super Bowls and other big-time events.
  39. The DIA train goes, on average, 10 miles per hour once you factor in stops for boarding. The train can top out at 30 miles per hour, and it can hit it in between the concourses when it’s not slowing for stops or curves.
  40. You can skip the train to the A concourse if you prefer. There’s a pedestrian bridge from the main terminal.
  41. Currently, the best view of the mountains you can get from inside the airport is from the "A" bridge.
  42. There are around 1,600 flights per day at DIA. Technically, the airport could handle 4,608 flights. 
  43. DIA v. DEN: People use both shorthand references to Denver’s airport. Officially, the airport’s code is KDEN, so DEN would be the official three-letter initialism. But using “DIA” is totally cool with the airport. They told us before that it’s part of their brand identity.
  44. DIA's 327-foot FAA control tower is one of the tallest in North America. There are 548 stairs from bottom to top, and the average walking time is 20 minutes. It's engineered to sway 1/2 inch in up to 86-mile-per-hour winds.
  45. The DIA bathrooms have a fan club. People on Twitter and Reddit have posted about loving their smell, and an airport spokesman previously told us they get compliments about it. The bathroom scent is called “Black Bamboo.” Aire-Master Front Range, a company based out of Colorado Springs, is responsible for changing the air fresheners every month.
  46. The airport has 30 acres of parking lots with more than 44,255 public parking spaces (that’s more than 23 football fields).
  47. Airport parking doesn’t come free. Parking fees go toward parking lot upkeep, bus and shuttle services to the lots, and technology upgrades, like the payment systems. Any extra money goes to airport projects, like the Great Hall renovation.
  48. Yeah, we're a little jealous looking back at the cost of parking in 1995. In 2020, the garage costs $28 per day and $5 an hour. The economy lots aren't cheap either. It's $17 a day and $5 an hour, though the daily rate drops to $15 after the third day. When the airport opened, you were looking at $10 per day for up to two days, $5 per day for Day 3 through Day 6, and $4 per day after Day 7.
  49. There are cameras that take pictures of license plates as cars drive into airport parking facilities. The airport will help people find their cars if they forget where they parked.
  50. About 48,000 items end up in the airport lost-and-found every year. Found items have included teddy bears, a big screen TV, a chainsaw and a 6-foot-tall stuffed banana. The most commonly lost items to end up there are IDs and sunglasses.
  51. Historically, 9 a.m. is the busiest hour for security checkpoints, with TSA screening more than 4,700 passengers each day at that time, on average.
  52. The airport's TVs are owned by Clear Channel and passengers cannot make programming requests if they want to change the channel. As decided in a 2014 Clear Channel Agreement, there are 30 TVs throughout the concourse. The programming consists of a loop of current news events. Concession areas also have TVs and guests can watch things like sporting events there.
  53. A plaque at DIA says it was built by the New World Airport Commission. According to Westword, this name — which has prompted many a conspiracy theory — actually came from one organizer’s love of Dvorak’s “New World Symphony.”
  54. “Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura” highlighted the DIA conspiracy in a 2010 episode ahead of the alleged 2012 apocalypse, which clearly did not happen.
  55. One of DIA’s most famous pieces of art is called “Children of the World Dream of Peace.” It’s supposed to be about peace but features animals in glass boxes and an apocalyptic figure with weapons. It’s currently in storage during the DIA Great Hall renovation. 
  56. Speaking of art, the airport’s best-known piece is called “Mustang,” though most people refer to it as “Blucifer” because of its haunting red eyes. It’s a 32-foot-tall fiberglass sculpture that “references the grandeur of the Mexican muralists, the energy of the Southwest and the bright colors he experienced as a youth in his father's sign-making company.”
  57. Luis Jiménez created Mustang, and Mustang killed him. Really. The artist was in his studio in New Mexico when a piece of Mustang fell on him and severed an artery. That was in 2006.
  58. Jiménez’s son finished Mustang. It was installed in 2008. You can’t miss it. Mustang stands on his hindlegs, greeting every visitor to DIA as they pass by on Peña Boulevard.
  59. Mustang's eyes are made out of LED lights, and the maintenance team has changed them just once in DIA's lifetime. 
  60. A team of professionals helps do maintenance work on Blucifer's paint as the mustang becomes weathered. Every year, a local art fabrication and conservation company gives him an exam and a cleaning. They check for any cracks or chips caused by the elements, like hail, rain, snow and wind. The airport says the sculpture typically collects a layer of dirt, dust and bird poop throughout the year, too. The entire thing is washed by hand with distilled water. Typically any holes or cracks are filled and it's repainted with an airbrush. The process can take a couple of weeks.
  61. Mustang weighs 9,000 pounds.
  62. Mustang is insured, just like all of the art at DIA. This insurance policy is based on its initial commission amount of $650,000 in 1993.
  63. A tagger vandalized Mustang in 2019. DIA did update security measures because of this, but, for obvious reasons, they won't say what.
  64. You can ice skate at DIA. The airport installs a pop-up rink annually. According to StuckAtTheAirport.com, the only other American airport with a rink is John F. Kennedy Airport in New York. The airport in Munich, Germany, also has a skating rink.
  65. The Regional Transportation District, the metro Denver transit agency, in 2016 opened a train that runs from downtown Denver to the airport. Officially, it’s called the University of Colorado A-Line, but most people just call it the A-Line, or “Train to the Plane.” RTD reserved the “A” for a future airport line about 20 years before the train opened.
  66. You have to take a long escalator ride to get from the A-Line platform up to the terminal. The escalator is 134 feet tall.
  67. A traveler is likely to use three conveyances (escalator, elevator or power walkway) in an average trip to the airport.
  68. You can reach more than 215 destinations worldwide from Denver.
  69. While DIA is more than 20 miles away from downtown Denver, the city still uses the airport for official weather records. The reason? Essentially, cost and convenience. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires large airports to take weather observations for plane safety. You might be able to see some of Denver’s fancy weather monitors while you take off or land. 
  70. Some DIA security guards are trained to take official snow measurements to keep up with requirements from the FAA.
  71. Newsman Dan Rather loves DIA.
  72. Airlines pay to lease gates from the airport, either on a monthly basis or per use of the gate.
  73. Major airlines with a lot of gate activity have lease agreements that are negotiated between the airport and the airline periodically. Airlines that currently have leases are United, Southwest, Frontier, Delta, American, Spirit and Alaska. United, for example, pays $9.9 million for the use of 66 gates, though that’s changing now (as of early 2020) since that number went up to 90. Airlines that want leases request them as they need additional space. It usually takes a few weeks to a few months to figure out the details, depending on the request. Once an agreement is reached, it goes through Denver City Council for final approval.
  74. The gate charge for smaller planes includes a few fees: inbound usage, outbound usage and “common use.” For a plane that weighs about 142,000 pounds, per the example the airport gave us, the total comes to about $350.
  75. If you need to stay overnight for some reason, SleepingInAirports.com said to look for benches near Gates A56-70, and some recliners near the end of the A concourse. They actually have an entire guide to sleeping at DIA. And pro-tip: There's a new rest and recharge area in Concourse A for people to take a load off. 
  76. There are postal stations at the airport if you need to send something before take-off.
  77. DIA has 36 electric vehicle charging stations between its garages and the lot at 61st and Peña.
  78. Did your car die while you were out of town? DIA provides free jumping services.
  79. Another service at DIA? The airport has a temporary morgue. When a person is declared dead at the airport, they are transported to this location until the medical examiner arrives. The morgue is below Concourse A.
  80. The busiest restaurant at DIA is Elway's. 
  81. The busiest business inside the airport is the space co-occupied by Einstein's Bagels and Timberlake Steak & Grill, the area that used to be occupied by The Smoking Bear Lounge.
  82. There are 67 total restaurants at DIA (and a spokesperson said more are coming soon!).
  83. In 2019, 3,175,199 international passengers passed through DIA. That's a record, and 8% more than the count in 2018.
  84.  About 22.2 million travelers started their trips out of DIA in 2019. About 75% of them were Coloradans.
  85. DIA encompasses 32 miles of fence line. All of the area inside that perimeter is secure and needs a special clearance to enter, excluding the terminal itself.
  86. The floors at DIA are vacuumed every night.
  87. The outsides of the windows, meanwhile, are cleaned two to four times a year.
  88. The distance between where you board the train and the final stop for the C Gate is 6,631 feet (or more than a mile!).
  89. The moving walkways inside the terminals travel at 130 feet per minute (or roughly 1.46 mph).
  90. DIA has five locations where it displays art and cultural exhibits. Those are switched out two to four times each year.
  91. There are three private airline clubs at DIA: American, Delta and United. In addition, the airport has two common-use clubs that are in the process of being built, an American Express Centurion Lounge on the C Concourse, and a Plaza Premium Lounge on the A Concourse. DIA also has a USO, which is a lounge space for military service members and their families.
  92. The closest thing to a private terminal (think the one at LAX that celebrities can opt to use) that DIA has is Signature, a fixed-based operator that's located next to DIA and uses its airfield.
  93. DIA said it does not track the number of conspiracy-related phone calls it gets each year, but the airport does respond to media and social media comments from all over the world about the theories.
  94. DIA has a mailroom, and people send in snail mail conspiracy messages, too. For example, in 2019, the airport received a conspiracy theory packet that included a research paper addressed to the Illuminati about the age of Aquarius.
  95. Part of "Die Hard 2" was shot at Stapleton International Airport. It was played the role of Dulles International Airport.
  96. In March 2011, 15 years after Stapleton closed, the U.S. Dept. of Transportation calculated DIA could have made $71 million more than it did from the sale of the land from the old airport.
  97. There's a time capsule buried at DIA that won't open until 2094 — 100 years after construction finished at the airport. It contains columns critical over the airport, a copy of the Stapleton neighborhood lawsuit against DIA, Black Hawk casino tokens and Rockies memorabilia.
  98. The largest concourse at DIA is Concourse B, which is 3,385 feet long and encompasses 2,033,870 square feet.
  99. DIA's airfield contains a total of 6 million square yards of concrete and 15,000 individual concrete panels. The average panel size is 20 square feet.
  100. The Stapleton International Airport air traffic control tower is now a Punch Bowl Social. 
  101. In 1995, then-Denver Mayor Wellington Webb named Peña Boulevard after former Mayor Federico Peña without actually asking permission from the Denver or Aurora city councils.
  102. Speaking of Peña Boulevard, construction of the 11.1 mile-long freeway linking Interstate 70 and DIA was halted for six weeks during the summer of 1992 due to a family of burrowing owls living in the right of way. 
  103. DIA paid Panasonic $11.5 million to build a welcome sign along Peña Boulevard, and another $3 million for 12 years of maintenance. The goal was to be able to pay for the sign in 10 years from advertising revenue, but the airport ran into some hiccups when it was barred from taking money from businesses off-premises. In 2018, the Federal Highway Administration approved DIA's request to remove that stretch of Peña from the National Highway System, therefore allowing the ads to run as normal.
  104. Yes, you can actually ride your bike to DIA. While cyclists can technically use Peña Boulevard to get to the airport, DIA's website says most two-wheeled travelers prefer the less-trafficked 56th Avenue to Valleyhead Road route. There's even bicycle parking on two levels.
  105. More than 100 dogs representing 40 breeds (and one cat) make up DIA's Canine Airport Therapy Squad (CATS). The volunteer pet therapy squad wanders the airport and offers snuggles to weary travelers.
  106. As of this writing, DIA has 3.5 stars on Yelp (that's out of five) and 3,201 reviews.
  107. Dozens of employees who worked at Stapleton now work at DIA. The airport guesses that around 40 to 50 city employees transferred (that does not include Denver Police, Fire and airline employees).
  108. About 50 to 60 city employees, all with different jobs, have been at the airport for at least 25 years.
  109. If you call DIA, you won't get hold music. Instead, you'll get fun facts about the airport.
  110. Denver has six runways, five of them being 12,000 feet long. They have plans to add more.
  111. At 16,000 feet, Denver’s sixth runway is the longest commercial runway in North America. According to the airport, planes sometimes need the extra length for take-off because of Denver’s summer heat and the city's elevation.
  112. If you're old school, you can still walk into the airport and buy a plane ticket from the airline counters.
  113. Marijuana is legal in Colorado, but not at the Denver airport. People can be cited if they're caught, and Denver Police will investigate if the TSA finds what they suspect is marijuana. If the amount of marijuana is legal under Colorado law, the passenger is generally able to continue on without a citation, but it's still going to be taken from you.

What else do you want to know about DIA? Email your questions to Next@9news.com.

WATCH: 9NEWS' 25-year-old coverage of DIA's opening 

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