DIA was plagued by delays and controversy from the get-go
DIA is the country’s largest airport by size, an oft-repeated metric that does nothing to convey just how huge it actually is. At 52.4 square miles, DIA is twice as big as the country’s next biggest airport, Dallas-Fort Worth International. DIA is about the size of Staten Island.
DIA sits way farther from the city center -- about 30 minutes' drive. Denver’s original Stapleton Airport was located right next to downtown and, as happens with these sorts of things, both the city and the commercial airline industry outgrew it. As a result of nearby commercial and real estate developments, planes at Stapleton were taxiing through highway underpasses. (It’s since been repurposed into various things like the popular Punch Bowl Social and the United Flight Training Center, where you can test the official flight simulators yourself if you play your cards right.)
The desire for a bigger, better airport had been percolating in one form or another as far back as the 1960s. Developers saw opportunity for serious sprawl, as Denver was an ideal candidate to become the major US hub it is today. But there were loud objections from Denver residents, who argued that Stapleton could have been expanded, and that shuttering it in favor of something huge and expensive was an absurd waste of the city’s resources. They were also pretty adamant that if this space-age colossus was indeed getting built, they didn’t want it anywhere within earshot. By necessity, DIA was one-road-in-and-out, nothing-around-for-miles, but this rendered it inconvenient in every conceivable way.
Project DIA got off the ground in 1989. The airport was built amidst a swirl of construction delays and government inquiries into its financing, including lawsuits by some who’d bought airport bonds and felt they’d been misled about the project’s logistics. In April 1994 -- an opening date that had already been pushed back six months -- reporters invited to watch a demonstration of the $193-million, state-of-the-art automated baggage system infamously arrived on the scene to the telecars crashing into each other and flinging mangled suitcases through the air, underwear spewing across the tracks as they went. The opening date was pushed back again.
By the time DIA was finally unveiled in early 1995, 16 months late and (in today’s dollars) $3.3 billion over budget, everyone already hated it. Throughout the 2000s, public opinion around the airport revolved mostly around the many, many conspiracy theories. You can take your pick of rumors: the connections to Freemasons and the New World Order, the connections to the Illuminati, the secret underground tunnels, the murals encoded with messages about the apocalypse, the gargoyles hanging out around baggage claim (like, actual bronze statues of gargoyles, lurking imperiously over your suitcases from above). These stories were punctuated by complaints about the airport being out in the middle of nowhere, and also way too expensive. The much-maligned automated baggage system wasn’t officially terminated until 2005, but continued to be used by United all the way up to 2010.
Then, in 2008, Blucifer arrived.