Aurora, Colorado, with an estimated population of 297,235, is third most populous city in the state. Once considered a suburb of Denver, Aurora has grown to half the size of its neighbor and efforts have been made for equal recognition. The city is unofficially divided into neighborhoods which contribute to the unique feel of the area. Many of these are directly associated with the U.S. Military, as Aurora has been considered a strategic location for defense training. This relationship has also helped to fuel Aurora's economy and population growth over the years.
Lowry Air Force Base was permanently closed in 1994. The base's facilities and surrounding land are now being used for residential and commercial development. Some of the massive old hangers now house the Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum and the Big Bear Ice Rink. One of the old dormitories is now being used by the Logan School for Creative Learning and the Stanley British Primary School, and others are utilized by Aurora Community College. Some of the remaining buildings are still being renovated for new usage in the form of modern lofts and residential housing.
Buckley Air Force Base, once used as a combat training center for the U.S. Army, was returned in 2000 to the Air Force and since then has undergone massive new construction and modernization to include a new commissary, base exchange, dormitories, and post housing for over 350 families stationed at the base.
Aurora was honored as the state of Colorado's Sports Illustrated magazine's 50th Anniversary "Sportstown" in 2004. The distinction was awarded because of the city's efforts to enhance and facilitate sports, and for the great variety of professional athletes that call Aurora home. These include football players Scott Bentley, Dwayne Carswell, Brian Kelly, Sean Moran, Billy Thompson, and Louis Wright, the boxer DaVarryl Williamson, soccer players Matt Jordan and Aaron Pitchkolan, and John Grahame the professional hockey player.