City unveils new plans for National Western Complex; Costs uncertain

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DENVER -- Mayor Mike Hancock released plans for a revamped National Western Complex Thursday that includes an ambitious proposal to rejuvenate the site with new construction designed for year-round use.

Missing from the plans, however, was the cost.

The city wants to partner with the Western Stock Show (which hosts the site's premiere event in January) and Colorado State University, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and History Colorado for a new campus that "celebrates Colorado’s western heritage and serves the New Wes."

"The plan envisions a dynamic hub to be built in phases that will combine modern agriculture with western tradition, education with entertainment, and competition with commerce by updating the outdated site, which has served as the home of the Shock Show since its inception," said Hancock spokeswoman Amber Miller, in a statement. "The plan will create new connections and open space for the neighboring communities and attract new visitors from the region and around the world."

The city's plan does not cite how much the project would cost and who would pay for it. Previous studies have suggested a reworking of the site could cost upward of $500 million.

City officials plan to apply for a state tourism funding program. Officials will also likely ask taxpayers to kick in a portion.

The new plan will greatly expand the mission of the 95-acre site. The goal is to expand use beyond the 16-day Stock Show and Rodeo and make the site a regular tourist destination.

Among the improvements city leaders envision:

  • an open-air market called "Colorado Commons"
  • small urban farms and gardens
  • a new 10,000 seat arena and other facilities for the stock show
  • a major presence for CSU programs including agriculture and veterinary medicine
  • a space that would hold educational programs to draw school trips
    new 20-acre stockyards and removable pens
  • a giant exposition center

The project would also focus on improving the surrounding neighborhood by moving a freight line away from the South Platte River and opening space for riverfront for restoration and recreation.

New streets and bridges could connect the site to neighborhoods to the north and east and improve access to the planned north commuter rail line station.

The master plan calls for eight phases to redevelop the site. The public will be able to comment on the plan in future meetings.

“We promised a new and better future for this site that clearly holds so much potential," said Hancock. "Together with the community and our partners, we have the opportunity to create a New West campus for the Stock Show and the nearby grounds and venues."

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