Cost of keeping Colorado Convention Center ready for COVID patients was the same as a new Ram pickup each day


DENVER (KDVR) – Disuse stacks up.

Officials said Tuesday that the state would stop using the Colorado Convention Center and turn it back into its original use by March 25. Gov. Jared Polis converted the center to an emergency hospital last April to the tune of $20 million.

The Convention Center was prepared to handle an additional 2,200 patients at a time if necessary. As of Tuesday’s announcement, it had handled exactly zero.

According to the Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, it cost $60,000 per day to keep the Convention Center running as an overflow site.

This puts the total days in use as an overflow shelter between 250-300. In total, it has cost between $15 million and $18 million to keep the shelter entirely unstaffed and unused.

In real world terms, this is both a lot and a little, depending on the perspective.

On the one hand, $15 million could pay for a good deal of public service or entertainment.

At $250,000 apiece, Colorado could have bought struggling search and rescue teams 60 Robinson R-22 helicopters, or paid for fan episode in the final season of HBO’s Game of Thrones with Denver standing for King’s Landing, or bought a new high-end Dodge Ram half-ton pickup a day for its law enforcement teams – or two new Subaru Crosstreks.

On the other hand, Colorado has enough wealth to make $15 million look cheap.

Nuggets center Nikola Jokic could have paid for the entire Convention Center operating costs with only half his yearly salary. Similarly, whoever bought this $16 million penthouse in downtown Denver could have picked up the tab, though even $15 million only buys 25 homes in the tightest and most expensive real estate market Colorado has ever experienced.

The government perspective makes $15 million look fairly affordable as well.

In large-scale terms, $15 million is a comparatively small drop of state finances. It has a comparable value to that of some individual appropriations for mid-sized capital construction projects or division expenses.

A Hinsdale County pre-kindergarten-12 school, for example, was renovated for $13.5 million while the Colorado gaming division’s expenses in 2020 totaled $16 million. Convention Center funding could also have covered a pot-funded substance abuse program for a year.

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