DENVER — A new study released Tuesday shows the potential benefits of major improvements at the National Western Stock Show complex, which would likely improve the city’s convention and tourism business and help lift up one of the city’s most downtrodden neighborhoods.
But the realization of the plans — replacing existing facilities with a 10,000-seat arena and a 5,000-seat livestock stadium, both of which could be used year-round for concerts, trade shows and other events — is a long way off.
“This is a catalytic project,” Mayor Michael Hancock told FOX31 Denver. “It’s going to create opportunities for generations to come. So we want to do it methodically, from an informed standpoint and with a great deal of accountability to the people of Denver.”
According to the study, the improvements could draw 88 new events and 910,500 new visitors to the complex each year, boosting visitor spending to nearly $180 million annually.
“Denver needs to think holistically about its current facilities to continue growing our convention and tourism business,” Hancock continued. “The recommendations made by the study could help strengthen Denver’s position as a global city as well as a desired convention destination that would generate local and regional job growth for years to come.”
But the study did not include an estimate of the overall cost of these improvements.
Hancock said that the project is only feasible as a public-private partnership, drawing on federal, state and local funds and grants as well as private investment, a layered approach similar to that used to finance the Union Station project — what Denver’s Chief Financial Officer Cary Kennedy calls “lasagna fundraising.”
The city, working with various stakeholders, will spend the next year drawing up a budget and a master plan.
“It took over a decade to talk about Union Station,” Hancock said. “It took a very complex structure of financing facilities to make it happen. This is similar in that way.”
Alongthe development of the Brighton Boulevard corridor and the “RiNo” neighborhood between Coors Field and the Stock Show complex, and the proposed renovation of the Interstate 70 viaduct that bisects the NWSS grounds, a revamped facility could be the third leg in the stool of an overall effort to transform Elyria-Swansea, one of Denver’s poorest neighborhoods.
“These are all game-changers,” Hancock said. “We’re talking about transformative opportunities here. But we want to sustain the heritage and culture that exists here already. It’s not about changing everything. It’s about honoring the people who have spent their lives here, but also moving this neighborhood forward into the 21st century and helping the city be more successful and competitive.”