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National Western attendance declines

By Larry Dreiling

The 107th National Western Stock Show wrapped up Jan. 27 with its lowest attendance since 2004 as 628,366 passing the turnstiles for the 16-day event.

The decline could be attributed to a much slower than usual opening Saturday, when the Denver Broncos played at home to an overtime loss against the eventual Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens.

The 2004 show drew 625,346 fans while the all-time attendance record is 726,972 set in 2006.

The National Western Scholarship Trust raised enough funds for a projected 75 scholarships throughout Colorado and Wyoming for students studying in the fields of agriculture and rural medicine. The Trust is funded by three primary sources: the Junior Livestock Auction, Citizen of the West dinner, and Coors Western Art exhibit and sale.

The day following the show, National Western officials appeared before the Denver City Council to present a report on what a Executive Committee Chairman Ron Williams called a new vision for the Stock Show's next 100 years, to reconfirm its mission and develop a strong sustainable program. Part of the report included a change in name to the National Western Complex to the National Western Center.

The report, compiled from a committee of 30 persons, including some NWSS board members, is led by a vision statement reading: "The National Western Center will be the new center for western heritage in the United States bringing together education, agriculture and entertainment in one location through strong partnerships that will be a catalyst for economic development, job creation and neighborhood revitalization."

"We think this is a unique opportunity to capitalize on a major Denver asset," Williams told The Denver Post. "The first question was, 'Is the National Western worth saving?'" Williams said. "We had a decision to make. Either we go forward and let it deteriorate or we do something significant. And all 30 said, 'We got to make this work.'"

The vision that emerged is aligned with what are being called the three pillars of the National Western Center. Those are education, economic development and tourism and entertainment.

The vision calls for creating, among other things, a year-round events center, an education complex aligned with Colorado State University and a natural world "exploratorium" that could be a hands-on, indoor-outdoor facility designed to complement the Denver Museum of Nature & Science.

The education pillar:

--Focus on the well being of humans, animals and the environment;

--Leaders in the world of animal science and agriculture;

--K-20 Partnerships;

--Agricultural Education;

--State-of-the-Art Animal Performance Center;

--Animal Care and Research; and

--Showcase for best land and water resource practices.

The economic development pillar:

--Trade shows;

--Catalyst for job creation;

--Sustainability and sustainable business model;

--Private investment opportunities;

--Restaurants and hotels as appropriate; and

--Corporate headquarters/research and development tied to education.

The tourism and entertainment pillar:

--National Western Stock Show;


--Equestrian events;

--Outdoor exhibitions;

--Recreational exhibitions;

--Concerts and events;

--Flexible event spaces; and

--Western Cultural Heritage programs.

A feasibility study by Visit Denver will be finished sometime this spring that will look at the programming needs and the facilities that could be required, according to National Western President and CEO Paul Andrews. The study will look at both the Colorado Convention Center and the National Western Complex related to the city's growing demand for large event and exhibition space.

Guiding principles of the committee are to emphasize:

--Unique opportunity to capitalize on a major Denver asset.

--Global ties to Aerotropolis (Denver International Airport), and Downtown Denver.

--Creation of a place that focuses on the well being of humans, animals and the environment.

--Building strong partnerships with the city of Denver, Visit Denver, K-20, regional, state, and national institutions.

--Solidify the position of the National Western as the top stock show in the world.

--Creation an outstanding venue to attract the largest, most respected equestrian shows in the country.

--Creation and support of neighborhood revitalization opportunities with appropriate connections to surrounding areas.

--Provide a mix of uses on the site that create a 365-days-a-year activity center for events, for education, business development and tourism.

--Promote access improvements (I-70 and RTD North Metro and East Corridor lines).

--Provide an inviting gateway from DIA to the Brighton Blvd. corridor into downtown Denver.

--Creation connections to the South Platte River and metro-wide recreational systems.

The presentation concluded by going to the past about the stock show's original concern for what to do with the future of the complex so many years ago: Transportation projects planned for the area.

RTD's North Metro rail line will slice into a portion of the stock show grounds, with construction of track and a stop near the National Western site beginning in 2015.

Also, planned for the area is a total reconstruction of Interstate 70 from Colorado to Brighton Boulevards. Plans for that reconstruction have not yet been revealed. RTD's East rail line to DIA that also will also pass near the stock show is under way.

Kelly Leid, newly appointed by the mayor to lead the city's new North Denver Cornerstone Collaborative, told The Denver Post the best way to look at the projects--highway, rail and stock show--is together as a regional opportunity to leverage private and public funding.

"What if we combine all these various planning efforts and begin to pool where those opportunities lie," he said.

"It's really, 'How do we do this together in a way that makes sense and leverages the resources that will come and have the ultimate outcome be bigger than one project by itself," he said.

Larry Dreiling can be reached at 785-628-1117, or

Date: 2/11/2013


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