A resort hotel company's plan to build an $824-million hotel and conference center northeast of Denver near Denver International Airport, and a separate proposal to relocate the National Western Stock Show and Rodeo complex there, have Denver tourism and city officials worried that the projects could draw hotel business away from the Mile-High City
Nashville, Tenn.-based Gaylord Entertainment Co. has announced plans to build the hotel and conference center, outside of Denver in neighboring Aurora County, with a planned late 2015 opening. Gaylord is buying the land from LNR Property LLC, Miami Beach, Fla., for an undisclosed amount; the sale is expected to close this year. The 1,500-room resort would become the largest hotel in the Denver area and could create 2,500 direct and indirect jobs, roughly 1,900 construction jobs over three years, according to Aurora city officials. They reckon it could generate more than $5 million a year in tax revenue.
Funding for the project got a boost when the Aurora City Council voted June 20 to approve a $300-million incentive and rebate package that includes tax increment financing, a cap on property taxes for the resort and a request for $5.6 million a year from the state's Regional Tourism Act. Gaylord also would receive rebates of city room, property and sales taxes for the next 25 years.
If Aurora and Denver's Regional Tourism Act request is approved by the state, it would rank as one of the largest public subsidies for a private project in Colorado history.
“Obviously, this is a huge plus for our whole community,” says Aurora Mayor Ed Tauer. “It makes Aurora a national destination and will serve as a great catalyst for more development in the area around Denver International Airport.”
Despite the resort's potential economic impact on the region, some Denver city and tourism officials are concerned the Gaylord complex—which includes 400,000 sq ft of meeting space—will draw convention business away from the city's core.
Denver spent nearly $300 million to double the size of the 2.2-million-sq-ft downtown Colorado Convention Center in 2004.
Further fueling the controversy is that one of Denver’s largest visitor venues, the National Western Stock Show and Rodeo, wants to leave its cramped facilities along Interstate 70 in north Denver and build a new complex on 300 acres just east of the Gaylord project. Gaylord and the National Western do not have an agreement with each other but both would benefit from the move.
A new National Western site was initially proposed north of the Gaylord resort on DIA land. However, Denver officials recently became concerned that the DIA site would not work because potential scrutiny from the Federal Aviation Administration could create long construction delays.