So at the end of June, the Denver City Council announced a possible new location for the National Western—outside the city and county of Denver line in Aurora and Adams County. That would send tax revenues from the National Western to Aurora and not Denver, unless some kind of intergovernmental agreement can be worked out.
The site has stirred the regional pot even more because the National Western, held in the city for the past 105 years, is a Denver tradition that attracts more than a half-million people to its shows, with an annual economic impact of $83 million, according to the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce. The proposed move to Aurora would further draw tourism dollars away from downtown Denver.
Also, Denver would have to release the National Western from its lease in the current space, which goes until 2040, and ask Denver voters to raise taxes to finance $150 million in construction bonds for the new $300-million complex in Aurora.
Many of the downtown business owners and supporters contacted for this story say they are waiting for the results of a study commissioned by downtown interests about the impact of the Stock Show move out of the city before they will comment publicly on what they think could happen in Denver.
“We’re trying not to make this a divisive issue,” one association official said. The results of that study are due out in mid-August.
Another issue is that Denver’s Regional Transportation District is nearing final design for a new commuter rail line running between downtown and the airport, scheduled for completion in 2016—with the line passing near the proposed Gaylord and National Western sites—but current plans do not include a rail stop there.
Because 4.6 miles of the corridor is designed only for single-track operation, double-tracking it for additional stations could cost upwards of $32 million, with platform construction costs of $15 million per station and more than $2 million in annual operating costs—all to be paid by some form of public-private partnership with developers like Gaylord, according to RTD spokesperson Pauletta Tonilas.
“We (at RTD) are still open to working with them to add stations,” Tonilas says. “But we are moving through final design on the original plan now, and it will be tougher to get them added later.”