For 16 days each January, we’re all cowboys and cowgirls in Denver. Each winter nearly 700,000 people experience the National Western Stock Show. They enjoy its 30 rodeos, more than 20 breeds of cattle, 11 horse shows, Junior Livestock Auction where young ranchers earn eye-popping prices for the livestock they’ve raised, along with other attractions in the historic stock yards in Denver. For visitors from the increasingly urban West, the Stock Show offers an authentic window into Western tradition and the enormous importance of agricultural and ranching industries. “Since 1906, the Stock Show has been a part of Denver. We are woven into the fabric of this great city,” says Paul Andrews, president and CEO of the National Western Stock Show and Complex.
“The Stock Show was then and is now a union of rural and urban cultures and lifestyles,” says Pat Grant, chairman of the board of the Western Stock Show Association. “City folk and their kids are fascinated by the cattle, stunning horses, hogs, and woolly sheep with sheep dogs maneuvering them on cue. Little kids are mesmerized. They connect with the animals, look into their eyes, touch their watery noses, and pet their furry hides. They are in awe. They sparkle! Each is experiencing something new and seeing a little bit of themselves, learning one of life’s great lessons: I love animals.”
The National Western Stock Show and its vision for the future is about to get a lot bigger.
The economic impact to Denver and Colorado is huge. “Expanding our presence is important to Denver, including the more than $100 million we generate in January alone,” Andrews says. “Studies project $230 million could be generated year-round at the National Western Center. In addition, thousands of jobs will be created as the building process begins. We also support 100 college students in Colorado and Wyoming with scholarships to further their studies in agriculture and rural medicine.”
The current National Western Complex is old, with dark, uninviting halls and arenas. Outside, there’s more room for cattle than people. What was once a pleasant stretch of the South Platte River has become a maze of train tracks, weedy dirt lots and asphalt. A century of haphazard development combined with the underutilization of the facility during the 349 days a year the Stock Show isn’t in town have squandered a prime location near the heart of Denver. The new National Western Center will transform and invigorate the old Complex into a regional and national focal point capable of expanding and carrying the National Western into a new century.
The National Western Center is perhaps Denver’s most ambitious redevelopment project. Plans call for a multi-phase project including road and rail infrastructure improvements, revitalizing the South Platte River corridor as an inviting green space of trails and gathering places, and the establishment of a Colorado State University academic center focusing on equine medicine. In addition to National Western, partners in the project include the City and County of Denver, Colorado State University, the Denver Museum of Nature & Science and History Colorado.
The five-year, $100 million Honoring the Legacy Capital Campaign focuses on four core National Western facilities: the Legacy Building, which will house art shows, educational exhibits, social spaces, and serve as the world headquarters for National Western; the Livestock Center; the Yards and the Equestrian Center. An additional million visitors are expected to visit the new, expanded National Western Center, more than doubling its $115 million annual economic contributions to the local and regional economy.
“The multi-purpose nature of the buildings will allow us to think outside the box when it comes to the National Western Stock Show and other year-round uses,” Andrews says. “We will be able to accommodate events and acts into our show that we previously could not. The possibilities are endless to attract the younger generation with new programs that will be exciting and educational at the same time. This development will be the most unique in the country, a place where entertainment meets research to help solve global food, water, and energy issues, and educate the public about agriculture and our Western heritage.”
Grant says that educational programming initiatives at the national Western Center will cover a broad range of activities and interests. “The foundational principle is one of collaboration with other youth organizations and initiatives, focusing on neighborhood schools and teaching basic understanding of rural and agricultural populations,” he explains. “The world about them includes international connections with other nations’ agricultural organizations and communications through modern technologies.”
Michael B. Hancock, mayor of the city and county of Denver, is excited about the project. “With the creation of the National Western Center, Colorado is set to be established as a global leader in food production, research, water, energy and agriculture. We will be the catalyst for a new way of thinking about agriculture and will set a new standard for stewardship of our land and investment in our agricultural resources.” says
It’s an audacious vision with a daunting fundraising goal, especially for an organization focused on providing scholarships and assistance to others. For the leaders of the Honoring the Legacy Capital Campaign—Campaign Chairman Pete Coors, along with Campaign Vice Chairs Paul Andrews, Sue Anschutz-Rodgers, Pat Grant, Doug Jones, and Ron Williams—it’s much more than the bricks and mortar of the new facilities. It’s about ensuring the legacy of the Western spirit we all share, even new arrivals to Colorado getting up close and personal with cattle for the first time. Members of the committee all have been involved with the stock show for decades and several have been honored as Citizens of the West.
“Western heritage is me; I grew up with it. It’s always been a part of my life and who I am. It should be preserved for all,” says Anschutz-Rodgers, vice chair of the capital campaign. “Everyone throughout this country, and even Europe, knows what ‘the West’ is. It has a uniqueness about it. It’s our history, and all those who suffered the hardships before us.”
Coors is leading the National Western Capital Campaign, along with local leaders and passionate advocates of the spirit of the West. “I am excited to take on and lead of this challenge because of its meaning to my children, grandchildren, and future generations,” Coors says. “It is important that they learn, understand, and appreciate the values, spirit, and significance of our Western heritage during the Stock Show in January and throughout the year at the National Western Center. People know that preserving our Western legacy is critical to shaping our future. Local citizens, people from all over the U.S. and even from far away countries will want to help preserve our history. The new National Western Center is a landmark project, a testament to a thriving West and truly a once-in-a-century opportunity to reshape, energize and celebrate our Western values and heritage.”
The commitment to the success of the National Western Center is clear when talking with Anschutz-Rodgers: “When I think of the West, the phrase ‘true grit’ comes to mind. You do what you’ve got to do to get the job done; don’t depend on others; don’t give up. You keep going.”
“We do have a big goal—raising $100 million,” says Angela S. Lieurance, director of the capital campaign. “But we also have the goal of making sure that everyone can participate in this campaign. We have opportunities for individuals, corporations, and foundations to contribute to the National Western’s campaign, whether they want to give $250 or $35 million. Our campaign will be successful because of the people we have involved, a group of passionate and visionary leaders led by Pete Coors. And, because of the people who love the National Western, attend the Stock Show every year, and want to be part of something transformational.”
“Animals connect us, whatever culture, country, and background,” says Grant. “People can forget or escape pressures of their daily lives to learn about other people.”
For 16 days in January for another 100 years in Denver, they’ll do just that.
The 112th Annual National Western Stock Show runs from Jan. 6 to Jan. 21, at the National Western Complex and historic Denver Stock Yards on Humboldt Street and I-70 in Denver. For more information, visit nationalwestern.com.
The Honoring the Legacy Capital Campaign offers opportunities for corporations, foundations and individuals, including naming opportunities and program sponsorships. To learn more, contact Angela S. Lieurance, director of the capital campaign, Western Stock Show Association, 4655 Humboldt St., Denver, CO 80216, 303-919-5214, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Frequent Colorado Expression contributor Kimberly Field will be dusting off her boots and soaking up the spirit of the true West at the 112th Annual National Western Stock Show—even if we get our frigid Stock Show weather.
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