The 107th National Western Stock Show rode out of town yesterday, leaving behind a passel of questions about how the Stock Show complex and concept can be rebranded for the future. One innovation this year was free parking, but overall attendance was also down to its lowest level since 2004.
That could be because even as free parking was introduced -- "more than 250,000 cars parked FREE on the National Western grounds this year," chirps the final NWSS release -- other ticket prices were raised at least $3, to the dismay of one grandmother who discovered that a weekend ticket to the grounds cost a whopping $17 -- even for the three twelve-year-olds in her charge who didn't care one whit about free parking. Those increased prices could account for some of the fall in attendance: The total of 628,366 attendees this year was the lowest since 2004's 625,345.
And 250,000 cars parking free also means at least a $2 million drop in NWSS revenues (last year, the lot behind the Coliseum raised prices to $15 a day); the bean-counters will have to decide if increased ticket prices balance out that drop (as well as the cost of shuttles to some of the outlying free lots).
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Whether Stock Show attendees appreciated the deal is also one of the things that will have to be analyzed. Ticket-sellers were well-practiced in handing out messages about other bargains at the Stock Show, but it's telling that yesterday's final day -- billed as Fan Appreciation Day and boasting much lower prices as well as that free parking -- was the second-highest last day attendance.
But at least all those NWSS parking lots also promise lots of land on which the Stock Show -- and the city where it's committed to stay -- can start building for the future, on the historic land where this Denver institution got its start.