Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

Gaylord deal signaled dawn of new Aurora...until the deal went dark

It was a year ago today that Denver woke up to discover that upstart Aurora had rustled a major deal in the metro area: a massive, $800 million hotel/spa/convention complex that Gaylord Entertainment would build near Denver International Airport.

On June 21, 2011, Colin Reed, CEO of Gaylord, visited Aurora City Council chambers to announce his company's plans -- ones that called for Aurora to give an economic package worth $300 million to Gaylord as thanks for building the complex there, instead of Broomfield or Commerce City, both of which had been courted by Gaylord.

But at the same time that Aurora was scrambling to come up with the cash -- and Denver officials were scrambling to make sure Aurora didn't take the National Western Stock Show, too -- Gaylord was exploring other options. In a billionaire's garage sale, Phil Anschutz bought the Broadmoor, as well as numerous other properties, including an Oklahoma newspaper and a lot of art, from Gaylord.

And then, at the end of May, even as state eco devo head Ken Lund was getting ready to work out the details of the Regional Tourism Act incentives that Colorado had decided to give to Gaylord just two weeks earlier, it turned out that it had all been a dream -- like that entire season of Dallas that wound up with Bobby in the shower. Except that it was Aurora and everyone else who was banking on the deal who got hosed.

On May 31, Marriott International agreed to pay $210 million for the right to manage four Gaylord hotel/convention complexes....none of them in Aurora. And Gaylord itself announced that it would move away from the hotel development business.

Happy anniversary, Aurora. Remember, it's always darkest before the dawn...

(By the way, according to the Denver Post -- once a big booster of the Gaylord/Aurora deal -- the Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice have given early antitrust clearance to the Marriott International/Gaylord Entertainment deal.)

No matter where it winds up physically, the stock show is looking for greener economic pastures. Read more about one of them in "National Western Stock Show corrals the Rodeo All-Star Weekend."

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun