Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

National Western Stock Show subject of a range war between Denver and Aurora

While Denver City Council was approving a proposal to turn the city's back yards into a barnyard, Aurora was attempting to rustle the National Western Stock Show.

The city dangled a $300 million incentive to lasso the annual event for a new complex that would be built by Denver International Airport... right next to a massive new hotel built by Gaylord Entertainment.

Colin Reed, CEO of Gaylord, which also owns the Grand Ole Opry and the Broadmoor, will be at Aurora City Council Chambers at 10 a.m. today, to "announce significant steps in the company's progress toward opening a Colorado property."

That property would be an $800 million, Western-themed hotel and entertainment complex in Aurora, with 1,500 hotel rooms and more than 400,000 feet of conference space -- which is about a third the size of the downtown Colorado Convention Center. That convention center that would almost certainly find some of its meetings rustled by the Gaylord complex throughout the year, not just during the January Stock Show.

There are a few hurdles to this deal, of course. The National Western's agreement with Denver runs through 2040 -- and even if a spot can be found by DIA where a new complex would send revenues to Denver, rather than Aurora, the city would still lose much of the spillover that has poured into surrounding businesses and downtown for more than a century.

It would also lose a major part of history. The National Western Stock Show got its start 105 years ago, when Denverites hopped on train cars to head to the stockyards north of downtown for a free feed. Those stockyards are still the site of the show, and although the buildings have been expanded and upgraded over the years, the complex is definitely showing its age. But for a taste of the old West meeting the new, it's hard to beat the experience of standing under the I-70 overpass, drinking a Coors and watching the passing parade.

Modern Denver may not appreciate its cowtown image, but it should fight for its cowtown cash.

More from our Calhoun: Wake-Up Call archive: "Michael Hancock has shortest honeymoon ever thanks to ex-Denver Players king Scottie Ewing."

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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