Executives were not eager to chat about voters’ recent rejection of arena funding at a press conference they hosted to champion improvements to the Elyria-Swansea National Western Center Tuesday. In fact, officials only vaguely hinted at the future of what was meant to be the complex’s centerpiece after being prompted by audience questions.
The National Western Center is known as the home of Denver’s Stock Show, a massive annual festival featuring horsemanship competitions and numerous other livestock events. This year, the stock show will return from Jan. 8-23, 2022.
[In 2020], “attendance was nearly 709,000 attendees, so we’ve had amazing growth over 114 years,” Paul Andrews, the president and CEO of the National Western Stock Show, said. “We are now known as the Super Bowl of livestock shows.”
But earlier this November, nearly 58% of voters rejected Referred Question 2E, which would have allowed the city to borrow $190 million in municipal bonds to build a new arena and make renovations to another building.
National Western Center CEO Brad Buchanan previously voiced his disappointment about the election results in a statement: “We remain committed to bringing a new arena and public market to the campus … We will now turn our attention to working collaboratively and creatively with the City and County of Denver and partners to pursue other funding avenues.”
During the press conference, Buchanan said stakeholders were still discussing alternative funding ideas. He also said the community needed to be “re-educated” on the National Western Center’s purpose and suggested there may be changes to the center’s 2015 master plan.
With few answers to arena funding, executives and other officials instead highlighted the other improvements like new buildings for the Colorado State University Spur campus, transportation upgrades to railways, roadways and utilities as well as the opening of the new livestock yard.
Activists from Globeville and Elyria-Swansea have protested the development and previous land acquisitions. However, residents originally voted to approve funding for the project through a tourism tax in 2015. The measure, called Referred Question 2C, was passed by a massive margin, with the neighborhoods closest to the complex showing the most support.