Jan 6, 2012
NWSS needs to grow

The National Western Stock Show (NWSS) started this week in Denver and it is expected to be as big as ever. However, it appears that it will have to stay in its current location for a while.

Last fall, things were looking pretty good for moving NWSS to a new location near the Denver In- CROW ternational Airport (DIA). The grounds plans were great! There would be several new arenas and stalls, along with tie outs, and it would have been connected to the 1,500-room Gaylord Hotel, with convention and meeting space, something NWSS could really use.

This arrangement would have allowed the stock show to grow and be better than ever. And perhaps bring in a host of other livestock events. The new grounds would be easy to use and out of the way of the major traffic lanes on I-25 and I-70. In addition, there are plenty of hotels in the proposed area and it would be a good fit.

Everybody on the board of directors is “gung ho” on the project and it did seem, for a while, that it could actually happen quickly. There were a series of land deals that needed to be made. There was an issue with the Federal Aviation Administration to be solved. The city of Aurora was behind it and, for a while, the city council of Denver was behind it. A financial plan was put together and it appeared things were ready to go.

But the city council just couldn’t get their heads around the deal, albeit a complicated deal, but it seemed that everyone was ready to take the next step which was to start to arrange funding for the new project. A part of the plan was for the stock show to tap in to a new seat tax that Denver passed on all the stadiums and sports arenas. When it was time for Mayor Hancock to do the deed, he pulled the proposal at the last minute. He wanted to explore other options within the city of Denver. Denver just doesn’t want to lose any revenue, much less share it with Aurora or anyone else.

The Denver partnership is a group of downtown businesses that got together to self-promote downtown. They have done an excellent job of promoting downtown Denver hotels, restaurants and entertainment. Downtown Denver is a much better place than it was 20 years ago. However, the Denver partnership was one of the biggest naysayers about moving NWSS near the airport.

The Denver partnership has estimated that NWSS generates $30 million in economic activity in Denver, which sounds great, although 20 years ago, it was stated that the economic activity from NWSS was $30 million. Over a 20-year span, it doesn’t represent any growth at all for downtown business.

Most of downtown Denver’s growth has come from building stadiums and sports arenas, along with increased residential development.

I would have to imagine that at some point, the city and the Denver partnership will have to realize that their rate of return from NWSS may be about as good as it will be, unless they give it some serious attention.

For some folks, NWSS is about the money, for others, it’s about the tradition, and heritage. I’m for growth of NWSS and especially the partnership with the Gaylord Hotels. This is a perfect synergy that will provide lots of opportunity for growth and innovation and I hope the city doesn’t ruin the opportunity.

Denver has been busy trying to find other properties in the immediate area to relocate the show and is realizing there aren’t many options. One area they proposed was just south of the current stock yards but wouldn’t be large enough to expand the show. And another proposal was out by DIA but not adjacent to the Gaylord property. Having the show adjacent to the Gaylord is a huge benefit to the growth of the show. The hotel would provide much needed meeting rooms that the current NWSS is lacking. Breed association and industry groups would certainly benefit from the opportunity, as well as enhance the show with more events and educational opportunities.

I’m sure there will be a day during the 2012 NWSS that we will have some snow and wind and the yards will be next to miserable. There are not many places to go. One complaint I hear consistently relates to the NWSS Club closing down to the rank, and members have to leave because private events are scheduled, but they have no place to go. NWSS simply needs more room and maintainable facilities to grow. NWSS is the greatest genetic trade show on earth, and we need to keep it that way. —PETE CROW