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Michael Hancock announces stock show will stay here in Denver -- but which here?

stockshow.jpg
Mayor-elect Michael Hancock hadn't even moved into his office in City Hall when he learned that claim jumpers were trying to woo one of Denver's longtime institutions: the National Western Stock Show. That discovery quickly followed the revelation that Aurora had been working with Gaylord Entertainment on a plan to build a 1,500-room hotel/resort/convention complex and was willing to pony up $300 million in subsidies to do so.

And Gaylord wasn't just looking at rustling some of Denver's convention business. It was also interested in lassoing the National Western Stock Show.

Looking at a lot of deferred maintenance at the Denver-owned NWSS facilities in north Denver, the stock show was definitely interested in a move to a shiny new facility. But it was penned in by a thirty-year lease with Denver.

Last fall, Denver City Council affirmed its interested in holding the stock show to that lease and keeping it in town, and Hancock -- who'd already pulled together a committee to study options -- authorized the Denver Urban Renewal Authority to research not just Denver's stock show, but other such events/facilities around the country.

A year later, it looks like all the parties are finally heading in the same direction. And at the stock show events complex yesterday, Hancock was surrounded by Tracy Huggins of DURA; Ron Williams, the new head of the NWSS board; Paul Andrews, the CEO of the NWSS; Richard Scharf of Visit Denver; and Kent Rice of the Denver Department of Arts & Venues when he announced, "It's important that we get over the question 'Is the stock show leaving Denver?' We no longer that that question after today -- the stock show will remain here in Denver."

Remain in Denver? Or here -- at the NWSS complex -- in Denver? The fact that Denver City Councilwoman Judy Montero kicked off the announcement underlined the fact that Denver and stock show officials are committed to trying to make it work at the current site, which falls in Montero's district, and where the stock show got its start 106 years ago, right by the stockyards.

How to make that site work in the long term will require further study, done in cooperation with Arts & Venues, Visit Denver and the Downtown Denver Partnership, as they consider ways to make facilities both old and new work year-round, and not just during a seventeen-day show.

But one entity was definitely cut out of the herd of officials at yesterday's gathering: Aurora.

Things are not so rosy there. At the end of May, Gaylord Entertainment announced that it was getting out of the development business and doing a deal with Marriott for its four existing complexes. For the Aurora plan to go forward, another developer would have to step up.

In September, Gaylord completed its conversion to a REIT, and changed its name to Ryman Hospitality. And in its third-quarter earnings release issued last week, Ryman signaled that the Aurora plan might be dead, unless a major investor steps forward: "The company will re-examine how the Aurora project can be completed with minimal financial commitment, although it may not identify such opportunity."

There are other unknowns. The Colorado Department of Transportation is holding a hearing today on replacement of the I-70 viaduct just east of the stock show complex -- and if CDOT takes a serious look at proposals to move the highway to the north, by I-76, it would open up a big swath of land for expansion of stock show facilities.

Not just in Denver, but here in Denver.

From our archives: Westword took a look at the National Western Stock show as it approached its hundredth birthday in our cover story, "Taking Stock of Change."

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