National Western Draws Big Crowds

Denver stock show posts second-highest attendance total, topping 700,000

  • by Noelle Riley
  • Published: January 24, 2018

With a successful run in the books, the spotlight at Denver's National Western Stock Show now falls on renovations. (National Western Stock Show)

The $1 billion renovation underway at the National Western Stock Show didn’t slow down attendance numbers this year, as the stock show lassoed its second-highest crowd since its 100th anniversary in 2006.

A total of 705,574 people visited the stock show, which ran Jan. 6-21 in Denver, up 3 percent from the 684,580 visitors in 2017. The 2006 show still boasts the top figure of 726,972 guests.

“Boy, I’ll tell you, if you would’ve told me we were going to be over 700,000 people, I would have told you that was a miracle,” NWSS President and CEO Paul Andrews said. “We had 44 states here this year. We had 800 visitors from other countries here, and the weather cooperated all the way to the last Sunday." Snowy weather hurt Sunday’s attendance, he said.

The stock show is approaching the second phase of a massive renovation and expansion that started last fall. Phase one has focused on infrastructure work around the site, including leveling an old building that used to be the International Paper Warehouse. That building was torn down in November to make room for a new outdoor music venue for festivals.

The stock show sits on 90 acres, but when construction is complete in 2023 it will occupy 250 acres. The project was made possible in 2015 when voters approved public funding for the renovations.

“This year we had more parking than we ever did in the past,” Andrews said, highlighting that the stock show had 1,000 extra parking spots this year on the former paper warehouse building site.

The expansion of the complex will turn the old grounds into a modern-day campus that includes a 230,000-square-foot livestock center with a 3,000-seat arena. A 200,000-square-foot barn will be attached to the livestock center and will also be used for expos. A Colorado State University research center is also included in the master plan.

Each year, the complex hosts roughly 250 events, which have been organized and managed by Andrews’ team until now.

On Jan. 4, the city of Denver announced a new authority will manage the complex year-round with the exception of the 16-day stock show, the Rodeo All-Star Weekend and the Denver County Fair, which will remain solely under Andrews' management.

The 13-member authority, which includes Andrews, will oversee the operations and programming of the other year-round events for agricultural education and entertainment, as laid out in the National Western Center Framework Agreement, according to a press release.

“This board has a very important duty — to guide this community asset for the maximum benefit to our community,” Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said in a statement. “I have no doubt that this impressive group of public servants will set a positive course for the National Western Center and for the neighborhoods it will call home.”

Some board members are from neighborhood groups around the complex and will help keep surrounding neighborhoods involved in decisions.

After phase two is complete, construction will begin on the exposition hall and a new 10,000-seat arena that will replace the 8,300-seat Denver Coliseum, built in 1951. The coliseum is across the interstate from the NWSS.

  • by Noelle Riley
  • Published: January 24, 2018