Lawmakers pass key funding proposal for National Western Center


Plans for a year-round entertainment, research, and learning venue at the National Western Center in Denver took a significant step forward Wednesday with Senate passage of House Bill 1344, which authorizes the state to secure up to $250 million in lease-purchase agreements to finance construction of Colorado State University facilities connected to the site.

The measure has now passed both chambers of the General Assembly with bipartisan support and goes to Gov. John Hickenlooper for his signature.

“The State’s support for CSU’s presence on the National Western Center is critical and a symbol of the collaborative spirit this regional project embodies,” said Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock. “Partnerships are fundamental to advancing the vision of this unique hub focused on agriculture, entertainment and commerce. This support also ensures that the National Western Stock Show continues to thrive here. Thank you to sponsors and supporters of this innovative funding support.”

Colorado State University is one of five partners — including the City and County of Denver, the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, History Colorado, and the National Western Stock Show — that have come together to create a shared vision for the future of the National Western Center site as part of the Mayor Hancock’s North Denver Cornerstone Collaborative Initiative.

“We’re tremendously grateful to the bill’s sponsors and supporters for stepping up to pass legislation that is an important first step in making this transformational project a reality,” CSU President Tony Frank said. “This clear signal of support from the state provides a financial foundation for CSU to work collaboratively with our National Western Center partners to build something that is aligned with the role and mission of this university and that serves all of the people of Colorado.”

HB1344 is just one piece of the financial equation needed to build the more than $856 million project, which is projected to take nearly a decade to complete. The measure will finance CSU facilities consistent with the NWC master plan, primarily on-site but also on the university’s Fort Collins campus. The legislation requires Denver to secure additional revenue streams before the state resources provided in the bill can be tapped for CSU’s facilities at the National Western Center.

Long term, the historic site will not only continue to host an improved National Western Stock Show every January, but also expand to become a vibrant, year-round destination and regional attraction. With a focus on food, energy, water, health and the environment, the plan calls for facilities that will blend innovation and tourism through experiential learning, the arts, entertainment, competition, and commerce.

As envisioned, the new Center will create a unique global “Agricultural Hub” to explore solutions for some of the biggest issues surrounding food production and security in the United States.

CSU has proposed an equine sports medicine clinic, a food systems learning center, and a water resources center.  The Center collectively will house collaborative arts programming, business incubation and industry partnership, and Denver Urban Extension programs. The university aims to be an educational hub for the collaboration, and will present opportunities for hands-on learning.

Additional information on the National Western Center can be found at the City and County of Denver’s North Denver Cornerstone Collaborative website.

For more information about CSU’s portion of the plan, request a presentation or to provide comments, please email Jocelyn Hittle, CSU’s director of Denver Operational Initiatives.