CSU key to dynamic year-round vision at new National Western Center

The planned National Western Center will change the face of Denver and establish Colorado as a nexus for food innovation and Western heritage.

The project, a redevelopment – and doubling – of the current National Western Stock Show site, will expand the focus and footprint of the north Denver complex significantly. The 250-acre, $1.1 billion National Western Center will break ground in the coming years and convert the historic site into a year-round destination for entertainment, research and educational opportunities, and agricultural business innovation and incubation.

“CSU’s role in this project is one that brings the University’s expertise to the forefront and serves our land grant mission,” said Amy Parsons, executive vice chancellor of the CSU System. “As a leader within the National Western Center project, CSU has the opportunity to shape the future of this site, education throughout Colorado, and research and innovation worldwide around some of our greatest global issues.”

As a founding partner of the planned transformation, CSU has worked since 2013 alongside the City & County of Denver, Western Stock Show Association, History Colorado, and Denver Museum of Nature & Science, to plan the site’s transformation. The master plan, which provides a guide to the vision of the future site, was developed with public involvement and adopted by Denver City Council in March 2015.

Why CSU?

The history of CSU and the National Western Stock Show, coupled with the University’s expertise in agriculture, energy, and human, animal, and environmental health created a natural fit for the University to play a key role in reimagining the Stock Show grounds.

“CSU brings unparalleled experience across a broad spectrum of disciplines that are helping make the National Western Center one of the most transformational projects in the country – bringing public, private and nonprofit interests together to solve some of the world’s most pressing global issues around food, natural resources and animal/human health,” said Kelly Leid, executive director of the Office of the National Western Center.

The original charge for the site transformation came from Mayor Michael Hancock in early 2013, as part of the effort to create a Corridor of Opportunity connecting downtown with Denver International Airport. The founding partners worked to create a site plan that will accommodate the National Western Stock Show for the next 100 years, while providing diverse activity within the community every other day of the year.

Paul Andrews, president and CEO of the National Western Stock Show, notes that CSU has been a valued partner of the Stock Show throughout its 111-year history, and he looks forward to continuing the relationship.

“As an equity partner at the National Western Center, CSU brings the unique skill set needed that will help transform the Center into the global destination for agricultural heritage and innovation,” said Andrews. “Leadership at the National Western Stock Show looks forward to working side by side with CSU for the next 100 years at the National Western Center.”

CSU to build three facilities

CSU’s overall focus at the National Western Center is placed on food systems, water, energy, the environment, and health, all within the context of arts, culture, and economic development.

During the 2015 session, the Colorado legislature provided $250 million in funding for capital expenses related to the National Western Center – $200 million for CSU buildings on the site, and $50 million for buildings providing supporting resources on the Fort Collins campus.

With these funds, CSU will construct three buildings within the National Western Center project based on the University’s areas of focus.

CSU Water Building

  • Policy
    • Data analysis + visualization
    • Policy research
    • Decision support
  • Innovation
    • Support for business incubation + acceleration
    • Access to CSU researchers
    • Create solutions to water, food, energy challenges
  • Education
    • K-12 and family experiential learning
    • Continuing education + professional development
    • Teacher training
  • Research
    • Leasable lab space
    • Collaborative partnerships
    • Research specific to NWC location

CSU Animal Health Complex

  • K-20 educational facilities and programs: The Complex will offer experiential learning opportunities for students and community members, ranging from day camps to university-level research projects.
  • Private/nonprofit animal health partners: The site will act as a platform to bring together industry and civic organizations to create collaborative, positive outcomes for animals and humans.
  • Sports medicine and rehabilitation: Equine athlete needs will be managed on-site at the Complex, allowing for student observation and learning outcomes.
  • Temple Grandin Equine Center: As a second location of the TGEC, the Complex will provide Equine Assisted Activities and Therapy, a range of treatments that involve activities with horses to promote human physical and mental health.
  • Dumb Friends League: DFL will provide general animal welfare education, community connections to existing resources, and donor-subsidized companion animal veterinary care to qualified families through the Solutions Veterinary Hospital.

CSU Center

  • K-12 Food Systems Exploration Center
  • Classroom, lab, and shared exhibit space
  • Performing and visual arts space
  • Denver Urban Extension Center and community spaces
  • Business incubation and cross-sector collaborationLeading the charge for sustainability

The National Western Center team has created regeneration goals for the project build-out, and CSU is partnering with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to share information and expertise in order to achieve those aspirational goals.

“CSU has a big stake and a big opportunity at NWC,” said Josie Plaut, associate director of the Institute for the Built Environment. “We have a tremendous amount of talent related to sustainability and I can’t think of many better opportunities to apply, showcase, and develop CSU’s research and programs on the subject.”

The project team has set aggressive goals for regeneration, including net zero energy and waste, using “One Water” principles; net-neutral or -positive impact on the South Platte River; creating educational infrastructure, buildings, and exteriors; and promoting health and connection to community.

“This scale of work asks us to bridge sectors, make new partnerships, stretch our capabilities, and work across cultures in service of a greater good,” Plaut said. “This is a really big project … I have no doubt that engaging the hearts and minds of CSU will result in better outcomes for the project, and meaningful research and learning opportunities for students, faculty and staff.”

What’s next?

While the build out timeline of the National Western Center is yet-to-be-determined, the City & County of Denver is currently working on required land acquisitions, railroad consolidation on the site, and program management team hires in order to implement the master plan.

CSU’s current focus is determining programming opportunities for the site, coordinating internally with faculty and staff, and developing partnerships with external groups around the University’s focus areas. As education changes, so does the need to create spaces for innovation and knowledge exchange, a focus that is at the heart of the National Western Center project, said Dr. Tony Frank, chancellor of the CSU System and president of Colorado State University.

“I believe that assisting in attaining this vision for the NWC is fully aligned with the mission of and our vision for the second 150 years of Colorado State University, and that helping to attain this vision will benefit the long-term vibrancy of Colorado State University,” Frank said.

Related stories

Colorado State University at the National Western Center

Colorado State University has made a long-term commitment to the future National Western Center in north Denver and its surrounding communities.

As Colorado’s land-grant university, CSU’s mission of research, service, and access fits with the outreach vision of the National Western Center. CSU’s plans at the site focus on research and educational programming in the areas of food systems, water, environment, energy, and health.

A key and founding partner, CSU will have three buildings within the 250-acre National Western Center campus, including a water resources center, breaking ground in late 2019, and an animal health building, breaking ground in early 2020.

The University is currently working to engage with the community and to partner with local schools, nonprofits, and businesses to create vibrant spaces, impactful research and collaboration, and year-round programming to this unique project.  

For additional information, visit nwc.colostate.edu.