$10M gift kicks off $100M campaign for buildings at National Western Center

As seen in the Denver Business Journal Here.

A $100 million “Honoring the Legacy” campaign to raise money for four major segments at Denver’s new National Western Center kicked off Tuesday with a $10 million gift from Cille and Ron Williams, a long-time Denver oil and gas executive.

The first gift to the campaign will be dedicated to new stock yards to be built at the center — a gleaming, new, year-round complex that’s expected to draw more than 2 million people a year.

The Williams family name will be attached to the yards forever.

“We’re really excited about this … Let’s go build something,” Williams said Tuesday following the announcement of the gift at the unveiling of the model of the new Legacy Building, which will be the home of the Western Stock Show Association. The association runs the annual National Western Stock Show, which has its next run Jan. 6-21, 2018.

The announcement took place in front of the old livestock center on the grounds of the stock show complex.

Williams said he wanted to dedicate the gift to the stock yards because he has raised cattle for years, as has his wife’s family — who started sending cattle to the stock show in the 1930s.

Williams said he’s been a regular attendee of the stock show for decades.

He’s a 2016 inductee into the Colorado Business Hall of Fame, former president and CEO of the Gary-Williams Energy Corp. and a vice-chair of the “Honoring the Legacy” campaign.

On Tuesday, he recalled how he and five friends would ditch classes at University of Nebraska at Kearney in the 1960s, pile into his ‘52 Chrysler Plymouth and drive more than five hours to Denver — stopping in Julesburg, along I-76, to buy beer for the road.

“They didn’t sell Coors in Nebraska at the time,” Williams said, ribbing Pete Coors, chairman and chief customer relations officer of the Molson Coors Brewing Company, as well as chairman of the association’s $100 million “Honoring the Legacy” campaign.

“We owe you a debt of gratitude for your gift,” Coors said.

Then, Coors reached under the podium and — saying he wanted Williams to be sure he didn’t have to drive to get beer — handed off a case of Coors amid laughter and applause from a crowd of about 100 people.

The campaign is raising money for four major parts of at what will be the new $1 billion National Western Center, a livestock arena, an equestrian center, the Legacy Building and the stock yards.

Naming rights for the livestock arena and the equestrian center are available — but the Legacy Building will not have a sponsorship option, according to Paul Andrews, the association’s president and CEO.

The first phase of the project is expected to cost about $765 million. Denver is partnering with Colorado State University, the Western Stock Show Association, Colorado History Center and Denver Water.