The National Western Stock Show represents the West as it was and as it still is. For those sixteen days a year, it is an unsurpassed reminder and reinvigoration of the West’s great legacy. Its scale, scope and cultural importance have rightly earned it the nickname “The Super Bowl of Livestock Shows.” But this Super Bowl – not to mention the other 220 events whose 1.3 million visitors contribute $115 million to the Colorado economy each year – needs a new home.
The National Western Complex hosting the Stock Show is old – not as old as the Stock Show itself, which started in 1906, but old – with many of its buildings dating back more than a half century. Its halls and arenas tend toward the dark and unwelcoming. Inside can feel like underground. Fresh coats of paint can only do so much.
Outside, there’s a lot more space for cattle than people. The Complex’s footprint has expanded haphazardly. What might have been pleasant stretches down by the South Platte River is riven with train tracks and roads. It’s landlocked. These shortcomings have eroded the National Western Complex’s utility and attractiveness, and with that, its potential cultural, educational and economic benefit to the region, during the 349 days a year the Stock Show isn’t happening. In its current state, the Complex squanders its high-profile location near the heart of one of America’s most appealing cities and falls far short of its potential as a truly national, Western icon. The new National Western Center will transform and invigorate the old Complex into a regional and national focal point capable of carrying on and expanding upon the National Western’s rich legacy well into the century ahead.