Putting stock in the National Western show

If you were to stand on the roof of the National Western Stock Show and look far enough southeast, you’d see Oklahoma City (and its largest suburb, Edmond). What you won’t see, though, is the National Finals Rodeo (NFR).

For 30 years, Oklahoma City was home to NFR until it moved – and took its 170,000 visitors to Las Vegas. They left over money (of course), and the fact that Las Vegas promised to take care of them – which they have. Since 1985, NFR has become better, more popular and more economically relevant.
Oklahoma wants the rodeo back, as do the merchants of Oklahoma City – even if it went to Edmond instead.

When it comes to $51 million, a rising tide lifts all boats – and with the cowboys back in town, Oklahoma would bob like a cork. They won’t get it back, though, because Las Vegas has deep pockets and strong fingers. Vegas knows the value of NFR, and they know how to put on a good show.

You know who else puts on a good show? Gaylord Hotels. I mean, have you seen their properties? Compared with hip Las Vegas, they’re a roadside Jerky stand, but for the vast midsection of America they’re an entertainment buffet.

Gaylord’s arrival in Denver (the region, not the city) will draw thousands who wouldn’t otherwise come, and Denver (the city) will benefit. Only the insane tourist would fly to DIA and never venture downtown. To slack-jawed Texans, Aurora and Denver are the same place anyway – like when you eyeball Buckingham Palace and claim to be in London. You aren’t, you’re in Westminster, but who cares?

Gaylord wants the Stock Show, you say? Give it to them. The January dandies that drift into the Brown Palace will keep staying there. Besides, Gaylord won’t have an infinite number of rooms, will they? A revitalized Stock Show will fill every decent hotel and restaurant in Denver anyway.

What will we do with the old Stock Show complex? Make money with it, that’s what.

The south side of I-70, where the apparently-they-didn’t-need-an-architect-back-then coliseum sits, should be turned into a “Power and Light District” like they have in Kansas City. Power and Light is an electric city block with 40 restaurants and bars that all share a common courtyard. (Imagine if the Denver Pavilions was fun, had exciting tenants, people liked going there, and they had a stage, an outside dance floor, and easy free parking.)

P&L’s heated alfresco is packed every night with tourists and locals who come from 100 miles around. Sundays are swarming with football fans who watch the Chiefs on a giant screen, and musical acts play almost daily.

Denver’s P& L will draw from the pods of hungry Midwesterners that Gaylord reels in daily, as well as from the ranchers who come for a few minutes in January. It will create an exciting North Broadway district that siphons tourists off the highway and heads them into downtown.

Denver can own the property and give preferential leases to businesses affected by the stock show moving east – if we buy their argument that “10 days of visitors keep us in business all year.”

I feel for those down-on-their-luck restaurateurs of course, but as they say on ESPN: C’mon, man! You really want us to ignore the benefits to the entire metro area because six hotels might lose 5 percent of their revenue? C’mon, Mayor! Losing the Stock Show to East Denver is a heck of a lot better than losing it to Las Vegas or having it sink into obscurity. Denver still wins, even if we (temporarily) lose 500 nights of hotel tax.

Please don’t let us be the next Oklahoma City that wishes its parents thought about the future.
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