National Western Center expansion (copy)

A rendering of the expanded National Western Center in Denver.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock is hitting the brakes on touted plans to redevelop the 60-acre, southeast side of the National Western Center campus, dubbed the “Triangle,” as the city prepares to lose at least $226 million in revenue to the coronavirus pandemic.

The bidding process for a public-private partnership developer to construct a 10,000-seat venue for rodeos, concerts and other entertainment was scheduled to begin Sept. 1 but is now on hold indefinitely.

The development project, made possible in part by tourism tax revenue approved by voters in 2015, also includes an exposition hall, the restoration of the 1909 stadium arena building and 42 acres of property for private real estate development — all three of which have, too, been put on pause.   

“Due to the impacts of COVID-19, lodgers taxes alone are expected to take a projected 62% loss in 2020,” Hancock wrote Tuesday to Plenary Cordish Saunders Triangle Partners and Triangle Collective, two project teams in the running for the estimated $528 million job.

“This presents a challenge unlike anything we’ve ever seen,” he said.

The National Western Center Master Plan was adopted by City Council in 2015 and outlines eight phases for the completion of the campus. Construction on phases 1 and 2 of the National Western Center project, which first began in 2018, will proceed — a course of action Hancock said he “firmly” stands behind.

Hancock has been a champion of the project since first facing in 2011 the potential loss of Denver’s National Western Stock Show to Aurora, when it considered relocating next to the Gaylord Rockies Resort and Convention Center.

“I assembled a working group to explore ways to keep the event in Denver,” he wrote. “Soon after, the Colorado State University System, the Stock Show and the city agreed to jointly plan the redevelopment of the National Western Complex.”

The overall goal, as Hancock sees it, is to breathe new life into the complex, making it a “global destination for agricultural heritage and innovation.”

In the coming months, he said, the city will be exploring other opportunities for revenues to support the project, including tapping into potential federal infrastructure funds.

“We look forward to pursuing completion of the campus under more favorable economic conditions,” he wrote, “as well as making adjustments to ensure equitable participation in our community engagement process in light of COVID-19.”

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