DENVER (June 3, 2015) - The City of Denver took the first step yesterday toward placing an initiative on the November 3, 2015 ballot asking Denver voters to extend two existing taxes that are set to expire in 2023 with the provision that the funds will be used immediately to improve the Colorado Convention Center and replace facilities at the National Western Complex.
Richard W. Scharf, president & CEO of VISIT DENVER, said, "For more than two decades, the center has been the goose laying the golden eggs, driving economic impact and creating jobs. We need to stay competitive and adjust to the changing trends and technologies."
A year-long study by the Strategic Advisory Group (SAG) with input from national meeting professionals, stakeholders and industry experts was completed in March 2014. The SAG study found that the Colorado Convention Center was still considered one of the top meeting facilities in the nation, but to stay competitive, the center would benefit from three improvements:
1. New meeting and ballroom space featuring panoramic city and mountain views with outdoor gathering space
2. Additional business networking and specialty space to take advantage of the city's natural beauty throughout the center
3. Improvements in technology throughout the center that will expand bandwidth and Wi-Fi access to accommodate growing demand, allowing for more online video streaming and supporting new crowd-sourcing technology
The study stated that these improvements could bring an additional $50 million in direct economic impact annually. Denver is currently conducting a master plan for the Colorado Convention Center, reviewing all possible locations in the building and possible designs for the improvements, which have been roughly estimated at slightly more than $100 million. Funds for both projects will become available as early as 2016.
"Denver has hired MIG and Fentress Architects, the original architects of the center, who are reviewing the recommendations of the SAG study and will have a complete program by August 2015," Scharf said.
"We were pleased to see how highly regarded the convention center is by meeting professionals, but this is a constantly evolving industry. The charge we gave SAG was to tell us what we need to do for the Colorado Convention Center to continue to be successful and competitive for the next 25 years. They accomplished that, and this ballot measure will put the financing in place to make those recommendations possible," Scharf said.
The Colorado Convention Center celebrates its 25th anniversary this month, having opened its doors in June 1990. It is credited with generating more than $500 million in annual economic impact - $4.8 billion since the center was expanded in 2005. The center has also been the catalyst for many of the improvements in downtown Denver, which has more than 3,000 hotel rooms within a block of the center and more than 10,000 within walking distance.
Scharf said it's too early to announce dates for the opening of any new facilities. "We will have a better idea in August 2015 of possible scope for expansion and improvements, and then in November 2015, we look forward to having Denver voters approve these projects for the future," he said.
The study also confirmed the results of previous studies in finding that most of the facilities at the National Western Stock Show site need to be replaced. SAG recommended a multipurpose facility with a new arena, stockyards, horse show facilities and an exhibition hall at the site, which is located three miles from downtown and will become a future commuter rail stop.