National Western Stock Show: A Hub for Ranching, Agribusiness, and Education Revitalization

Through community collaboration, the National Western Stock Show becomes a hub for western ranching, agribusiness innovation, culture and education
Photo Courtesy of National Western Stock Show

Longhorns marching down 17th Street in Downtown Denver followed by a crew of cowboy hats and horses can only mean one thing: it’s time for the National Western Stock Show.

Photo Courtesy of National Western Stock Show

Every January, thousands of Coloradans descend upon Denver for the “Super Bowl of livestock shows,” according to Paul Andrews, president and CEO of the National Western Stock Show. In fact, this iconic show has been a tradition for the last 118 years.

“We feel like we are part of the fabric of Colorado,” said Andrews.

It’s more than a feeling – in just 16 days, the stock show drives more than $170 million dollars of economic activity in Denver.

But what people may not realize is that the National Western Stock Show and the grounds where it takes place buzz with activity year-round. However, years of rodeos, animal handling and more than 700,000 annual visitors have taken a toll on the campus.

Photo Courtesy of National Western Stock Show

That’s why in 2013, key organizations, including the Boettcher Foundation, came together to reimagine the National Western Center’s aging facilities, with the hope of expanding year-round educational and agricultural programming for the next 100 years.

“We embarked on a strategy to redevelop the entire site into a year-round complex that celebrates and preserves our Western Heritage,” said Andrews.

The resulting plan included redeveloping the National Western Center to serve as a multi-sector, multi-partner hub for western ranching, agribusiness innovation, culture and education. Through a combination of grants and ballot initiatives, the National Western Stock Show has since added or is in the process of building new stockyards, an equestrian center and the Sue Anschutz-Rogers livestock center. 

Longhorns are still a staple of the stock show experience, but these new buildings amplify the complex’s impact by supporting experiential education, food systems research, business incubation, urban agriculture, water systems research and translational veterinary medical science. New community spaces will host concerts, farmers’ markets classes, public art and more.

Colorado State University (CSU) also partnered with the stock show and City of Denver to expand its collective impact by developing the CSU Spur campus on the stock show grounds. CSU Spur is a free, public learning destination for the community, offering camps for kids, college scholarships and a home for college access organizations like College Track.

Photo Courtesy of CSU System

For Tony Frank, Chancellor of Colorado State University Systems, Boettcher Foundation Trustee and Stock Show Association Board Member, the recent additions to the stock show grounds have the potential to add value to Colorado and beyond.  

“The completion of the Sue Anschutz-Rogers Livestock Arena and the Equestrian Center, the result of phases I and II of the redevelopment, will just blow people away with the quality of the facilities, programs and the impact of improving people’s lives,” said Frank. “The impact of the completed project is so much greater than the sum of its parts.”

Andrews and Frank agree that while there were many stakeholders involved in ensuring the success of the National Western Stock Show’s expansion, the Boettcher Foundation played a critical role.

“With the development of the National Western Center, the future is bright for the National Western Stock show,” said Andrews. “We see a 100-year horizon that continues to celebrate and preserve our Western Heritage and drive a sustainable business model for the show to survive and thrive.”

The National Western Stock Show has fortified its mission through new facilities. It now has the capacity to educate people across America about where food comes from and the importance of preserving western history.

Photo Courtesy of CSU System

“I think that one of Boettcher’s greatest and most undervalued contributions is getting organizations to dream bigger. If you’re going to have a building dedicated to the theme of a challenge we’re working to solve, why not the great global challenges?” said Frank. “This encouragement to dream – and dream big – has unlocked potential at facilities and programs across Colorado.”

That’s the spirit of Boettcher.

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