Denver starts campaign for higher hotel, car-rental taxes to pay for National Western upgrades



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DENVER — A 10-year plan to turn an aging Denver arena into a global agriculture destination started Wednesday when city officials kicked off a tax campaign to pay for the makeover at the National Western Stock Show.

Mayor Michael Hancock launched the campaign with a promise that the dilapidated network of buildings near Interstate 70 will become a showpiece for the city and draw international visitors. The makeover would cost about $856 million over 10 years.

The plan relies on getting Denver residents to vote this fall to extend lodging and car-rental taxes that were hiked to pay for the Colorado Convention Center but will expire if they're not extended. The tax extension would raise about $476 million to repay city bonds for the rebranded National Western Complex.

"We can do this by extending our tourism tax ... so that our tourists help us continue to invest in our great facilities," Hancock said from a stage in the 1909 arena still used by the National Western Stock Show.

Held each January, the stock show holds one of the nation's largest indoor rodeos. But the decrepit buildings huddled under the interstate are in need of serious upgrades.

The makeover plan aspired to making the site "a catalyst for the new west and a new way of thinking" and will include a new equine medicine center for Colorado State University. State lawmakers have authorized up to $250 million for the new CSU facilities.

The plan also includes a cleanup plan for the South Platte River near the site, as well as a replacement to the 10,000-seat Denver Coliseum.

Denver's tax proposal would also raise money for improvements at the Colorado Convention Center, which opened in 1990.

Officials applauded before artists' renderings of the sparkling new agricultural complex. But they rejected suggestions that the money-losing Colorado State Fair, held in Pueblo, may move north to occupy the site in late summer.

"The State Fair has always been a treasure for southern Colorado," said state Rep. Crisanta Duran, whose district includes the National Western Complex.


Kristen Wyatt can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/APkristenwyatt

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