National Western Center bond measure proponents well funded

Jacob Edler competes in the steer wrestling competition during the National Western Stock Show PRCA Finals on Jan. 26, 2020, at the Denver Coliseum. (Photo by Chet Strange/Special to the Denver Post)

One person alone has contributed $100,000 to support the campaign in favor of financing a new arena and rehabilitating an old stadium at the National Western Center, according to the latest required financial disclosures.

That’s about a third of the $290,000 that’s been raised by the political action committee Friends of the National Western Stock Show, which is seeking a “yes” vote on a bond measure in November’s election that would use property taxes to fund the $190 million cost of the projects.

It’s one of five bond measure questions, collectively totaling $450 million in spending, set to be on the November ballot in Denver.

The Friends PAC has spent about $65,000 on consulting, research and other materials.

Ronald Williams, listed as retired with a Denver residence, has contributed the most so far with $100,000. Williams, formerly CEO of Gary-Williams Energy Corp., is a former chairman and director of the National Western Stock Show board of directors.

Three other retired individuals each contributed $25,000 to the campaign. Centennial-based Fortune 500 firm Arrow Electronics has also contributed $35,000, according to the finance reports published Sunday. The company did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday.

Calls by BusinessDen to the treasurer of the committee, Roger Sherman of the Denver-based lobbying firm CRL Associates, were not immediately returned. According to its website, CRL is the lead strategic adviser to the National Western Stock Show and Rodeo and “a critical player in the National Western Center plan” to redevelop the site.

PAC formed to oppose bond measure

The proposed spending at the National Western Center does have opposition.

Another political action committee called No on the Arena Bond, whose organizer has worked with residents in the Globeville and Elyria-Swansea neighborhoods, was announced Wednesday.

Sarah Lake, the No on the Arena committee chair, said her organization has not submitted a campaign finance report yet, but that it has raised “a few thousand dollars” so far.

“Despite vehement opposition from residents of the neighborhoods surrounding the National Western Complex, the development plans continue to exclude the residents from the planning process and fail to provide sufficient complementary investment in the community,” Lake said. “We expect the power of the people will rise to challenge corporate funding behind Friends of National Western.”

The National Western Center already received voter approval in 2015 to fund $775 million of the center’s 250-acre campus using tourism tax dollars.

“Unlike the previous … bond that paid for development with tourism taxes, (the new bond measure) will come out of taxpayers’ pockets,” Lake said. “And as the city’s own feasibility study indicates, the profitability of both the arena and the market are questionable given the competing venue spaces and the low population density in the surrounding neighborhoods.”

However, Mayor Michael Hancock stated on Aug. 23 that the city’s general obligation bonds are “expected to remain within the existing property tax rate.”

There are four other bond measure questions on the November ballot, totaling $450 million, that would ask voters to fund:

  • • $104 million for new accessibility improvements for people with disabilities, two new libraries and expanding an existing library in Westwood, Globeville and Hampden, and creating a new “youth empowerment center”;
  • • $63 million for 46 projects to address transportation safety in neighborhoods, address six miles of sidewalk gaps, construct the first part of the 5280 trail, and create 16 miles of new bike lanes;
  • • $54 million to improve and build new playgrounds, athletic fields, a public pool and public restrooms; and
  • • $39 million for housing and sheltering facilities serving people experiencing homelessness.

The mayor’s office estimates the projects altogether will create 7,500 “good-paying” jobs, $483 million in worker wages and benefits and $1 billion in economic benefits.

Jacob Edler competes in the steer wrestling competition during the National…

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