National Western unveils new world headquarters plan

Amidst the sound of classic western music, and the sights of Hereford cattle and a 30-pack of beer, the National Western Stock Show unveiled the design for its new home in Denver, Colorado.

Mayor Michael Hancock and brewing magnate Pete Coors, who serves as chairman of the National Western’s $100 million “Honoring the Legacy” campaign, were among the speakers at the Dec. 12, 2017, event marking the model unveiling of the first new permanent building on the Stock Show grounds as part of the campaign.

The four-story, 100,000-square-foot Western Stock Show Association Legacy Building will be a focal point of the new National Western Center—a transformation of the aging facilities on the banks of the South Platte River into a year-round attraction.

The Legacy Building will be one of four major new facilities to be built by the Western Stock Show Association. Plans are to make the building serve as a centerpiece of the nearly billion-dollar urban renewal project to reinvigorate and expand the National Western into a year-round destination for education, entertainment and agricultural innovation.

Besides the Legacy Building, the others include The Yards (a complete redesign of the stockyards into a flexible, multi-use attraction), the Equestrian Center and the Livestock Center. The plan is make the facilities available for more than 200 dates throughout the year, primarily for a multitude of horse shows that will use the Equestrian Center and breed associations using the Livestock Center.

“The Legacy Building will serve a home to all members of the National Western family,” Coors said. “It will be the only building not to have a naming opportunity for an individual or corporation. Rather, it will be a place for all to donate and to participate.”

Denver’s Tryba Architects designed the Legacy Building, whose features will include:

  • Sweeping terraces with views of the National Western Center grounds;
  • A permanent home and public display areas for the National Western’s art collection;
  • A greatly expanded National Western Club with seating for up to 700 people;
  • A Heritage Center to display and share National Western archives and history;
  • A rotating exhibit space of more than 8,000 square feet, and;
  • Office and conference space for the Western Stock Show Association.

“This is going to be a watering hole, a gallery space, and a place to do business for friends, cowboys and art lovers alike,” said Paul Andrews, the Western Stock Show Association’s president and CEO. “This will be a testament to a thriving West and once in a century opportunity to energize and celebrate our Western values and our heritage.

“We already are one of the top five rodeos in the country, but with these new buildings, we see our standings and payouts to the rodeo cowboys only going up. We also host some of the top trade shows in the country, only now will we host many, many, more of them.”

Andrews estimated that upon completion of the transformed center—which will include animal research facilities operated by Colorado State University—annual attendance will rise to 2 million visitors and bring an economic impact of more than $230 million as a hub of agricultural education and innovation.

The event concluded with the announcement that Denver philanthropists Cille and Ron Williams gave $10 million to the campaign to fund the new construction of The Yards.

The Ron and Cille Williams Yards will represent a major upgrade from the current yards. Rather than today’s seemingly endless acres of fixed, wooden, pens, the new Yards’ nearly 800 pens will be defined by removable fencing (which can be upgraded as needed to reflect the latest in humane animal handling techniques), and the hard surface will make it convertible into space for concerts, events, festivals or parking for 2,700 vehicles.

The Ron and Cille Williams Yards will also include two, 1,000-seat arenas, elevated walkways (including the historic catwalk so familiar to Stock Show visitors) and a 3.8-acre plaza for outdoor displays, vendor booths and exhibits.

Ron Williams, a 2016 inductee into the Colorado Business Hall of Fame, is former president and CEO of the Gary-Williams Energy Corporation and a vice chair of the Honoring the Legacy campaign. In addition to being a past chairman of the Western Stock Show Association, the nonprofit that oversees the National Western Stock Show and the capital campaign, Ron Williams is a longtime board director of Children’s Hospital Colorado and the Children’s Hospital Foundation, where he co-chaired the capital campaign that enabled the creation of the new Children’s Hospital on the Anschutz Medical Campus.

 “This major, named, gift certainly builds the momentum for our campaign, and serves as an inspiration to other donors,” Coors said. “Ron was one of the early advocates of the National Western Center, and today, he and Cille have shown how deeply they believe in this project.”

Williams’ connection to the National Western Stock Show reaches back more than a half century, to when he was a high school student in Nebraska. “My friends and I used to skip school for the Stock Show,” Williams said. “I haven’t missed one since—and it’s been more than 50 years now. I view this as an investment to keep the Stock Show a rewarding destination for another 50 years or longer.”

Then Williams told a story that he thought Coors would enjoy hearing.

“When I was a student at Kearney State College (now the University of Nebraska-Kearney) in 1963, a bunch of buddies and I would pile all five of us into a 1952 Plymouth and drive to Julesburg to buy Coors. Pete didn’t sell beer in Nebraska in those days. He’s wised up since.

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“Anyway, we’ve always had a passion for the Stock Show, back to Cille’s father who was a cattleman who started coming here in 1930 and all the years I was coming here. I’ve really enjoyed my role in agriculture in the last few years. Now, let’s go build something.”

With that, Coors pulled out an 18-pack of Coors’ Banquet Beer from under the podium and handed it to Williams, to the amusement of all.

For more information about the National Western’s fund-raising efforts, visit

Larry Dreiling can be reached at 785-628-1117 or [email protected].