Voters help sought to build arena in Denver


New arena for Denver Image: CBS

Denver (US) Mayor Michael Hancock’s plans for a $450 million infrastructure bonding package to put to voters includes a new, mid-size “state-of-the-art” arena at the National Western Center.

‘The Denver Post’ stated that Mayor Hancock made reference to the arena during his annual State of the City address, conducted virtually on July 26th. It would be at the National Western Center, possibly replacing existing facilities.

The National Western Center is a new take on a legendary Colorado space – a future place where heritage of the Old West meets progress of the New West, a space where school children can cultivate food systems while researchers discover food security solutions that will change the world.

Denver spokesman Mike Strott remarked, “I think we’re just trying to finalize that,” adding that the City had originally hoped to do the project as a “public-private partnership”, but now will turn to voters to try to get it done.

Added Strott, “The pandemic happened, so we kind of had to change tack a little bit.”

Mayor Hancock said he’s open to the idea of using bonds for the arena, and if voters approve the measure and demonstrate they have “skin in the game”, it will give the City leverage with investors.

‘The Denver Post’ further stated that much of Hancock’s speech was dedicated to the topics of homelessness, criminal justice and post-pandemic resilience. But the infrastructure package represented the most substantial spending proposal, a $450 million investment that he said “will help create 7,500 good-paying jobs, $483 million in worker wages and benefits, and $1 billion in economic benefits.”

“And that’s just for the construction”, he added.

He said he would be referring his bonding proposal, which was first mentioned in late April, to the City Council. The 10,000 or so-seat arena project would cost an estimated $160 million – the largest share of the overall spending proposal.

Other line items include $61 million for transportation projects, including sidewalk improvements and bike lanes, $53 million for parks and recreation projects, including repurposing of the Curtis Park public pool and the Sloan’s Lake boathouse, and $37 million for homeless shelters.

In March, the City Council issued $274 million in bonds (approved by voters in 2015) that’ll in part pay for other upgrades at the National Western Center complex, like a Stockyard Events Center, new stockyards, new roads, and infrastructure.

Hancock reiterated his support for more sanctioned camp grounds for those experiencing homelessness – an expansion of a pilot program he did not initially support.

He noted, “I think it would be not smart to say how many you want to do. We did it as a pilot, we said two (sites). Let’s see how it goes. … Let’s just let it rip in terms of what we’ve learned.”

Other spending that Hancock detailed in the State of the City address comes from the Federal American Rescue Plan: $28 million for affordable housing projects and creating “a specialized team to prioritize these projects for permit review and approval”, and $21 million for businesses, nonprofits and neighborhoods.

The Mayor also said an unidentified “portion” of the City’s marijuana sales tax money will go toward building a more equal playing field in the cannabis industry for people of color and women by establishing “a new revolving loan fund to support these and other businesses” with the goal of $50 million in the fund.

On policing and criminal justice, Hancock said during his speech that he feels too many “violent criminals” are being released too soon from custody – “There must be a balance between reform that keeps low-level non-violent folks from going to jail in the first place, and our residents’ safety. One cannot come at the expense of the other.”

But he also had a word of praise for those “who stood up and engaged when they saw unjust laws and actions by the system”.

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