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New National Western Complex To Become 'Silicon Valley Of Agriculture'

DENVER (CBS4) - The massive renovation plan for the National Western Complex just got an infusion of cash, and the money will make it a state-of-the-art hub for agricultural research, business and education, according to supporters.

National Western Complex
National Western Complex (credit: CBS)

The plan is to remake the site into a year-round venue that will attract not only a million new visitors, but a hundred new events -- from trade shows and amateur sporting events to festivals and concerts. On Wednesday Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a bill into law that could help make it a reality.

"It's a law," Hickenlooper said while slamming his hand down on the table after signing the bill.

With that the state contributed $250 million towards transforming the National Western Complex into what one lawmaker calls the Silicon Valley of Agriculture.

"We've been running away from our agricultural roots as a city for a long time," Kelly Leid with the City of Denver said. "This actually has reinvigorated us to think about how important that past is."

National Western Complex Plans
(credit: CBS)

Leid is heading up the project for the city. The master plan calls for not only a new equestrian center and stock yards pavilion for the stock show, but a water resources center, clinical trials facility and equine sports medicine clinic all managed by Colorado State University.

Leid said it will be a center for cutting-edge agricultural research.

"We envision solving some of the world's biggest food issues on this campus," he said.

CSU President Tony Frank said they will do it while educating a new generation of Coloradans.

National Western Complex1
(credit: CBS)

"If you could envision virtually every K-12 student coming through here in ways that are integrated through their curriculum; having opportunities to turn out a generation that is much more literate in terms of agriculture -- where their food comes from," Frank said.

From education to research to commerce, the project is expected to drive upwards of 16,000 jobs in agriculture business and science.

National Western Complex2
(credit: CBS)

"The 1916 exchange building was the epicenter of agricultural commerce for the entire Rocky Mountain region," Leid said. "In some respects we're waking up those echoes from the past, but in a very modern way."

In addition to the state's $250 million contribution, the stock show will pitch in $50 million, CSU $16 million and the City of Denver the rest, with much of the money dependent on Denver voters approving a tax extension on hotels and rental cars in November. If voters don't approve it, the project will need to be scaled back significantly.

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