Denver Direct: Open letter to Denver Councilwoman Kniech from Tom Anthony

Monday, March 26, 2012

Open letter to Denver Councilwoman Kniech from Tom Anthony

Dear Councilwoman Kniech,

My family and I live in the middle of the Stock Show property and have for 14 years. This makes us a bit vulnerable to voicing our opinions on Stock Show matters since we’re also trying to be “good neighbors.” A bit hard when “management” sees you as an obstacle to their goal of owning everything in sight.

The new concept of splitting the Stock Show into a profit/non profit two headed hydra is predictable; since they’re showing a profit now when four years ago they were showing a loss, they have more money to spend on CRL Associates, even though they’re supposed to be maintaining the “old, decrepit buildings” along the way; tradeoff for the $1 a year lease rate and no property taxes.

The modern business model for a profit-making business is to get the government to subsidize you, at which point once that public investment has been made the stream of public dollars just keeps broadening to make sure they didn’t make a mistake the first time.

As to the Stock Show itself, besides being a cultural anomaly, I think they’re a worthy beneficiary of a certain amount of largesse because frankly it’s a unique venue with a unique constituency: lots and lots of “landed gentry” who may wear cowboy hats and jeans but probably represent real estate holdings equal to the states of California and Texas combined. Giving them an excuse to drive to Denver in January is a stroke of public genius that should continue to see play. In fact, more play.

As to unleashing the “for profit” venue management monster to compete with every other programming site in the region at public expense; from the standpoint of the North Neighborhoods at minimum, that’s like tossing the Baltic states to the Soviets. The Denver March Pow-Wow came to the Coliseum this weekend and the Stock Show website didn’t even mention it (for example.)

Another case in point, the Stockyards sit empty 11.3 months per year, and are slated to have a brand new commuter rail station next door by 2016. They are a perfect site for a major weekend outdoor public market. The North Neighborhoods proposed this to the Stock Show in 2000; however we were told that Aramark had to manage all the food and beverages, even though they had no current business in the stock pens and the Market couldn’t succeed without the diverse mix of ethnic foods we envisioned from hundreds of small business people. The fact that Stock Show pays $1 a year lease and no taxes didn’t seem to merit any consideration of overarching public benefit.

Instead of providing a matrix for a thriving small business community north of I-70, the Stock Pens still sit empty 12 years later. Frankly, capitulating to a few minimum wage jobs with Aramark as a tradeoff to helping 750 small entrepreneurs fulfill their dreams and the Denver Metro area find a new source of pride and community never has seemed a viable choice.

Senator Michael Johnston is proposing a bill to create a District which would allow for expansion of the Stock Show and other activities, such as sports venues which could help Denver host the Winter Olympics. This possibility could mesh with the Platte River Greenway development north through Adams County and provide for a rejuvenation similar to the Stapleton success story. However, the existing neighborhoods need to have a seat at the table to ensure all boats float with the rising tide. It’s much too easy to turn loose a tiger to devour all it can amongst the defenseless “villagers.” In fact, Auditor Gallagher’s notion of having the City own the facility (like the Coliseum or Convention Center) and lease it to Stock Show during January seems the best business model by far. The City would have a self-interest in seeing complementary small businesses thrive and pay taxes; the Stock Show will only see dollars that somehow escaped its clutching paws.

Tom Anthony
5001 National Western Drive
Denver, CO 80216