Larimer County’s fairgrounds and special events complex — The Ranch — is expected to undergo a host of major improvements in the years to come, including the possible replacement of the Budweiser Events Center.
Among projects in the latest master plan, according to the Coloradoan Dec. 23, 2019 article by Kevin Dugan, are, a new 10,000-seat, multipurpose events center, a new full-service hotel with at least 250 rooms, a 60,000-square-foot exhibition hall for trade shows, and a recreational sports complex with three sheets of ice and a pool for competitive swimming and diving. Which projects get built and in what order depends on the availability of funding, county officials say. Possible alternate projects include a dedicated indoor riding arena for 4-H participants as well as classrooms and livestock facilities.
Projects in the implementation plan will be funded on the county side by a sales tax dedicated to The Ranch that voters extended in 2017. After 18 months of work with consultants and stakeholders and extensive market research, county officials developed the implementation plan and its proposed projects. The hotel and new event center were put in the plan based on the market research with the understanding that private financing would be needed to build them, Director of The Ranch Chris Ashby said.
The Ranch tax is expected to raise about $260 million over 20 years. The figure assumes a 3% annual population growth rate in Larimer County. The estimate is “conservative” given that the county has seen 5% annual increases in recent years, Commissioner Tom Donnelly said.
Ashby said projects in the master plan are concepts that will be fleshed out over time. The Budweiser Events Center could be renovated to improve the experience of visitors, but it cannot be successfully converted to other uses because of the way it was built, Ashby said.
If a new arena were built, the existing center would “go away.“ The first Ranch improvement will be to move Arena Drive to the outer edge of the campus and connect it with new entrances on the southeast and northern edges of the property, Ashby said. The current road runs between campus buildings and visitor parking areas. Pedestrians must cross the street, causing traffic backups and delays. The $12 million project is included in the county’s 2020 budget. The work includes moving underground utilities. New entrances to the complex will be at signalized intersections with dedicated turn lanes.
Plans for development turn toward tourism. Roadway changes at the The Ranch site would be coordinated with a massive entertainment and tourism project proposed by developer Martin Lind, south of the county’s property and west of Interstate 25.
Lind, who owns the Colorado Eagles hockey team, told the commissioners the county’s plan was “magnificent” and would give an economic boost to the region. With private investment, the county could see $500 million going into The Ranch property, he said. “The youth and community support of all of Northern Colorado is going to be greatly affected by your decision today,” Lind said. “We applaud the efforts here and we’re very excited.”
Potential projects at The Ranch include:
- Relocate Arena Drive to the outer edge or parking and create two new entrances to the property
- A new 60,000-square-foot trade show facility
- A recreational sports complex with three ice sheets and a swimming facility with practice space for local teams. The ice sheets could be converted to accommodate indoor activities
- Expansion of equine and livestock facilities, including a 70,000-square-foot barn, a covered show arena with seating for 2,000 people, several outdoor warm-up areas, and parking and RV camping facilities with full-service connections.
- Conversion of the McKee Building into administrative offices
- Renovate the existing Budweiser Events Center or build a new 10,000-seat facility, depending on the availability of private-sector financing.
- Build a dedicated 4-H indoor riding arena building that would include classrooms and livestock facilities.
- Build a dive well at the recreational sports center as part of a warm-up pool.
- Conversion of the First National Bank exhibition hall into a 4-H youth and community building.
- The facility would include space for Colorado State University extension offices.