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Denver Question 2E: $190 million in bonds to pay for National Western Complex project

2E is one of five bond questions on the Denver ballot for the Nov. 2 coordinated election.

DENVER — This story is part of a series of statewide ballot issue reviews we're calling "We Don't Have To Agree, But Let's Just Vote."  We'll continue to look at statewide ballot initiatives on Colorado's ballot and how they would impact you.

Click here for more Voter Guide coverage for the 2021 election.

Denver Referred Question 2E

Denver is asking its voters for permission to borrow about $450 million total in five debt questions on Nov. 2, which are Referred Questions 2A through 2E on the ballot.

The largest of those, 2E, is asking voters to approve $190 million in bonds to, among other things, build a new arena at the National Western Complex.

Here's the language on the ballot:

Shall the City and County of Denver debt be increased $190,000,000, with a maximum repayment cost of $327,212,000, with no expected increase in the city's current rate of taxation for general obligation debt service based on the city's projected assessed value, the proceeds thereof to be used for repairs and improvements to the National Western Campus Facilities System, which may include but are not limited to:

  • Construction of a multi-use arena for concerts, local and high school sporting events, rodeo, and other entertainment events at the National Western Campus; and
  • Renovation and preservation of a historic building at the National Western Campus to create a public market.

By the issuance and payment of general obligation bonds, notes, loan agreements or other multiple fiscal year financial obligations, which shall be issued or incurred in such manner and containing such terms not inconsistent herewith as the city may determine (the expenditure of the proceeds thereof to be publicly reported by the city on an annual basis); and shall city ad valorem property taxes be increases without limitation as to rate but by not more than a maximum amount of $35,155,000 annually in amounts sufficient to pay the principal of, premium, if any, and interest on such financial obligations or to create a reserve for same; and shall the city be authorized to issue financial obligations to refund or refinance such financial obligations authorized in this question, provided that such refunding financial obligations when combined with other outstanding financial obligations authorized in this question do not exceed the maximum principal limits or repayment costs authorized by the question?

Click here to see a sample ballot for the City and County of Denver.

Yes or no?

A YES vote means you want the city to borrow $190 million to fund Phase 3 of the development of the National Western Complex, which includes a 10,000-seat arena to replace the Denver Coliseum and the renovation of the Historic 1909 Building into a public market.

A NO vote means the city cannot borrow the money to pay for the project.

What that means

Question 2E is asking voters to approve $190 million in general obligation bonds. That means the money to repay bondholders comes from general revenues, though the city could increase taxes at some point to pay back the bonds.

The city says 2E would fund Phase 3 of the development of the National Western Complex. In 2015, Denver voters approved a ballot measure to authorize $467 million in city borrowing to fund construction of the first phases of the project.

The planned 10,000-seat arena would replace the Denver Coliseum, which has stood since 1951. It would host concerts and other entertainment events, sporting events, expos and other activities. Construction of the arena would create 3,000 jobs, according to the City of Denver.

RELATED: Hancock wants Denver to build medium-sized arena at Natl. Western Complex

The project would also pay to renovate the Historic 1909 Building into a public market that would provide fresh local food for the Globeville and Elyria-Swansea neighborhoods. The market would create 400 construction jobs and more than 1,000 full-time jobs when construction is done, the city says.

Opponents of the measure say taxpayers could eventually shoulder the cost of repaying the bond through increased property taxes. One argument against 2E says that a feasibility study commissioned by the city states that the public market would fail because the surrounding neighborhoods won't have the purchasing power to support it.

RELATED: City's plan for new sports arena in Globeville, Elyria-Swansea neighborhoods questioned by residents

City Council member Candi CdeBaca, the representative of District 9, told 9NEWS in August that the plan is backwards: "The rest of the triangle, the rest of the acres that are developable that were literally taken from private owners for public good, should be designed and the community should identify what's happening there and then we figure out the revenue stream." 

An organization that includes Globeville and Elyria-Swansea called the GES Coalition is asking for some of the undeveloped National Western Complex land to go a land trust.

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