Expansion at The Ranch approved

By Dan Karpiel

The Surveyor

At a meeting on Dec. 16, the Larimer County Commissioners unanimously approved a new master plan for a massive expansion of The Ranch Events Complex on the eastern edge of the county in northeast Loveland.

The plans call for a new indoor arena complex that would have double the capacity of the current Budweiser Events Center (BEC), a 250-plus-room hotel with a large (60,000 square-feet) flat floor facility for various trade-show-type events, interconnected retail and restaurant space, a recreational sports complex that would include a competition pool and three sheets of ice, expansion of the current equine and livestock facilities, and expansion of the current First National Bank show halls.

Currently, the BEC is home to the Colorado Eagles hockey club, which serves as the American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate of the Colorado Avalanche. The venue regularly sells out, as the Eagles have enjoyed tremendous success since their inception in 2003. A new arena, developers say, would not only better serve minor-league hockey in Northern Colorado, but would also help attract more high-profile events at a greater frequency.

The BEC, which has a capacity of just over 5,800 for hockey and around 7,000 for concerts and other performance events, could potentially be converted into a dirt-only arena used for rodeos, motocross and monster-truck events. Since its construction in 2002, which cost $28 million, the BEC has hosted the rock band Motley Crue, musicians David Bowie and Rod Stewart, Impact Wrestling, and the Cirque Du Soliel performance, among others.

The Eagles currently have the fourth-smallest arena by seating capacity in the AHL but regularly draw crowds larger than teams with greater-capacity arenas. When the BEC was originally constructed, the Eagles jump to the AHL was not foreseen and, coupled with the population growth and increased demand for various entertainment options, a new, larger facility is needed, developers and supporters of the proposal argue.

The expansion project would be funded both by the county, with revenue from the sales tax voters extended in 2017, and from private sources that would include the hotel and business partners like current sponsor Budweiser.

According to The Ranch, “The estimated budget for the projects identified, excluding the hotel and new arena is $230 million dollars. The anticipated tax revenue, based on a 3% tax growth rate as suggested by county financing, would be $260 million dollars. The additional projects would add approximately $3-4 million dollars for the 4-H facility, $100 million for the hotel, and $135 million dollars for the new event arena. The new hotel and the new arena would require significant private financing.” The 3% growth rate is considered a conservative estimate as growth rates have been around 5% annually in recent years, meaning even more financing could be made available for the projects.

The project would take several years to complete and would be done incrementally, with the first work coming on transportation and infrastructure improvements in the area. If all goes according to plan, construction could begin within a year with $12 million in the county’s 2020 budget already allocated for the beginning stages.

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