NWSS President and CEO Paul Andrews talks about the 2022 NWSS
After overseeing a challenging 2022 National Western Stock Show President and CEO Paul Andrews took time on the final Sunday to talk with Lincoln Rogers one-on-one about his thoughts regarding this year’s stock show and what is in store for the future. (NOTE: Questions and answers edited for length and clarity)
Lincoln: You guaranteed you would have a 2022 NWSS and you did, but the city and county of Denver threw some challenges at you in the form of mandates and policies. We are here on the last day of the 2022 NWSS, how has it been for you and what do you think of the 2022 stock show?
Paul Andrews: I think, given that 30% of the state has been infected with COVID the entire time the stock show has been going, and the fact that we are going to end probably between 580,000-600,000 attendees, it is only down about 17% from the 2020 show, which was a 708,000 … I think we feel pretty good about that, to be honest with you. It could have been a lot worse. People that are sick, we don’t want them coming here and they don’t want to come here either. So hopefully we get to 2023 here and people heal up and COVID goes away and we can all celebrate together starting at the 117th show.
Lincoln: Whether it was vendors or people bringing in cattle from out of state, do you think the uncertainty of COVID and its accompanying policies had an impact on this year’s show?
Paul Andrews: Well certainly. From the two weeks prior to stock show, we were receiving probably 10-12 emails a day from livestock exhibitors that were sick, so they weren’t coming. And we were getting the same thing from our trade show vendors. I think we replaced 30% of our trade show in two weeks’ time. That is hundreds of exhibitors. If they are sick, they can’t come. They were also having supply chain problems. They couldn’t get enough product in to service this many people. I think rising above the huge challenges we had, I feel very good. I only had six people that were out from COVID protocols this entire stock show out of 550 staff. So I think we kind of got lucky on the staff side, too.
Lincoln: From what I understand, you were going to consider 500,000 visitors a good thing for this year. It looks like attendance was above your expectations?
Paul Andrews: Coming into this year, we just did not know what to expect, with the fear of being in large crowds and those sort of things. Again, anything over 500,000 would have been a win, I think, and to be closer to 600,000 is going to be something we celebrate.
Lincoln: Looking around, it feels like the last weekend is more like a normal stock show atmosphere of the past. Did you notice that same thing?
Paul Andrews: Yeah it did. In fact the final Saturday of stock show was at or near an all-time record for attendance. We did 58,000 people at the final Saturday. We usually do 50,000 on that day. It did feel like a pretty normal stock show day. And today, the final day of stock show, boy we are expecting between 40,000-50,000 again and it is getting pretty crowded in (the Denver Coliseum for the rodeo finals) now. So it is all good.
Lincoln: It does seem that your recent change of the rodeo to a semifinals format on the last Saturday of the stock show has paid off.
Paul Andrews: As far as excitement goes, there is no more exciting format than we are running right here at the National Western. To feed the first 16 rodeos into a final three on Saturday has proven to drive ticket sales. You couldn’t buy a ticket for the final Saturday all day. It was just jam packed and they saw three amazing rodeos, the people that were here. And it has set up a really, really all-star Sunday, as it should. So yeah, we are looking forward to (the championship round today).
Lincoln: How did your brand new building in the stockyards work out this year?
Paul Andrews: I will tell you what; the new stockyards and the (HW Hutchison Family) Stockyards Event Center have been overwhelmingly accepted. In fact, the livestock exhibitors that we have been surveying now call it the Taj Mahal of livestock exhibitions. They are saying things like the world has never seen the power we have in our yards. The water we have in our yards that are tempered water. They can wash their animals in hot water down there now. That doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world. So really, I think we are going to be overrun next year with exhibitors. Some of the exhibitors didn’t come this year due to COVID, so I think they are all going to be pretty fired up to get back here next year.
Lincoln: Anything different people can look forward to next year at the National Western Stock Show?
Paul Andrews: Next year you are going to see two amazing buildings coming out of the ground. You will witness the birth of the new Livestock Center and the birth of the new Legacy Building. Those two will be under construction. That new area down there, watching those buildings come out of the ground, I think, is going to be a pretty unique thing.
Lincoln: When are they slated to be finished?
Paul Andrews: I am guessing September of 2024. We are going to break ground this June of 2022. It is about a two year build for both of those buildings. So both should be done around September 2024 and then we will do some early events, we call them soft events, prior to stock show just to make sure the buildings are working right. Then you launch it in to the stock show of 2025 and it will change forever, when you get to that point, how livestock is exhibited in America. There will be no place that is providing power and water like we are down in the yards, that is going to have a 3,000 seat building with state of the art equipment and technology in there and then 220,000 square feet of barns. We can expand our show by about 20%, so that will be great.
Lincoln: When you started planning this billion dollar expansion program a number of years ago, you had no idea that COVID, its health effects, and resulting mandates and policies were coming. You had a cancellation in 2021 and uncertainty for this year’s show. Are you feeling pretty good about the direction you are going in the future and feeling pretty good about what this year has done to propel you into that future?
Paul Andrews: This year was a must do. You could not under any circumstance not move forward with the National Western Stock Show this year. Because, frankly, all of our competitor shows moved forward and none of them had a mask mandate, by the way. So anyway, I think our exhibitors have shown great patience and fortitude in coming to Denver and knowing there was a mask mandate, No. 1, and knowing that our tradition and our history meant a lot to them. But this was the springboard year to then set up 2023 and 2024 and then I think we are going to be catapulted into 750,000-800,000 (attendance) numbers when you hit 2025.
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