By Larimer County Commissioner Steve Johnson
Here’s a riddle: What state of the art facility attracts almost every resident of Larimer County, invests in kids of all ages, hosts sporting and cultural events of all kinds, brings millions of dollars into our local economy, and is owned and supported by the people of Larimer County? The answer is the Larimer County Fairgrounds, also known as “The Ranch.”
Widely considered as one of the crown jewels of Northern Colorado, The Ranch was built and opened in 2003 from a sales tax approved by the voters of the county. That tax expires in 2019. Larimer County citizens have an opportunity in November to extend it and improve on the great things happening in our region.
The Ranch is one of the most efficiently utilized venues in Northern Colorado, hosting over 2,500 events a year, serving over 828,000 residents and visitors. Events include youth and 4-H activities, home and garden shows, top-name concerts, minor league hockey and other sporting events, festivals, meetings, and community group banquets. Perhaps the most loved event is the Larimer County Fair and Rodeo which attracts almost 100,000 residents and showcases the importance of agriculture in the county while providing a free day of fun for the whole family.
Investing in our youth is one of the key missions of The Ranch. Youth and community non-profit groups schedule over 1,200 events a year, using the McKee building and facilities for no or nominal charge. Larimer County also has the largest 4-H program in the state, and The Ranch facilities play a large part in keeping the 4-H program strong. These investments in youth programs have demonstrated dramatic and positive outcomes for kids.
Moreover, The Ranch is one of the key drivers of our local economy. Events at The Ranch resulted in over $51 Million in direct, indirect and induced impacts to our economy each year, supporting over 610 jobs. Much of this spending is brought in by visitors from outside the county. These visitors stay in our hotels and support local businesses while they are here.
During the 2012 High Park Fire and the 2013 Flood, The Ranch played a critical role in helping our citizens with shelter, housing for animals, and as the operations center for the Red Cross and thousands of outside volunteers who helped our county get back on its feet. The massive recovery effort would not have been nearly as possible without the great facilities available at The Ranch.
Work has just been completed on a 20-year Master Plan for the Ranch to enable it to serve its key role in our community for decades to come, and remain an outstanding regional facility. If voters extend the sales tax, we can create new and exciting opportunities as well as continue investing in our youth and non-profits organizations that do so much for our region. The tax extension would support only these activities and facility improvements.
Larimer County Commissioner Steve Johnson represents District 2 in Larimer County.