The National Western Center is known for its annual stock show, but the Elyria-Swansea complex is now leaning into education, courtesy of Colorado State University’s new on-site campus, CSU Spur. Visitors will be able to explore—and be inspired by—each of the campus’ three themed buildings, the first of which, Vida, opens just in time for this month’s stock show.


Photo courtesy of CSU Spur

Opens: January 2022
Focus: Animal and human health
Whether you’re observing a doctor guiding a patient through equine-assisted therapies or watching a horse walk on an underwater treadmill to rehabilitate an injury, Vida allows you to see humans and animals alike on their journeys to health. CSU’s Temple Grandin Equine Center, which uses horses to help individuals with physical and emotional disabilities, has an outpost here, and an on-site clinic provides subsidized care for smaller furry friends. Witness a dog getting his teeth cleaned, for example, and ask questions of veterinarians. Dumb Friends League will oversee the vet services, which CEO and president Dr. Apryl Steele says will take the mystery out of what happens at the vet hospital, so it’s “out in the open for people to get excited about.”


Opens: November 2022
Focus: Water
The 122,000-square-foot Hydro building will house water research and education efforts, including helping K–12 students understand how humans might better conserve the precious liquid. In one exhibit, kids will turn dials to hypothetically direct H2O to different operations, such as a farm, factory, or home; the exercise illustrates the difficult decisions people must make when distributing the vital resource. Plus, the water quality lab run by Denver Water, which does thousands of tests each year to ensure the city’s water is safe, will move from southwest Denver to Hydro. Lab experts will explain the testing processes to visitors and allow them to run simple experiments to determine if samples are clean or not.


Photo courtesy of CSU Spur

Opens: April 2022
Focus: Food and agriculture
Spur’s Terra building will show visitors the connections between farming, the environment, and the food they eat. Staff at the greenhouses and vertical gardens will explain the sustainable techniques used to grow your favorite salad’s ingredients, and chefs in the teaching kitchen will demonstrate how to make said salad during cooking classes. A program examining the effectiveness of green roofs, the act of growing vegetation on top of buildings, is expected to open in the spring as well. According to Jennifer Bousselot, the CSU assistant professor leading the research, guests will be able to tour Terra’s green roof and learn how it can help keep Denver cool in the summer while also absorbing excess rainwater. “Green roofs will help cities become more livable,” Bousselot says.

(Read More: What You Need to Know About the Massive National Western Center Project)

This article was originally published in 5280 January 2022.
Barbara O'Neil
Barbara O'Neil
Barbara is one of 5280's assistant editors and writes stories for 5280 and