Energy Solutions Arena plays host to new products and design competition

While the pavilion tents are long gone to make room for the now expanded Salt Palace Convention Center, Outdoor Retailer Summer Market has grown to the point that it had to look to the nearby Energy Solutions Arena to house additionally needed exhibition space.
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While the pavilion tents are long gone to make room for the now expanded Salt Palace Convention Center, Outdoor Retailer Summer Market has grown to the point that it had to look to the nearby Energy Solutions Arena to house additionally needed exhibition space.

Show attendees will be familiar with the old Delta Center space as the location for recent Outdoor Retailer industry parties, but this year, the space will house much more. Realizing there needs to be a strong draw for retailers to make the five-minute, three-block trek down West South Temple to the Energy Solutions Arena (ESA), show director Kenji Haroutunian told SNEWS® that "99 percent of all the new exhibitors to Summer Market will be housed there."

Just as the pavilion tents used to be a must-visit for retailers seeking out new products to give them a leg up on the regional retail competition, it is Haroutunian's expectation the ESA will become that go-to destination for cool and new products. Most of the exhibitors will be housed on the floor of the arena, with a smattering located in and around the main entrance -- see adjacent image for an idea of what the exhibition space will look like.


As an added draw to ensure traffic to the new hall, and in addition to the ESA being the location of the Industry Party and a selection of special design-related seminars, Haroutunian told SNEWS® that on the second and third morning of the show (August 9 and 10), Outdoor Retailer is providing free breakfast for retailers. In addition, everyday for lunch, there will be a barbecue in the plaza out in front of the ESA for all, though that will not be free.

Haroutunian and his team didn't stop there, though. Thinking out of the box and wanting to inject some youthful energy into the show and provide yet another reason to head over to the ESA, Haroutunian dreamed up a design competition dubbed Project OR.

The five contestants are design students selected from some of the nation's top design schools, including Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM), Los Angeles, Calif.; Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), New York, N.Y.; North Carolina State University, Raleigh, N.C.; Colorado State University, Boulder, Colo.; and Washington State University, Pullman, Wash.

In keeping with the reality show format, on the first day of the show, each contestant will be provided a work station within The Design Center located in the ESA. Each work station is basic in its setup, Haroutunian told SNEWS®, but will provide all that is needed -- a sewing machine, cutting table, pressing equipment and basic tools -- for the students to conceive, design and then build an apparel prototype in 48 hours. The materials the students will use will come from the 100 or so supplier exhibitors in the Convention Center who will bring necessary fabrics, fasteners and other materials to the show for the students to rummage through and then run back to the ESA to use.

All Summer Market attendees are encouraged to vote for the designs they feel are the best. The public vote will be weighted with votes cast by a panel of expert judges which will include designers and recognized industry professionals. Each design will be judged based on originality of design, use of eco-friendly and performance materials, and overall practical application of the design.

The final designs will be unveiled in The Design Center and on on Sunday, Aug. 10, at 3 p.m.

For Haroutunian, Project OR will put a face on the design and development story few really acknowledge goes on at Outdoor Retailer each show.

"Exhibitors bring their designers and product development folks to Outdoor Retailer each show so they don't have to send them to other sourcing shows, and so that they can meet directly with the 115 companies making materials specifically for the outdoor market," Haroutunian told us.

"The whole goal of this contest is not to create an eye-popping design in 48 hours -- because that would be an unreasonable expectation for almost any designer, let alone a designer still cutting his or her teeth at a design school," said Haroutunian. "What Project OR does, I believe, is give us insight into what young designers are thinking and what design ideas will drive the future, as well as pay homage to veteran designers who work tirelessly behind the scenes to create the products over 1,000 brands are showcasing."

SNEWS® View: It's going to be a trek to be sure, but all things considered, it is a trek well worth making. We'd recommend making sure that you block out several hours in your schedule now to ensure you have the time allotted to spend wandering the 20,000 square feet of additional exhibit space browsing for that new and cool product. Also, check out the design energy the students are pouring out by showing some love with a vote cast for one or more of your favorite designs. Plan your visit to coincide with the show opening on the second or third morning and grab breakfast too while you are at it. Free food and new ideas -- doesn't get much better than that.


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