Outdoor Retailer commits to shows in SLC through 2009

Following an endorsement and recommendation by the Outdoor Industry Association board, read by Lee Fromson, chair of the OIA board, that Outdoor Retailer trade shows stay in Salt Lake City for five more years, a spontaneous round of cheers and applause erupted from the crowd of city and county officials, and outdoor industry companies on hand to hear the 6:30 p.m. announcement.
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Following an endorsement and recommendation by the Outdoor Industry Association board, read by Lee Fromson, chair of the OIA board, that Outdoor Retailer trade shows stay in Salt Lake City for five more years, a spontaneous round of cheers and applause erupted from the crowd of city and county officials, and outdoor industry companies on hand to hear the 6:30 p.m. announcement.

Peter Devin, show director for Outdoor Retailer, then made the OIA recommendation official and announced that OR plans to keep Outdoor Retailer Summer Market in SLC through 2009. Devin made it very clear that the decision from VNU's perspective was fully contingent on a final contract and financing from the county to expand the Salt Palace Convention Center.

"Outdoor Retailer made their decision after reviewing results from a comprehensive outdoor market study, receiving the OIA board's recommendation, and tentative plans from Salt Lake City officials to expand the Salt Palace's main hall space by 40 percent, plus provide increased benefits to OR exhibitors and attendees," stated Devin.

Future benefits outlined include hotel room blocks well below average published rates, personalized housing services for all attendees, complimentary and discount shuttle programs to and from SLC airport, the launching of "Outdoor Utah" -- an outreach campaign designed to attract retailers, and a coupon program offering discounts for dining, hotel rooms, lift tickets and services within SLC.

While the SLC convention center expansion is ambitious -- see our June 4 article, "Oh where, oh where is our trade show going?" -- Salt Lake County Mayor Nancy Workman assured SNEWS® that, "We are going to get this done!"

The first $10 million investment to build the underground parking structure and provide a flat and secure platform for pavilion tents next summer is already budgeted and will not impact taxpayers at all, according to Workman.

It is the next $40 million to $45 million to further expand the convention center that will require a bit of negotiating and full support of the Utah state legislature, though Workman said she believes that they will not waver in their support of the project in any way.

SNEWS® asked Devin during the conference what would happen if the contingencies they have placed on SLC do not come through and he stated, "Then we will go back to the table and begin once again looking at our other options." Options that include Denver and Las Vegas as we have previously reported.

Construction work on the Salt Palace for the first phase, the underground garage, will begin the minute Summer Market 2004 comes to an end and will not affect the upcoming 2005 Winter Market.

Both Fromson and OIA's President Frank Hugelmeyer stressed several times during the press conference during the Q&A and then to SNEWS® after during interviews that the decision was also contingent upon Utah's continued partnership with OIA to promote "a recreation economy and to protect the recreation gems," in the state.

"Governer Walker deserves significant credit for taking a framework created by Governor Leavitt, implementing it, and building a foundation of process and trust that we hope to build on," said Hugelmeyer. "OIA sincerely thanks the entire convention and business community of Salt Lake City and the state of Utah for making such a great commitment to the health of our industry. We look forward to working together to save our great recreation destinations and visiting Salt Lake City to conduct business many times to come."

SNEWS® View: Completely the correct decision and bravo. OIA wins, VNU/OR wins, Salt Lake City and the county and the state of Utah wins, and the industry wins. There was fire in the mayor's eyes when she stated that the deal is going to get done and there is no reason to doubt her. While SLC still has things it needs to work on to be sure, it has become a good home for our trade shows, and more importantly our industry. Like a home, sometimes things get a little rough around the edges, but it is still home. A close industry friend said it to us best a few weeks ago when we were discussing trade show locations. "Las Vegas is a great trade show town, but there is no rest for the soul there. Here at least, we can find a time and place each day to rest our souls, and that has more value than I think many in this industry realize." He's right, of course. Take a look around you at the Wasatch range, or the local parks, or during a morning run on quiet streets or trails before you head back onto the frenetic trade show floor. Rest for the soul…and we have it, thankfully, for five more years.

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