The twice-a-year Outdoor Retailer tradeshows will remain in Salt Lake City through the summer of 2018.
Officials from Visit Salt Lake, Salt Lake County and the Governor’s Office of Economic Development last week announced a two-year extension with Emerald Expositions, the shows’ organizer, to retain the OR events beyond the previous agreement that was set to conclude after the 2016 summer show.
The shows have been at the Salt Palace Convention Center since 1996, with the exception of the 2002 Winter Market, when Salt Lake City hosted the Winter Olympics.
“Today’s announcement equals a $40 million economic decision for our area,” Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams said. “That’s the amount that the tradeshow pumps into our local economy.”
He noted that a survey of show attendees revealed that more than two-thirds of exhibiting retailers — including specialty retailers — preferred to keep the show in Utah.
“They (specialty retailers) said that the cost of doing business in Salt Lake for exhibiting their brands is favorable in comparison to other locations that they were looking at. That’s a resounding vote of confidence in the Salt Palace Convention Center and our great staff at Visit Salt Lake, as well as everyone here, from the hotel clerks to the restaurant managers to the friendly people in the Salt Lake Valley, to all who work to make the tradeshow participants feel welcome and ensure that they have everything they need to be successful at the convention.”
Brad Petersen, director of the Utah Office of Outdoor Recreation, said OR has had “an extremely successful run” in Salt Lake City. “The Outdoor Retailer show has grown well beyond a successful tradeshow and it’s part of the DNA of the state of Utah,” he said.
Petersen noted that many companies have found Utah to be a perfect place to relocate all or part of their operations after having attended OR shows and that many show attendees return to enjoy recreational activities throughout Utah.
“Salt Lake and the state of Utah have proven to be wonderful hosts to the Outdoor Industry and to Outdoor Retailer over the years,” Marisa Nicholson, vice president and Outdoor Retailer show director, said in a prepared statement. “The community is welcoming, supportive and we feel at home during our two weeks in town.”
But the show will change a bit, including a shift in dates. The 2016 Winter Market already had been moved a bit earlier to better accommodate attendees’ winter sales cycles and move the show away from conflicts with Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the Sundance Film Festival. The Summer Market will move earlier to provide more time between OR and another tradeshow in Las Vegas.
Upcoming Winter Market dates are Jan. 7-10, 2016; Jan. 7-10, 2017; and Jan. 6-9, 2018. The Summer Market dates are Aug. 3-6, 2016; July 26-29, 2017; and July 25-28, 2018.
“Date changes and a pattern change for the winter show required that a lot of work be done to make this extension possible,” said Alan Rindlisbacher, chairman of the Visit Salt Lake board, who noted that local hotels had to move existing conventions to accommodate the new OR dates.
Among elements that threatened to hurt Utah’s chances of retaining OR was Utah’s public lands policies, but in a prepared statement, Amy Roberts, executive director of Outdoor Industry Association, said “we look forward to continuing the dialogue with the state of Utah around public lands issues.”
The need for more space also has been an issue. Having outgrown the Salt Palace, the show has relied on large pavilions to accommodate overflow. First used in 2012, the pavilions were expanded this summer and cost the state, county and city $1.8 million to rent.
Scott Beck, president and chief executive officer of Visit Salt Lake, said a fourth pavilion could be added in 2017, if needed.
As for the long term, OR wants to see a convention center hotel near the Salt Palace. McAdams recently rejected a proposed contract with Omni Hotels & Resorts, based in Dallas, to develop a 750- to 1,000-room hotel, citing Omni’s desire for increased public funding and balking at block room rate adjustments.
Omni last year was the only respondent to a request for proposals (RFP) to build, own and operate the convention hotel, expected to cost $300 million and enable the company to get incentives totaling $75 million related to convention meeting space in the building.
The county will issue a new RFP in coming weeks.
McAdams said such a hotel is needed, not just for OR but for conventions with about 8,000 attendees. Currently, the county loses 30 conventions of that size each year, with convention organizers saying “that’s the only thing that’s missing for Salt Lake to get their business,” McAdams said.
The OR Summer Market attracts about 27,000 manufacturers, retailers and suppliers, while attendance for the Winter Market is about 22,000.