Outdoor trade show staying in Utah through 2016

AP News
Posted: Jan 22, 2013 6:42 PM

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — One of the world's largest outdoor gear trade shows will remain in Salt Lake City through at least 2016.

Outdoor Retailer, which kicks off its winter expo Wednesday, draws more than 25,000 people to each bi-annual show and pours an estimated $40 million into Utah's economy every year.

Nielsen Expositions, which runs the lucrative shows, announced the decision Tuesday at a ski resort east of Salt Lake City. The shows have been in Utah since 1996 and previously were contracted to stay through 2014.

Organizers had considered moving the convention to other cities such as Denver or Las Vegas. With record numbers of attendees and exhibitors, organizers said they need more convention space and hotel rooms.

Two weeks ago, the state approved a $2.66 million grant to build a 150,000-square-foot exhibition tent near the city's convention center to add space for the show, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.

The 4,000-member-strong Outdoor Industry Association, which sponsors the expo, also threatened to take its business elsewhere if the state didn't change course on environmental issues. At issue is a bill signed by Gov. Gary Herbert in March that demands the federal government relinquish control of public lands in Utah by 2014. The association also opposes Utah's effort to open thousands of dirt paths across public lands to motor vehicles.

In August, the group asked Herbert, an advocate for energy extraction, to signal his commitment to the outdoor industry by January.

Herbert is set to unveil his vision for outdoor recreation Wednesday.

Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams, who joined Nielsen at the Tuesday announcement, said the news is "tremendous" for the Salt Lake area and the state.

The expo also showcases the outdoor opportunities Salt Lake City offers with its proximity to several world-renowned ski resorts and wilderness areas, McAdams said.

"We are synonymous with world-class outdoor recreation, and that's why we're a great fit for this convention," McAdams told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

McAdams said the new exhibition tent was one of a several factors that went into the pitch to persuade the organization to keep the show in Utah.

Kenji Haroutunian, the Nielsen Expositions executive in charge of the shows, said the company is grateful the show will remain in Salt Lake City for the next three years.

"The industry has a collective affection for this town," he said in a statement.

Beyond 2016, the organization is still exploring whether the event will move to another location, Haroutunian said.

"We understand everyone is anxious for a longer-term decision, but making sure the show has a home that fits the needs of the industry is hugely important," he said. "The extension period will help us make sure we get it right."