SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The lucrative Outdoor Retailer show is again considering moving from Salt Lake City amid renewed concerns from attendees about state leaders' continued push for more control of public lands.
Show organizers announced Monday they will request proposals from other cities to host shows starting as early as November 2018 after its current contract runs out that summer in Utah.
The show will be shifting then to a new format of three expos a year — a change from the current schedule of two a year, said Darrell Denny, executive vice president of Emerald Expositions, which runs the show.
The organization has hosted two shows a year in Utah every year since 1996, except for 2002 during the Winter Olympics. The shows bring Utah an estimated $45 million in annual direct spending.
This is not the first time the show has considered moving. In 2015, show organizers considered Las Vegas, Chicago and other cities before signing a new two-year contract to stay in Utah. This time, however, the bid process will cast a wider net, Denny said.
The announcement comes after two powerful outdoor recreation industry executives last month called for the show to move out of Utah because of the state's top political leaders push to control federal public lands and their harsh criticism of the new Bears Ears National Monument on sacred tribal lands in southeastern Utah.
Black Diamond Equipment founder Peter Metcalf said keeping the show in Utah makes the industry complicit in supporting what he calls "an assault on public lands" that doesn't align with its values. Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard said state leaders have created a "hostile environment that puts our industry at risk."
Gov. Gary Herbert refuted the notion and said officials have demonstrated a commitment to protect and promoting Utah's scenic beauty.
Denny acknowledged that increased concerns from Metcalf, Chouinard and other in the industry were one factor, but not the only one, in the decision to open up for bids.
"There has been some concern that from a legislative perspective there is a gap that exists between some fundamental perspectives on public lands that primary characterize those people in the outdoor industry," Denny said.
Patagonia spokeswoman Corley Kenna said Monday the company will no longer come to any shows in Utah after seeing Herbert sign a resolution Friday from the Legislature calling on President Donald Trump to repeal the newly named Bears Ears National Monument.
Denny said the move to a new schedule, spurred by changing calendars in the industry, offers a good time to step back and consider all options. He said they have decided to contact some cities for proposals, but he declined to name them. He expects to start analyzing bids within two months, but he said there's no hard timeline for a decision.
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper recently said his state would be a good fit for the show and a better place for expos involving the outdoors industry, the Denver Post reported. The Snowsports Industries America annual Snow Show recently extended its contract to stay in Denver through 2030.
Utah officials expressed confidence the Salt Lake City bid will persuade the show to stay.
"There's more a lot more support for public lands even though there's some high-profile controversy right now," said Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams said.
He said negotiations between county officials and a real estate developer to build a convention hotel that would provide the city with much-needed lodging are headed in the right direction, but not done yet. If they strike a deal, the developer could get at least $75 million in tax credits.
The lack of rooms has previously been a concern for the show, and Denny said they would love to see that deal get done. But Denny said that's not the only factor in determining whether the show stays in Utah.
Scott Beck, president and CEO of Visit Salt Lake, said it's normal for major conventions to seek other bids. He said the city's proximity to the mountains and outdoor activities is just one of the benefits officials will highlight in the bid.
"This is not the first time we come up against a political issue," Beck said.
Denny stressed that Salt Lake City will get a fair shot at keeping the show, highlighting how the show gets billing and a warm welcome.
"They've been really good partners," Denny said. "They've got a lot of experience with outdoor retailer so that gives them a little bit of a head start in terms of understanding our community and our unique needs."