All the players are saving the official news for a press conference with the governor and mayor on Thursday, but it’s clear Denver has landed the coveted Outdoor Retailer trade show.
After nearly 18 months of intensive and harried negotiations, Visit Denver has booked the twice-a-year trade show in the city’s Colorado Convention Center and National Western Complex for five years, starting in January 2018, several sources familiar with the deal confirmed this week. It does not include the Interbike trade show, the continent’s largest bike gathering, said the sources, who asked not to be named.
Outdoor Retailer trade show owner, the publicly traded Emerald Expositions, is sending its top brass to Denver for Thursday’s press conference with Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Luis Benitez, the head of the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office.
No one involved in the negotiations would comment openly on the pending deal, citing the announcement set for Thursday at City Park.
Denver was a leading contender to grab the Outdoor Retailer trade shows, which bring together outdoor gear makers, shop owners and outdoor media in a pair of four-day gatherings that have evolved beyond a business-to-business trade show into bi-annual confabs featuring political discussions, seminars and highlights of emerging trends and issues.
Emerald and its show partner, Boulder’s Outdoor Industry Association, announced earlier this year they were pulling the winter and summer Outdoor Retailer trade shows out of their 21-year home in Salt Lake City, citing Utah political efforts to downsize recent national monument designations, specifically the 1.35 million-acre Bears Ears National Monument created by the Obama Administration in December 2016. Colorado politicians joined the state’s outdoor industry leaders in lobbying Emerald and OIA, citing the state’s robust outdoor economy and appreciation for public lands.
That left Visit Denver with the monumental task of shuffling already booked trade shows in the busy summer months to make room for Outdoor Retailer’s summer and winter shows. In recent years, those shows have drawn a combined 45,000 attendees who contribute an estimated $45 million in a year to the Salt Lake City economy.
Visit Denver typically books large conventions several years out. It was no small feat to negotiate the right dates and rates for a show that needs that much space — it will fill, twice a year, not just the 584,000 square-foot Colorado Convention Center but the evolving National Western Complex as well. The group likely had to move already-booked conventions to make room for Outdoor Retailer.
In May, Emerald announced it was spending $16.7 million for the SnowSports Industries America Snow Show, the largest winter-sports gathering in the country. The Snow Show moved from Las Vegas to Denver n 2011 and was booked in the Colorado Convention Center through 2030. The move by Emerald, which is which is owned by Toronto private equity firm Onex Corp. and in April harvested more than $264 million in an initial public offering, paved the way for Outdoor Retailer to move to Denver. The acquisition will create a combined “Outdoor Retailer Snow Show presented by SIA and OIA” in Denver in January 2018.
The deal calls for a June summer Outdoor Retailer trade show, a smaller specialty retailer show in November with the group Grassroots Alliance and the combined OR-SIA winter show.
But wait. The trumpeted announcement that Outdoor Retailer was bailing on Utah noted that the move would come after the 2018 winter and summer shows in Salt Lake’s sprawling Salt Palace Convention Center. Emerald had a contract with Salt Lake City’s convention bookers through 2018.
Visit Salt Lake reached an agreement with Emerald over an early departure, meaning the July 2017 Summer Outdoor Retailer show would be the final in a 22-year run in Salt Lake City. The city twice expanded its Salt Palace Convention Center to accommodate the growing Outdoor Retailer trade shows.
“I’m sad to see Outdoor Retailer leave our area, but I have no doubt that our future as a convention and meetings destination is bright,” said Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams in a statement released by Visit Salt Lake. “Salt Lake values the outdoor industry and the public lands that provide its recreation foundation. Our environmental record will serve us well as we promote the area to both new and repeat visitors and clients. We will continue to emphasize the value of a vibrant convention and visitor presence to our economy.”
The arrival of Outdoor Retailer buoys Colorado’s growing outdoor industry. Its leaders hope the arrival of the trade show will lure outdoor businesses to the state, just like the shows did for Utah’s Ogden, which has become an outdoor hub in recent years thanks in large part to the presence of Outdoor Retailer.