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Rotary International will stage its 2007 convention in Salt Lake City because Hurricane Katrina destroyed much of New Orleans in August and scrambled the lives of hundreds of Louisiana Rotary members involved in planning the event.

The convention promises to be one of the largest such events ever to come to Salt Lake, Steve Lundgren, general manager of the Salt Lake City Marriott Downtown hotel and part of the executive committee of the Salt Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau, said Tuesday.

The worldwide organization was planning to conduct a convention in Salt Lake in 2011, but decided to swap dates with New Orleans to give that city time to rebuild its convention industry, said Eugene Banks, committee chairman for the 2007 convention.

The gathering is expected to attract 25,000 members and their families to Salt Lake from 166 countries, said Banks, who compared it to a "mini-United Nations conference because of the view of the world it offers."

Utah Rotarians had wanted Salt Lake to be the site of the convention in 2011 because it would occur simultaneously with the 100th anniversary of the local club.

But after weighing the scope of devastation in New Orleans, Salt Lake Rotarians decided "if we can be of service, we'd be happy to host it in 2007," Banks said. As many as 2,000 local members will take part in the planning.

Banks said the change wasn't easy to accept but needed to be made for the benefit of the entire 1.2 million member organization. It will give New Orleans members time to rebuild their lives and businesses before taking on the task of planning and playing host to the convention, he said.

The Visitor Bureau's Lundgren said the University of Utah's Bureau of Business and Economic Research estimates that each conventioneer will spend $1,000 during the convention, which will be staged at the Salt Palace Convention Center in downtown Salt Lake from June 17 to June 20. Afterward, they probably will fan out across Utah, visiting the state's national parks and monuments, he said.

The only bigger event to come to Salt Lake has been the 2002 Winter Olympics, Lundgren said. Last June, the U.S. Volleyball Association brought 25,000 members to the city for its convention.

Local Rotary members had tried to win a convention for the city, but were unsuccessful until Salt Lake County officials announced in August 2004 that the Salt Palace would be expanded as a commitment to the Outdoor Industry Association in exchange for 10 Outdoor Retailer conventions over the next five years.

The $58 million expansion is expected to be finished by next August, a year ahead of the Rotary gathering.

Here are the biggest conventions in Salt Lake City during the past eight years:

* U.S. Volleyball Association, June 2005, 25,000 attendees

* Outdoor Retailer conventions, 1998-2004, number of attendees has ranged from 12,540 to 18,312

* International Association of Police Chiefs, October 1998, 14,000

* Distributive Education Clubs of America, April 2002, 13,136

* United Pentecostal Church International, September 2004, 12,500

* Southern Baptist convention, June 1998, 12,000

* Nu Skin International, September 2002, 11,411

* American Society for Microbiology, May 2002, 10,494

* Veterans of Foreign Wars, August 2005, 10,300

Salt Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

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