Show director Kenji Haroutunian, who tried out one of the paddleboards at the Open Air Demo to promote protecting recreational flows on the Colorado River, called the layout for the not-open-to-the-public trade show the best in its history. Manufacturers come to the show to display the latest outdoor recreation gear to retailers from around the United States and the world who come to order for the next season.
He said it's a near miracle that all of the manufacturers managed to fit into the convention center as well as three huge tents constructed in a parking lot on North Temple across from the convention center.
Haroutunian said that unlike the past five years when the show experienced huge growth, attendance this year is flat. Part of this is by design as organizers used stricter admittance rules to make certain that only those doing business can attend.
A few special events are open to the public. Haroutunian said a Psicobloc Masters Series climbing competition, for example, is set at the Olympic Park near Park City Friday at 7 p.m. as well as community programs designed to raise money to set aside recreational lands along the Wasatch Front.
Convention officials say the Summer Market will generate more than $23 million in direct delegate spending to Salt Lake City and the state before it ends. The Outdoor Retailer Summer and Winter Markets came to Salt Lake City in 1996 and have accounted for nearly $41.5 million in city, county and state taxes.
Money figures are based on surveys of convention delegates conducted by the University of Utah's Bureau of Economic and Business Research, which indicate the average delegate spends $923 while attending a convention in Salt Lake City.
"It's great to have the Outdoor Retailer show and all those who attend twice a year," said Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams. "The $23 million in direct delegate spending is a shot in the arm for our economy but as important is the chance to showcase our business-friendly community. We know that the exposure Salt Lake County and the state of Utah receives from the event is invaluable."
Outdoor recreation contributes $12 billion annually to Utah's economy and supports 122,400 jobs while generating $856 million in annual state and local tax revenues, according to officials.
Conservation groups such as Protect the Flows, a group promoting recreational use of the Colorado River, also use the annual Outdoor Retailer events to get out their message.
Crack Mackey, co-director of the organization, was urging attendees to send Department of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell tweets touting the $26 billion in recreation money Mackey said the Colorado River generates. Those who did so were eligible to win a paddleboard.
The Colorado-based group, which has enlisted about 900 companies involved in outdoor recreation, is touting conservation as a way to help preserve river-based recreation.