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Denver will host the lucrative Outdoor Retailer trade shows starting next year, departing its longtime Salt Lake City home a year early.
Colorado officials and outdoor leaders made the announcement at a news conference Thursday morning in Denver's City Park.
"We chose Denver because of Colorado's longtime commitment to protecting and nurturing public lands," said Marisa Nicholson, Outdoor Retailer show director. "We chose Denver because this is where the industry wants to be."
In Utah, Outdoor Retailer has brought in as many as 40,000 visitors and $45 million in economic stimulus annually. It has been based at the Salt Palace Convention Center, where the venue will host a final Summer Market event later next month.
Facing pressure from several major outdoor company executives, Outdoor Retailer earlier this year said it would end its two-decade run in Utah over concerns about the state's public lands policies, including a push to rescind the Bears Ears National Monument designation.
The prestigious events first came to the city in 1996, steadily expanding to their current size. In 2016, the Summer Market brought in nearly 1,500 exhibitors, overflowing the grounds of the Salt Palace, which has undergone two expansions over the years due Outdoor Retailer's growth.
The events have also been credited with raising Utah's outdoor recreation profile, with numerous outdoor brands now calling the Salt Lake City and Ogden areas home.
In February, the show, owned by publicly-traded Emerald Expositions, put out a request for new host city proposals, initially saying the new contract would start in 2019, when the show's contract with Salt Lake City was up.
But Denver will begin hosting shows starting next year.
In a statement, Visit Salt Lake said it recently reached an agreement with Emerald that allows for Emerald's desire for an early departure. Terms of the agreement were confidential, the statement said.
"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," Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams said in the statement. "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."
In an additional boon for the Mile-High City, Emerald now plans to host three annual trade shows at the Colorado Convention Center, not just two. It is not known how long the Outdoor Retailer contract with Denver lasts; the company only said on its website the deal is "long term."
A massive winter event, called Outdoor Retailer + Snow Show a partnership with trade association SnowSports Industries America, which used to hold its own show is scheduled for January. Next year's Summer Market will occur in July, with an Outdoor Retailer-only Winter Market booked for November.
The projected annual impact of the three Denver shows? Some 85,000 visitors and a $110 million economic impact far outpacing the figures Utah reported in the past.
Several cities submitted bids, including Portland, as well as a last-ditch effort by Salt Lake City, to win the show back. But Denver and Colorado "pushed it hard," Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said at the news conference.
"This was a very difficult process [to attract Outdoor Retailer], but nobody ever backed away," he said, praising the state's support of numerous public land areas.
Hickenlooper and other officials did not mention Utah in their remarks. But plenty of people hinted at the controversy, issuing subtle digs at Colorado's neighbor and its politicians' vocal stance against the Bears Ears designation made last year.
Executives chose Denver because Colorado's residents and policy makers "reflect and understand the sentiment that outdoor recreation and the protection of public lands shouldn't be politically polarizing," said Amy Roberts, executive director of Outdoor Industry Association, a partner of the trade show.
"The entire state of Colorado wins with this announcement," Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said.