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Nielsen Expositions, which brings Utah's largest convention to Salt Lake City twice a year with an estimated economic impact of more than $40 million annually, announced Tuesday the Outdoor Retailer Summer and Winter Market trade shows are staying through at least 2016.
State and local economic officials had worried Nielsen, which owns the OR trade shows, might move elsewhere after its current contract ends in 2014 because it has outgrown the Calvin L. Rampton Salt Palace Convention Center with its 670,000 square feet of exhibitor and meeting space.
In an attempt to get the group to stay, state and local economic development officials announced this month they would provide free to the trade show at a cost of $2.66 million a 150,000-square-foot tent for additional exhibitor space.
Additionally, the state's creation of an Outdoor Recreation Vision plan, which is being unveiled Wednesday by the governor's office, has been seen by many as another inducement to get the OR shows to stay in Utah.
"This is great news for Utah's economy and further evidence that Utah IS the premier place for outdoor recreation," Gov. Gary Herbert said in a statement. "I applaud the diligence of all stake holders who worked hard to accommodate the trade show's needs. It's part of our community and we are earnest in our desire to keep the show in Utah beyond 2016, even permanently."
The Outdoor Retailer Summer Market and its Winter Market brought some 45,000 buyers and sellers to the state last year, according to the Governor's Office of Economic Development.
This year's Winter Market, which begins Wednesday and runs through Saturday, is projected to bring more than 20,000 manufacturers, retailers and suppliers, generating an estimated $18.5 million in total visitor spending, according to a news release.
The announcement that the Outdoor Retailer contract had been extended through 2016 was made by Kenji Haroutunian, Nielsen Expo Outdoor Group vice president and OR show director, at Solitude during a demo day for new winter gear.
"There is a special love for the Wasatch, the Salt Lake Valley and the show remaining here. People love the show and we will continue to make it work here through 2016," he said.
Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams hailed the trade group's decision to stay.
"Our hospitality and convention facilities located right next to the greatest snow on earth make Salt Lake County the place, we believe, for Nielsen Expositions and the Outdoor Retailers," McAdams said. "I'm very pleased that the county, the city and the state will continue to reap the economic benefits that come with hosting this prestigious trade show. ... The future looks bright for everyone involved."
Scott Beck, president and CEO of Visit Salt Lake, was equally happy.
"We couldn't be more thrilled with Nielsen's announcement," he said. "As host city of the OR shows since 1996, we genuinely feel our community's service-first mentality and our unparalleled access to this industry's proving grounds, the great outdoors, make Salt Lake the obvious choice for the OR shows."
Although some prior contracts had been for five years, Beck said the current two-year agreement is more of an industry standard today.
Yet in 2016, when the contract with Salt Palace expires, Denver could be a greater rival in landing the trade shows.
Denver's convention center, with 584,000 square feet of contiguous exhibit space, is greater than that of Salt Lake City's 510,000 square feet of "somewhat fragmented" exhibitor area according to the Outdoor Industry Association's assessment last year.
Haroutunian said exhibitors don't like getting stuck in meeting space instead of exhibit space. "We are already using every meeting room and nobody wants to be in a meeting room," he said.
And one of Denver's disadvantages the 25-mile distance from the airport to the convention center will be solved when train service there is scheduled to be completed in 2016.
Both Denver and Las Vegas were considered serious contenders to Salt Lake City. Other proposed cities were Anaheim, Calif., and Orlando, Fla.
Discussions about longer-term solutions beyond 2016 are still ongoing with Salt Lake and other potential host cities, Haroutunian said in a statement.
"We understand everyone is anxious for a longer-term decision, but making sure the show has a home that fits the needs of the industry is hugely important," he said. "The extension period will help us make sure we get it right."
Spencer Eccles, executive director of the Governor's Office of Economic Development, said Utah was able to seal the deal because of collaboration among the state, county and city.
"The outdoor recreation sector is important and unique," he said. "And in many ways it defines Utah. It's people enjoying the outdoors."
The outdoor recreation industry contributes $5.8 billion annually to Utah's economy, supports 65,000 jobs, generates nearly $300 million annually in state tax revenues and produces nearly $4 billion annually in retail sales and services, accounting for almost 5 percent of Utah's gross state product.
Haroutunian said the OR shows are still hoping for a new Salt Lake City hotel to house the growing number of its convention participants and more exhibit space.
"It has been difficult to not have the space we need. We are already sacrificing by telling companies they can't expand their booth space," he said. "Some of these issues are starting to push people away from Salt Lake.
Still, standing on the snow of Solitude, Haroutunian called Salt Lake City and the Wasatch Mountains "an amazing resource unmatched anywhere in the country. There is no convention center in a city that big right next to the mountains, trails, rivers lakes and resources like this. This is arguable the best snow in the world.
"That access to those places is what people in this industry love. People say can't you just do a trade show in a building and have it in Las Vegas or Orlando. No, because that is not all that this show is about."
Dawn House contributed to this report.
Outdoor Retailer shows
The Winter and Summer trade shows bring in:
$40 million • Economic activity in Salt Lake County
$923 • Average spending for each attendee
20,000 • Winter show attendees
24,000 • Summer show attendees
Source: Nielsen Expositions, University of Utah's Bureau of Economic and Business Research Utah's Outdoor Recreation Vision
For coverage of the 10 a.m. Wednesday unveiling of Utah's Outdoor Recreation Vision plan by Gov. Gary Herbert, go to sltrib.com.