SALT LAKE CITY — Though organizers of the Outdoor Retailer trade show have made it clear they won't be returning to Salt Lake City in 2018, Salt Lake City officials have submitted an unsolicited bid to host the convention.
The city didn't receive an invitation to bid for the shows this year following retailers' protests over Utah political leaders' call for the newly designated Bears Ears National Monument to be reversed.
City officials said they recognize that the political climate complicates Utah's 20-year relationship with Outdoor Retailer, but they submitted the bid to be prepared in hopes of any political shift.
"We know political winds can change," Scott Beck, Visit Salt Lake president and chief executive officer, said Thursday. "Since we don't control political winds, we know it's in the best interest of (Salt Lake City) to be prepared."
The Visit Salt Lake board, including Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski and Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams, met Monday to review the bid.
Beck declined to discuss the proposal because it was submitted in a competitive bidding process that he said includes at least 20 other cities. But he noted that the bid contains commitments from the Salt Palace Convention Center, the hotel community and other support services involved in conventions.
Outdoor Retailer organizers announced in February they're seeking a "new home" after the Utah Legislature and Gov. Gary Herbert signed a resolution urging President Donald Trump to rescind Bears Ears.
The move was a blow to the Salt Lake City economy. Thousands of Outdoor Retailer attendees spend an average of $1,019 each in the city, according to an assessment by Visit Salt Lake and the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute. Each year, the biannual show injects nearly $50 million into the city's economy.
State lawmakers have shown some interest in wooing the trade show back to Utah's capital city. During the 2017 Legislature, the Executive Appropriations Committee set aside $1 million in subsidies for the show.
Because neither side, so far, has changed its stance regarding Bears Ears, will Salt Lake City's bid even be considered?
"We recognize the potential futility of this bid," Beck acknowledged. "But that's not how we look at it. This is our job — to oftentimes chase windmills. And, you know, sometimes you catch them."
Biskupski's spokesman, Matthew Rojas, said the mayor "strongly supports" Visit Salt Lake's bid to keep the convention in Salt Lake City.
"It's where it should be," Rojas said. "We're grateful to Visit Salt Lake for keeping their eye on the ball and being innovative."
The mayor's administration is "confident" in the bid, he said, adding that "there are plenty of people in the outdoor community and definitely around Salt Lake City and around the country that still view Salt Lake City as the best possible place" for the show.
Outdoor Retailer belongs here. You've got to try. You've got to be in the ring. And that's what we're doing. We're hopeful, and we think they put together a really good proposal.
–Matthew Rojas, spokesman for Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski
"Outdoor Retailer belongs here," Rojas said. "You've got to try. You've got to be in the ring. And that's what we're doing. We're hopeful, and we think they put together a really good proposal."
Outdoor Retailer spokeswoman Kate Lowery declined to comment on whether Salt Lake City's bid would have any effect on the decision to relocate.
"The (bid) process is confidential, and we are not able to comment specifically on submissions or details around the process," Lowery said in an email.
During what could be Outdoor Retailer's last convention in Salt Lake City this summer, organizers are planning a march to the Utah Capitol on July 27 to celebrate public lands and express support for national monuments.
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