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SALT LAKE CITY — The state's largest convention will continue its nearly 20-year run in Utah for at least a few more years.
Emerald Expositions, organizers of the annual Outdoor Retailer winter and summer markets, agreed to extend its contract with Salt Lake City through 2018, Salt Lake County, the Governor's Office of Economic Development and Visit Salt Lake announced Monday.
The markets comprise the two largest annual conventions in the state, with each multi-day event attracting more than 20,000 delegates and generating millions of dollars in direct spending for Salt Lake City and Utah. An overwhelming majority of the more than 6,000 specialty retailers, attendees and exhibitors polled about the shows' future location indicated that their preference is to remain in Salt Lake City, according to Emerald Expositions.
The majority of the responses came from specialty retailers, which show organizers consider being the most critical indicator, a news release states. The cost of doing business in Salt Lake City for exhibiting brands is favorable compared to other locations that were considered, and is one of the key reasons exhibitors also favored Salt Lake City as the preferred location for the shows.
"Salt Lake has proven to be a wonderful host to the outdoor industry and to Outdoor Retailer over the years," said Marisa Nicholson, vice president and Outdoor Retailer show director. "The community is welcoming, supportive and we feel at home during our two weeks in town."
Civic leaders said the agreement is expected to have a significant effect on the local and state economies.
"We're excited that our partnership with Outdoor Retailer will continue and we're pleased that so many participants prefer Salt Lake County as the location for the trade shows," said Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams. "It represents about a $40 million economic impact to our region."
He said those dollars help to create jobs and ease the tax burden paid by local residents. With the new agreement in place, McAdams said, the next order of business will be to find a developer for a new convention center hotel, which supporters say is sorely needed.
"Soon we will be 'on the street' with a new bid request for a headquarters hotel, including public meeting space as well as room accommodations adjacent to the Salt Palace," he said. The next several weeks will be spent searching for a suitable development plan, he added, with an aim toward negotiating an agreement by the first quarter of next year.
Salt Lake County officials announced earlier this month that they had withdrawn from a preliminary plan with Omni to develop a convention headquarters hotel due to both sides' inability to finalize economic terms that were mutually "suitable." But McAdams said he is confident another developer can be located in relatively short order.
"I strongly believe in this private hotel development and its economic value to the state," McAdams stated previously. "We just need to find a hotel developer that understands what an opportunity this is and wants to negotiate a fair deal."
Scott Beck, president of Visit Salt Lake, said developing a 700-room to 1,000-room hotel is critical to the long-range viability of Salt Lake City's convention economy.
"The future of our success as a convention destination (hinges on it)," he said. "The convention hotel is not for Outdoor Retailer. We've lost 32 conventions in the last 12 months that have chosen not to come to Salt Lake because we did not have adequate, convention quality hotel rooms."
He noted that having a large headquarters hotel adjacent to the Salt Palace Convention Center would help keep the city on par or higher than many nearby location, strengthening its long-term economic prospects.
McAdams said the search for a new developer is among the county's top priorities going forward. Meanwhile, state officials are also touting the newly signed extension for the Outdoor Retailer shows.
Brad Petersen, director of the Utah Office of Outdoor Recreation, said that after 20 years, residents, local business owners and elected officials feel a deep sense of responsibility to deliver the show experience that the retail buyers, exhibitors, the Outdoor Industry Association and Emerald Expositions have come to expect.
"The winter and summer markets are at home in Utah," he said. "Those experiences are rooted in Utah's unique and accessible recreational assets. Together we have developed a trusting and collaborative relationship that fosters a long-term commitment to the shows' continued success. The state of Utah and Salt Lake are excited about the future of the shows."
Outdoor Retailer dates
Winter Market: Jan. 7-10, 2016; Jan. 7-10, 2017; Jan. 6-9, 2018
Summer Market: Aug. 3-6, 2016; July 26-29, 2017; July 25-28, 2018