Mas­sive trade shows com­ing to Den­ver

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Ja­son Blevins

Den­ver will host the pres­ti­gious Out­door Re­tailer gath­er­ings for the next five years, in­dus­try and elected of­fi­cials an­nounced Thurs­day, with a trio of shows draw­ing up­ward of 85,000 people a year, de­liv­er­ing the city a $110 mil­lion eco­nomic im­pact.

“If you look at what this means, that’s a huge ben­e­fit, but that’s not what de­serves to be men­tioned,” Gov. John Hick­en­looper said in an­nounc­ing the much-an­tic­i­pated deal dur­ing a news con­fer­ence in Den­ver’s City Park. “State parks, wildlife ar­eas. All this stuff comes as an ac­cu­mu­la­tive at­trac­tion. It is part of the defin­ing char­ac­ter­is­tic of Colorado.”

Of­fi­cials said the deal is big­ger than the num­bers, which are huge.

It rep­re­sents a dawn­ing for a gal­va­nized, en­er­gized recre­ation com­mu­nity that will grow from Colorado, fo­ment­ing po­lit­i­cal, so­cial and cul­tural sup­port for pub­lic lands, en­vi­ron­men­tal health and the out­door recre­ation in­dus­try.

Den­ver’s hard-won ne­go­ti­a­tions to land the Out­door Re­tailer ral­lies—a com­bined Out­door Re­tailer Sports In­dus­tries Amer­ica Snow Snow in Jan­uary, a sum­mer show in June and a win­ter show in Novem­ber — are a tip­ping point for Colorado’s surg­ing out­door recre­ation in­dus­try, a wide com­mu­nity that blends all types of out­door play­ers in an econ­omy that stirs $28 bil­lion in spend­ing in the state.

“Colorado and Den­ver have al­ways looked at this as more than a trade event or how it de­liv­ers a one­time bump in the city’s econ­omy,” said Kim Miller, the chief of Boul­der’s SCARPA North Amer­ica who serves on both the Snow Sports In­dus­tries Amer­ica and Out­door In­dus­try As­so­ci­a­tion boards, the groups that joined with Out­door Re­tailer trade show owner Emer­ald Ex­po­si­tions to cre­ate a com­bined win­ter trade show. “This was, on the high­est level, an align­ment of val­ues and vi­sions and char­ac­ter­is­tics rel­a­tive to the way the out­door recre­ation in­dus­try wants to be and the way the state wants to be. To me, this is the def­i­ni­tion of a true part­ner­ship. This was the mo­ment for Colorado and it all tipped, in my opin­ion, to­ward the log­i­cal con­clu­sion that these shows be­long here.”

In 18 months, lead­ers from Colorado, Den­ver, OIA, SIA and Emer­ald — the largest busi­ness-to- busi­ness trade show op­er­a­tor in North Amer­ica — ham­mered out a deal that typ­i­cally takes sev­eral years. The agree­ment will put the Out­door Re­tailer sum­mer and win­ter trade shows in the Colorado Con­ven­tion Cen­ter for the next five years, con­sol­i­dat­ing SIA’s Snow Show — which was booked in Den­ver through 2030 — with the Out­door Re­tailer Win­ter Mar­ket show into a sin­gle gath­er­ing in Jan­uary. The sum­mer show shifts from its typ­i­cal early Au­gust date to June and a new Out­door Re­tailer win­ter mar­ket fo­cused on soft goods moves to Novem­ber.

Den­ver bested sev­eral other cities vy­ing for the cov­eted Out­door Re­tailer trade shows, which an­nounced they were leav­ing Salt Lake City this year.

Marisa Ni­chol­son, Emer­ald Ex­po­si­tion’s di­rec­tor of the Out­door Re­tailer shows, said “a tremen­dous amount of cities” vied to host the events.

“Ul­ti­mately when de­cid­ing on our fi­nal venue, the ethos of Colorado just aligned re­ally well with our in­dus­try and its vi­sion and val­ues,” she said.

The di­vorce from Salt Lake City, where the shows had been for more than 20 years, was ugly. The ma­tur­ing out­door in­dus­try was un­happy with Utah of­fi­cials lob­by­ing to re­duce the size of the re­cently des­ig­nated Bears Ears Na­tional Mon­u­ment, which the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is re­view­ing with the no­tion of down­siz­ing the 1.35 mil­lion-acre mon­u­ment. When Utah of­fi­cials re­fused to back off their push, the in­dus­try gal­va­nized and be­gan search­ing for a new home.

Colorado was one of the first states to of­fer it­self as a host for the sum­mer and win­ter shows.

But sum­mer is the busy sea­son at the Colorado Con­ven­tion Cen­ter and carv­ing a hole in a metic­u­lously as­sem­bled cal­en­dar was a chal­lenge, es­pe­cially for con­ven­tion book­ers who be­gin ne­go­ti­at­ing with large groups sev­eral years out. Visit Den­ver has groups booked in the con­ven­tion cen­ter into 2031.

Amy Roberts, the head of OIA, which part­ners with pub­licly traded Emer­ald to host the Out­door Re­tailer trade shows, said Den­ver stood out among the po­ten­tial hosts. It’s in­ter­na­tional air­port and train to down­town, wide ar­ray of ho­tels and restau­rants and large con­ven­tion cen­ter were key.

But the state’s lead­er­ship when it comes to out­door recre­ation was equally im­por­tant, Roberts said.

Hick­en­looper’s em­brace of out­door recre­ation — like his cel­e­bra­tion of pub­lic lands, his plan for a statewide bike path and the cre­ation of an out­door recre­ation of­fice — was a de­cid­ing fac­tor as well, Roberts said. So were Den­ver’s blos­som­ing recre­ation ameni­ties such as the new Colorado Clas­sic bike race, re­vamped white­wa­ter park and myr­iad trails.

“I think you will see Den­ver and Colorado push­ing us on the in­no­va­tion side, which we are re­ally look­ing for­ward to. I think the in­dus­try, by its na­ture, is in­no­va­tive and I think our sus­tain­abil­ity work shows we are able to bring to­gether col­lab­o­ra­tion on big is­sues that are im­por­tant to the out­door in­dus­try,” Roberts said. “I think Colorado will be a part­ner in driv­ing the change we are look­ing for.”

Shift­ing the dates of the show has a busi­ness ap­peal for re­tail­ers and man­u­fac­tur­ers deal­ing with in­creas­ingly shorter or­der­ing and man­u­fac­tur­ing cy­cles. Those early dates for shop own­ers plac­ing their or­ders and man­u­fac­tur­ers ar­rang­ing with over­seas fac­to­ries have led to fewer ac­tual busi­ness trans­ac­tions at out­door trade shows in re­cent years. Mov­ing the sum­mer show from Au­gust to June, host­ing a win­ter event in Novem­ber and com­bin­ing the of­ten-com­pet­ing SIA Snow Show and Out­door Re­tailer win­ter show into a sin­gle rally will help both re­tail­ers and man­u­fac­tur­ers, Roberts said.

“It just makes sense for the in­dus­try,” she said. “I think a new city is go­ing to breathe new life into the shows and mov­ing to these new dates are go­ing to change the pur­pose of the show. I think the lo­ca­tion will be well re­ceived and the over­all re­turn on in­vest­ment on the trade show will go up.”

The hope all along has been that the Out­door Re­tailer trade show would el­e­vate Colorado to the epi­cen­ter of all things out­door recre­ation. The state al­ready owns ski­ing, with its 26 re­sorts draw­ing more than a fifth of the coun­try’s skier vis­its. Its rivers are among the most rafted in the coun­try. Its net­work of bike trails is a na­tional leader. With Out­door Re­tailer, Colorado can take the next step from host­ing recre­ation, to ad­vo­cat­ing for recre­ation as a cul­tural, so­cial and eco­nomic force for good.

“We rec­og­nize the value of the out­door recre­ation in­dus­try not just for the econ­omy but also as a plat­form for con­ser­va­tion, stew­ard­ship, eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, health and well­ness,” said Luis Ben­itez, the head of the Colorado Out­door Recre­ation In­dus­try Of­fice. “This will be­come our po­lit­i­cal bully pul­pit and we will do ev­ery­thing in our power to cap­i­tal­ize off this op­por­tu­nity and part­ner­ship.”

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