- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 5, 2015

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Organizers of a lucrative biannual outdoor retailer show that has been in Salt Lake City for nearly two decades said Wednesday they are getting close to making a decision about whether the expo will stay beyond 2016.

Outdoor Retailer Show spokeswoman Kate Lowery said the organization expects to announce plans within the next month regarding the future of the event, which has grown so much it struggles to find enough hotel rooms and convention center space in Salt Lake City.

The next two shows, in the winter and summer of next year, will be in Utah. But the business-to-business expo has made no commitment beyond those dates. The shows bring an estimated $45 million in annual economic impact for Utah.

Lowery said organizers are “dotting I’s and crossing T’s,” so they can make an announcement. That’s the same way Scott Beck, president of Visit Salt Lake, characterized negotiations he said are daily and ongoing between the two sides.

Beck said they are working to accommodate different dates the organization wants for future shows. Making that happen means shifting and juggling other conventions, he said.

The next winter show in January, for instance, was moved up two weeks to better suit the outdoor industry’s cycles of production and distribution, and to avoid any overlap with the Sundance Film Festival. That frees up more hotel rooms and rental cars, Beck said.

Outdoor Retailer officials have said they would love to stay in Utah but have expressed concerns about a shortage of hotel rooms and convention center space. About 27,000 people are expected over four days at the summer expo. When it first came to Salt Lake City in 1996, only 5,000 people attended.

In a possible remedy, Salt Lake County has been negotiating since October with Omni Hotels & Resorts over plans for a $300 million hotel near the convention center that would include up to 1,000 rooms and additional convention meeting space.

Once the county endorses a hotel proposal, the developer can apply for up to $75 million in state tax credits.

Omni, the only developer to submit a bid for the project, and county officials have been tight-lipped about their talks.

Alyson Heyrend, a spokeswoman for Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams, said Wednesday the county plans to make an announcement about the hotel project next week. But she would not say if it would be news of an endorsement.

Charlie Muller, an acquisitions and development consultant with Omni, said in a statement the company remains interested in the project and will have more information to share once the county makes further decisions.

Construction for the project is expected to take about two years.

“We’re hopeful everything comes through, because it obviously benefits us,” Lowery said.

Beck said his organization has been advocating for the new hotel and convention center for years. Besides being vital for the Outdoor Retailer Show, Salt Lake City’s largest yearly convention, it would put the city in the market for dozens of other conventions.

Brad Peterson, director of the Utah Governor’s Office of Outdoor Recreation, said he’s confident in Salt Lake City’s prospects as the future home for the show. He said the city and state have a good relationship with the outdoor industry, and typically businesses don’t relocate if things are going well.

He noted negotiations have been ongoing since the show’s last contract renewal in 2013 and are not hung up on any public announcement about progress on a convention hotel.

Peterson said available hotel space is just one factor that the show’s organizers have considered. Salt Lake City’s public transportation, proximity to ski resorts, climbing areas and lakes also play a huge role, he said.

That’s one of the reasons that Kip Gerenda of San Francisco prefers the show being in Utah rather than in a city with more hotels and convention center space like Las Vegas.

“It’s hard to replicate the proximity to the outdoors with the convention center,” said Gerenda, in town for this week’s show with Mountain Hardwear.


This story has been corrected to show the Outdoor Retailer Show has been in Salt Lake City for nearly two decades, not one decade.

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