At least partly due to industry concerns over Utah’s land policies, Outdoor Retailer will be soliciting proposals for venue locations for shows and events scheduled for November 2018 and beyond.

“Our industry has had concerns about land management policies in Utah and the positions of elected officials there as well as some of the actions that have been taken there over the last six months and really over the past two years around selling off public land that threatens the value of those lands,” said Amy Roberts, executive director of the OIA, in an interview with SGB.

A related concern, she said, was Utah officials “generally not recognizing the economic contribution of outdoor recreation in a way we would hope.”

But she also said a key factor remains the primary goal of “just finding a trade show location that works from an economic standpoint” in addition to a variety of other factors affecting vendors, buyers, media and other attendees.

The move comes after Patagonia Founder Yvon Chouinard and Black Diamond Founder Peter Metcalf each in mid-January separately penned letters to Utah’s legislators, including Gov. Gary Herbert, to back off plans for the state to take control of federal public lands, and in some cases lease portions of those lands to drilling and mining companies. If Utah moves forward nonetheless, then the outdoor industry should use its economic clout of the semi-annual Outdoor Retailer Winter and Summer Market trade shows in Salt Lake City to move the events out of the state, Chouinard and Metcalf argued.

Chouinard, who still owns Patagonia, went as far as to say that the company would leave the show if necessary. “We love Utah, but Patagonia’s choice to return for future shows will depend on the Governor’s actions.”

Last week,  John Hickenlooper, the governor of Colorado, told the Denver Post he’d be open to working with the organizers of the Outdoor Retailer show about bringing the semi-annual trade show to Denver.

The decision to solicit new venues for the show shakes up the calendar for 2018. OR Winter Market will now stay in January for 2018 and the Summer Market will remain in late July per the old schedule.  The plan is to still achieve the same synchronicity of events with the plans to co-locate with Grassroots Connect event for both June and November in 2018.

Also on the call, Darrell Denny, EVP for Emerald Expositions’ Sports Group, the owner of the show, described the November show as “to be determined” going forward, noting that the dates will have to be coordinated with the different cities being explored. Said Denny, “We’re still in the ‘We won’t know what we don’t know’ category so we have to determine what availability exists.”

Denny also echoed Roberts’ sentiments in noting that a wide range of factors come into play when selecting a venue. Criteria include facilities, hotels, transportation and labor costs as well as environmental policies and the degree to which host states are in sync with outdoor industry values.

“This decision allows us to explore new venues while taking all of these factors into account,” said Denny in a statement. “That said, Salt Lake City has been a welcoming and beneficial host to Outdoor Retailer for many years and will be among candidates to continue to be the host city.”

“Outdoor Retailer has always been about ‘Right time, right place, right stuff,'” Marisa Nicholson, show director for Outdoor Retailer said in the statement. “We’ve been listening to the concerns from the industry and agree that it’s time to explore our options. Salt Lake City has been an incredible home to Outdoor Retailer and the outdoor community for the past 20 years, and we aren’t opposed to staying, but we need to do what’s best for the industry and for the business of outdoor retail.”

In 2015, Emerald Expositions announced plans to stay at the Salt Palace through 2018. At the time, the decision to extend came after a survey of more than 6,000 of its attendees and exhibitors showed the majority overwhelmingly favoring staying in Salt Lake City. The OR show reportedly brings in an estimated $40 million in direct economic impact to Utah each year.

Denny on the call said a “select number” of cities will be explored. The organizers won’t be naming other prospective cities after learning that it “doesn’t help to get into that level of detail” as this point in the process.

Emerald Exposition expects to complete the RFP (request for proposal) process for prospective cities within 60 days. The RFP will include dates and locations for Grassroots Connect and retailer specialty education days. The organizers will then meet with the show’s partners, OIA and Grassroots Outdoor Alliance, to come to a decision.

“Grassroots Outdoor Alliance, in partnership with OIA and Outdoor Retailer, is committed to ensuring the best possible tradeshow cycle and experience for our retailers and vendor partners,” said Rich Hill, president of Grassroots Outdoor Alliance. “We feel the announcement today will ensure that we’ll choose the best location to host a co-located Grassroots Connect and Outdoor Retailer. Our 62 independent specialty retailers look forward to being in a location that from a business, cultural, and values standpoint, best serves our industry.”

“OIA encouraged and supports Outdoor Retailer’s decision to explore a range of host cities for the gathering of our community,” said Roberts in the statement. “The appropriate location of Outdoor Retailer should be determined by factors ranging from business economics for vendors and attendees to a location that upholds our industry’s core values around the importance of America’s public lands system.  We will continue to educate policymakers on the economic contribution of our industry as well as our support of preserving places to recreate.”

Photo courtesy Outdoor Retailer