The facts are pretty simple.
At 455,000 sq ft, Outdoor Retailer Summer Market is 32nd largest trade show in the country, bringing in about 18,000 people twice a year to a city that houses only 185,000 people. The show is vibrant and crowded to the tune of $40 million in local spending a year, allegedly recession proof, and apparently more fertile than the OctoMom for standup paddleboard companies.
The attendees are, for the most part, generally pleased by SLC as venue because of its small city feel and access to outdoor recreation. And Outdoor Retailer -- or, rather, their parent company at Nielsen -- has signed a contract with Salt Lake City to host the show in Utah through 2014.
But beyond that? The crystal ball is getting fuzzy.
OR director Kenji Haroutunian was strikingly direct in the show's daily newspaper (LINK, p17), serving notice to the Beehive State that a contract beyond 2014 was certainly not a sure thing. "We're pushing the envelope with what Salt Lake City can provide as a venue, as far as hotels, taxis and restaurants," said Kenji in the interview. " Salt Lake City has arguably a tier-one size of a hall, but it is a tier-two or even tier-three size city to accomodate the show."
It's difficult to say whether it's all just saber rattling in advance of budget negotiations, or if the show is indeed placing pressure on SLC to build a publicly financed convention center hotel that can house attendees closer to the event, instead of relegating overflow to rooms at the airport Comfort Inn and beloved oddities like the Carlton.
Of course, as SLC and OR head to the bargaining table, the additional spice of politics is poised to flavor those talks as well.
Too much pepper? You be the judge.
OIA director Frank Hugelmeyer took a few body shots at Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) earlier in the summer for trying to claim extractive rights on Utah's national parks and monuments, and for shutting down historic stream access to fishing and paddling. Franks' June 6 editorial ("Herbert, Utah leaders betraying recreation industry") contained this gem:
"The governor has made it clear that extractive industries are a critical economic industry in Utah. However, tourists do not fly to Utah from all over the world to visit the American equivalent of the Saudi Arabia oil fields. They come to Utah to ski, hike, camp, paddle, hunt and fish in pristine and inviting waters and landscapes. And while they play, they fill hotels, lodges, restaurants and souvenir shops."
Utah is also ground zero for the Tim DeChristopher saga ... the emerging national story of an environmental advocate who was sentenced last month to two years in prison for a peaceful but disruptive protest.
And apparently people are taking notice of that as well.