Denver has competition for Outdoor Retailer trade show host duties in 2023 and beyond

When outdoor industry mega trade show Outdoor Retailer announced in 2017 that it was bringing its events to Denver after more than two decades in Utah it was viewed as an economic coup for Colorado.

The (at the time) three-show slate was estimated to generate an annual economic impact of $110 million.

Now, with Outdoor Retailer’s five-year contract at the Colorado Convention Center set to expire after 2022, organizers have sent out a survey to attendees asking if Denver is meeting their needs or if they would prefer the summer and winter shows be held somewhere else.

The survey lists Denver and five competing would-be host cities: Anaheim, Calif., Houston, Las Vegas, Orlando, Fla., and previous host of more than 20 years, Salt Lake City. Recipients are asked to rank the cities in order of preference one through six for the summer show. There is a separate question listing the same six cities for the winter show.

The two shows can be held in different cities, organizers stress in the survey. Respondents are advised to consider hotel and labor costs.

“It’s pretty standard procedure for us,” show director Marisa Nicholson said, noting similar surveys were sent out when the shows were in Utah in 2015 and 2017. “We’re not looking to be disruptive. We’re looking to make sure that the event supports our customers.”

But the results will have a major bearing on Outdoor Retailer operator Emerald Exposition’s decision on where to go next.

“The input is critical. We’re here to serve our customers. So we’ll look to their input to ultimately drive the decision,” Nicholson said.

The online questionnaire was sent out this week, hitting the inboxes of 50,000 or so people that attended Outdoor Retailer events in Denver over the past three years, Nicholson said. It will circulate for another week before show organizers analyze the results. It also asks what time of year attendees prefer for the two shows and how many days the shows need to last for them to accomplish their goals, among other questions.

The prospect of new locations caught the attention of Patricia Cameron, founder and executive director of Blackpackers, a Colorado nonprofit pushing for more economic equity in outdoor recreation, especially more opportunities for the BIPOC, or Black, Indigenous and People of Color, community.

Cameron, who has previously written about Outdoor Retailer for The Denver Post, was forwarded the survey through the Pikes Peak Outdoor Recreation Alliance, which she is part of in Colorado Springs, she said.

“There is a reason the (Major League Baseball) All-Star Game relocated here,” Cameron said. “It’s just really equitable and accessible for so many people and so diverse as well.”

Cameron did not fill out the survey but said she intends to email organizers to express her feelings.

The survey was sent out now because Outdoor Retailer wants to give attendees 18 months’ notice ahead of its first show in 2023, Nicholson said.

The summer 2020 show was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic and this year’s winter show was moved to an online event. Outdoor Retailer will return to the Colorado Convention Center for a delayed summer show Aug. 10-12. Its 2022 winter show will be held Jan. 26-28.

Officials with Visit Denver, the nonprofit tourism organization that books events at the convention center, declined to comment on the survey before the results are known. President and CEO Richard Scharf did say Visit Denver is looking forward to future Outdoor Retailer events at the venue.

“Our city and state have a long history of supporting outdoor lands and outdoor industries, and that culture runs deep,” Scharf said in an emailed statement.

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