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Venue Change Eyed to Handle Growing Exhibitor Needs

March 16, 2005
Filed under Features

INDIANAPOLIS — Managers of the powersports industry’s largest trade show seriously are considering other venues to accommodate the growing space requests from exhibitors, the show manager told Powersports Business.
In an interview following the 39th Dealer Expo here Feb. 9-21, Tracy Harris said that Houston and New Orleans are the two most likely spots. Harris is vice president and general manager of the show operation for Advanstar Communications.
Despite published reports elsewhere, Orlando, Fla., is not a consideration, said Harris, because it can’t provide any dates in January or February. There are dates available in December, but Harris said “that’s too big a leap of faith, to pull the show forward two months.”
Atlanta was another possibility, but officials there don’t seem to be too excited about a motorcycle show. “We’ve looked there three times in the last eight years,” says Harris, but they just aren’t interested.”
Houston and New Orleans, on the other hand, are holding space for the show from 2007 through 2015. Indianapolis is contracted for next year, and Harris said city officials will hold rooms and convention center dates indefinitely, until Advanstar decides to move the show.
That seems to be a good idea, since the show’s economic impact in 2004 was close to $11 million, according to city estimates.

no decision made for 2007
Harris said the company won’t make a decision on moving until it has completed a survey of dealers and exhibitors. A decision is expected to be made in May or June this year, Harris said.
In any case, whether the show stays or moves, Harris’ group will create a committee of dealers and exhibitors to help plan the move or the process of working through the planned expansion of the Indianapolis Convention Center over the next several years.
“The show will move only if our buying community — our dealers — supports the move,” she said.”We have to find out (whether or not) the buying community would follow, if we moved the show.”
Here are some of the answers the show management hopes to get from dealers:
n Would you follow the show to a new location?
n Would you bring the same number of your people or would you bring fewer people?
n Would you bring decision makers?
n Would we be able to pick up enough new dealers to replace ones who didn’t follow the show?
“A huge percentage of our dealers drive to the show,” points out Harris. “Once you take it out of the Midwest, you put people in the position where they have to fly. Someone from New York who now drives and brings four people might fly and bring only two.”
Downtown Indianapolis offers another nice benefit, says Harris. It’s a convenient place to do business after-hours. “If we move the show, we wouldn’t have the same environment that we’ve had at Cinci and Indy,” she says. “Fundamentally, we take over the city for three or four days. It’s pretty rare to find someone (downtown) who’s not part of the group.
“Now, you know how to find people, their hangouts, where they go. So, there’s something to be said for that environment. A lot of business gets down off the show floor.”
But it all comes down to the buyer.
“How important is that environment for the buyer? asks Harris. “The buyer will make the decision. If they won’t go, attendance could be cut in half. If people say they won’t go, no matter what, we’ll have to manage through the expansion process.”

indianapolis expansion planned
Discussions call for adding more than 200,000-sq.ft. to the Convention Center., and a study by a consultant last year called for adding 275,000-sq. ft. of exhibit space and more than 1,000 hotel rooms.
Plans call for the construction of a new stadium to replace the RCA Dome, demolition of the Dome and construction of new exhibit space. Although a new stadium financing plan had not been completed last month, plans call for the new stadium to be completed in 2008 and new convention center space to be finished in 2011.
“If we stay, we just have to work out the logistics,” she says. “As a show group, we can produce the show anywhere; that’s not the issue. We’re trying to do the right thing for both communities (exhibitors and dealers) because that’s what the show is all about.”

Attendance climbs again
This year was another record for the show, with preliminary attendance figures hitting 21,718, up 11% from last year’s record of 19,566.
More dealers came earlier this year, on Saturday, and stayed longer, according to some 500 personal interviews and Internet surveys collected by show management.
“My general observation,” says Harris, “is that the show had a tremendous amount of energy. People seemed engaged and anxious to buy. There seemed to be a lot of business being done, and people were really feeling good about the business and the coming year. Even Monday had energy.”

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