Denver Lands the Outdoor Retailer Show With an Assist From Donald Trump

Inside a recent edition of the Outdoor Retailer show.
Inside a recent edition of the Outdoor Retailer show. YouTube
Update: As expected, Denver has been named the new home of the Outdoor Retailer shows thanks to a five-year pact confirmed at a press conference this morning. And the advocacy group Conservation Colorado links this economic coup with controversy over public-lands policies in Utah, Outdoor Retailer's previous home, and the plan to shrink Bear Ears National Monument pressed by President Donald Trump's administration.

In a statement, Scott Braden, who's both a public-lands advocate for Conservation Colorado and a member of Colorado's Office of Outdoor Recreation Industry Advisory Counsel, says, "Today's announcement confirms that the embrace of public lands is a winning combination for Colorado's economy and way of life. It is also a repudiation of extreme and short-sighted efforts by some politicians to seize and sell off our lands. While we hope that politicians in Utah have learned a lesson, unfortunately the desire to privatize or strip protections for our public lands has seeped into leadership in Washington, D.C. Politicians across the nation must know that public lands are critical infrastructure to our success and quality of life, and that any attempt to undo protections for them will be met with fierce resistance."

Conservation Colorado notes that its home state boasts 24 million acres of public lands, including four national parks, eight national monuments and 44 wilderness areas — and the organization isn't simply assuming that these designations translate to permanent protection. Its list of Trump administration "attacks on Colorado's public lands" includes threats to roll back protections for Canyons of the Ancients National Monument near Cortez, the suspension of public lands advisory councils, and a proposal to cut the budget for public-land management.

Still, the mood after the Outdoor Retailer news broke was celebratory.

"This announcement establishes Colorado as the national home of the fast-growing outdoor recreation industry,” said Conservation Colorado executive director Pete Maysmith in a statement of his own. "We are thrilled to host the Outdoor Retailer Show and use the opportunity to show off our epic public lands, our forward-thinking conservation policies, and the $28 billion contribution that outdoor recreation makes to our state's economy. There’s no better place than Colorado for the outdoor recreation industry to convene twice a year. We thank Governor Hickenlooper, Mayor Hancock, Luis Benitez of the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry office, and other leaders who stepped up for our lands and our state’s economy."

Continue for our previous coverage.

Update, June 5: The annual Outdoor Retailer show, which pulled out of Salt Lake City over the State of Utah's public-land policies and the prospect that President Donald Trump's administration will rescind protections for Bear Ears National Monument, is merging with Denver's SIA Snow Show. The combined events will take place in Denver in January 2018.

Back in February, as part of our previous coverage, on view below, Visit Denver president and CEO Richard Scharf talked up the possibility of the Outdoor Retailer show moving to the Mile High City, and he didn't seem overly worried about the possibility that the gathering might conflict with dates for the SIA Snow Show. "There has been talk about maybe merging the shows and working together," he told us. "They're just rumors at this point, but if that happened, the date overlap wouldn't be an issue."

He was right. Emerald Expositions, LLC , which produces Outdoor Retailer, has now acquired the SIA Snow Show. The combined events will be rebranded as the Outdoor Retailer + Snow Show, which "will be the largest outdoor and winter sports industry gathering in North America," according to an Emerald Expositions release. SIA will remain an active partner in support of the event, the company notes, and the Boulder-based Outdoor Industry Association has been designated as the co-title sponsor of all Outdoor Retailer winter shows and the title sponsor of Outdoor Retailer bashes staged during the summer.

"This is an incredible opportunity for our members and the industry as a whole," SIA president Nick Sargent said in a statement. "For quite some time, the industry has asked to merge the shows. A consolidated trade show not only helps reduce the stress on our industry, but also provides a platform that offers more impact for our members to do business while delivering a greater ROI [return on investment]. SIA is excited by the opportunities ahead and looks forward to reinvesting into the creation of new and expanded programs and tools to help our members, and the industry as a whole, thrive."

Added Marisa Nicholson, vice president of Emerald Expositions' sports group and director of the Outdoor Retailer Show: "By merging these two January shows, we will bring the outdoor and snow-sports industries together under one roof, creating an optimal and authentic forum for exhibitors and retailers alike. This acquisition gives us the opportunity to better serve the business imperatives of the winter sports brands, reps and retailers. We look forward to the positive impact this collaboration will have on the industry."

There's no guarantee that Denver will host the shows beyond January 2018 — but to paraphrase The Hunger Games, the odds are in the city's favor.

Meanwhile, the triggering event for Outdoor Retailer's abandonment of Salt Lake City — the controversy over Bear Ears — remains unresolved. As is noted in a recent post by the Wilderness Society, one of many environmental organizations fighting against the possible withdrawal of the area's monument status, Trump Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke is expected to announce his decision by June 10.

Given that Zinke is widely thought to have already decided on rescinding Bear Ears' federal protections, the Wilderness Society is girding for battle. The group notes that "if President Trump tries to de-designate or shrink Bears Ears, we will see him in court."

Whatever fate befalls Bear Ears, Denver is expected to reap the rewards of the Outdoor Retailer-SIA Snow Show merger soon, and possibly for many years to come.

Continue to see our previous coverage of the location change for the Outdoor Retailer show.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts