Outdoor Retailer leaving Utah over public lands dispute

Posted at 6:04 PM, Feb 16, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-17 00:28:12-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- After a meeting with Utah Gov. Gary Herbert Thursday, the groups responsible for putting on the Outdoor Retailer Show announced they will not include Utah in the list of possible sites for future shows.

Officials from Outdoor Retailer, which produces the Outdoor Retailers shows, along with representatives from the Outdoor Industry Association, Patagonia, The North Face, and REI met with Gov. Gary Herbert via teleconference to discuss the issue of public lands in the Beehive State Thursday.

The meeting was the latest development in the increasingly strained relationship between Utah lawmakers and elements of the outdoor industry, as several prominent outdoor companies have denounced Utah lawmakers' position on the newly designated Bears Ears National Monument.

"We are doing the work necessary to procure an alternative location for Outdoor Retailer," stated Marisa Nicholson, show director for Outdoor Retailer, Thursday evening.

Nicholson said finding another location is a process that will take between 60 and 90 days.

"Salt Lake City has been hospitable to Outdoor Retailer and our industry for the past 20 years, but we are in lockstep with the outdoor community and are working on finding our new home," Nicholson stated.

Darrell Denny, Executive Vice President of Emerald Expositions--which owns Outdoor Retailer, reiterated their intent to leave Utah.

"Emerald Expositions will also not extend the request for proposal to Utah for relocating the Interbike tradeshow," he stated.

Paul Edwards, Gov. Herbert's Deputy Chief of Staff, spoke to media after Thursday's meeting.

“We had sort of a curt finish to the conversation after it was clear that they [the outdoor industry leaders] were not eager to accept the governor's invitation for further dialogue," Edwards said.

Edwards said Utah works with federal organizations to invest in habitats and public lands, but he said they felt like during Thursday's meeting there was no room for discussion with industry leaders on the point of Bears Ears National Monument.

"We felt that we were being presented with an ultimatum that there be a full rescinding of the resolution passed by the legislature and the governor with regard to the concerns that we have about the Bears Ears designation," he said.

Utah pays around $1.4 million to support the trade show, Edwards said.

In a statement issued later Thursday, Edwards addressed the decision to leave Utah, saying in part: "The decision to prevent Salt Lake City from bidding for the Outdoor Retailer Summer and Winter Market is offensive."

"It smacks of gross ingratitude to a community that has embraced the Outdoor Retailer show, subsidizing its success and expansion through direct investment -- let alone extraordinary hospitality."

Edwards said the decision perpetuates a "false narrative" that Utah is hostile to public lands, and he said Utah invests tens of millions of dollars into the protection and access of public lands.

Earlier this month, the Outdoor Retailers announced they had begun looking around for new locations to host the show for 2018 and beyond. The Outdoor Retailer's contract with Salt Lake City is through summer of 2018.

Outdoor Retailer stated, "We are reconsidering everything subsequent to 2017" when pressed for details regarding returning to Salt Lake City in 2018.

Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski did not release a statement Thursday night, but her office said she is "disappointed" with the decision.

Local businesses said they'll be taking a hit.

"Outdoor Retailers is bar none our busiest time of the year as far as number of covers, and also as far as sales," said Fred Moesinger, owner of Caffe Molise and BTG Wine Bar, both within a half block walking distance of the Salt Palace Convention Center.

He said they have loyal customers and friends from Outdoor Retailers, so much so that a couple of them called to tell him the news Thursday.

"It's a huge loss for the state, for our recreation economy, and obviously a huge personal loss as well for myself and also all of our employees. It's really disappointing," he said. "This one hurts to lose, for sure."

The Utah Democratic Party issued a statement in reaction to the move:

“Today all Utahns are feeling the consequences of the far-right agenda of the Utah Republican Party. Through these frivolous law suits over public lands, and the designation of Bears Ears National Monument, Gov. Herbert and the Utah Republicans have lost Utah $45 Million in revenue with the exit of the Outdoor Retailers Convention.

With one breath, Governor Herbert touts our 5 , now 6, national monuments to increase tourism, and with another refuses to drop the party lines for the betterment of Utah’s economy. After listening to our Utah Republican leadership talk out of both sides of their mouth for years, the Outdoor Retailers finally put their foot down. Our Utah Republicans have proven once again that they have no respect for our beautiful and sacred lands.”