Outdoor trade show leaving Utah over public lands stance

This 2014 file photo shows Altra Shoe’s booth at the Outdoor Retailer Expo, Salt Palace Convention Center, Salt Lake City, Utah, Jan. 25, 2014 | Photo by Drew Allred, St. George News

SALT LAKE CITY — A lucrative outdoor trade show that’s been staged in Salt Lake City for two decades announced Thursday it will be leaving Utah over the latest disagreement with state leaders about their stance on public lands.

The Outdoor Retailer show made the announcement just hours after a conference call intended to smooth discord between industry leaders and Gov. Gary Herbert ended with both sides disappointed.

FILE – In this Aug. 4, 2016, file photo, people attend the Outdoor Retailer show, in Salt Lake City. Gov. Gary Herbert said Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017, that he will remind organizers of an outdoor trade show considering leaving Utah partly over GOP policies on public lands that it’s been a “blessing” for them to have Salt Lake City as a host for the last two decades and it’s helped the expo grow significantly. | AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File, St. George News

Herbert’s office called it offensive that the show won’t even let Utah bid for future shows after so many years of support.

Utah’s Democratic chairman meanwhile blamed the state’s GOP’s “far-right agenda” for costing the state the $45 million in direct spending the show brings annually.

Industry leaders had previously threatened to leave Utah if Herbert didn’t stand down from his call for President Donald Trump to rescind the new Bears Ears National Monument.

He refused to grant them their request in the conference call, triggering the decision.

“We really can’t stand by this action,” said Rose Marcario, Patagonia CEO. “As an industry, we’re all about defending public lands.

Marcario was joined on the hourlong call by leaders from The North Face, REI and the Outdoor Industry Association.

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes says the state will file a lawsuit if Bears Ears is made a national monument by outgoing President Barack Obama, Salt Lake City, Utah, Dec. 17, 2016 | Photo courtesy of the office of Sen. Orrin Hatch, St. George News

The Bears Ears stance by Herbert and other Republican leaders was the culmination of years of actions that showed the state is more interested in seizing control of its public lands than preserving them for hiking, biking and skiing, said Amy Roberts, Outdoor Industry Association executive director.

“Our members have made it very clear they won’t support the show in Utah,” Roberts said.

The Outdoor Retailer show thanked Salt Lake City for its hospitality over the past two decades in the statement but said, “we are in lockstep with the outdoor community.”

They said Utah would not be considered in the bids from Utah for future shows.

The organization said earlier this month it would solicit bids for new host cities after three more shows in Utah through 2018, but spokeswoman Kate Lowery said Thursday they are reconsidering locations of shows this year.

Gov. Herbert’s spokesman, Paul Edwards, said not letting Salt lake City even put in a bid for future shows is “offensive on many levels.”

FILE – In this Jan. 11, 2017, file photo, people attend the Outdoor Retailer show at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City. | AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File, St. George News

“It suggests that the political agenda instead of merit and reason has taken over the decision making at the outdoor industry association,” Edwards said.

Gov. Herbert said earlier in the day prior to the call that show organizers should remember that it’s been a “blessing” for them to have Salt Lake City as a host for the last two decades and it’s helped the expo grow significantly.

The event has grown from 5,000 people at the first show in 1996 to about 29,000 last summer. It attracts an estimated $45 million in annual direct spending to Utah, filling hotels and restaurants during the two shows held each year.

Scott Beck, president and CEO of Visit Salt Lake, called it a disappointing end to a 20-year partnership between Utah and the show. He said he had hoped the conference call would lead to constructive dialogue.

It’s hard. We feel we’ve been a really, really good partner,” Beck said.

House Speaker Greg Hughes, a Republican who co-sponsored the resolution calling for the monument to be rescinded, said he has no regrets.

“If we don’t see eye to eye politically and that has colored their decision, that’s their decision to make,” Hughes said.

Utah Democratic Party Chairman Peter Corroon didn’t share Hughes’s opinion.

Today all Utahns are feeling the consequences of the far-right agenda of the Utah Republican Party,” Corroon said in a statement.

Roberts said she expects cities from several states to bid on hosting future shows. Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper recently said his state would be a good fit and a Colorado land conservation group placed playful advertisements Wednesday in Utah’s two largest newspapers highlighting why the neighboring state would be a better home.

Written by BRADY McCOMBS, Associated Press.

Associated Press writer Michelle L. Price contributed to this report.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!


  • Bender February 17, 2017 at 5:45 pm

    Sweet! The free market at work. What’s not to love here for a rock ribbed conservative? One party does not like the other party’s act so he nopes on out of the state with his hard earned dollars and spends them elseswhere.

    • Henry February 18, 2017 at 8:01 am

      “One party does not like the other party’s act”? A more precise and apt description would be, one party trying to extort the other party.

      • Bender February 18, 2017 at 10:35 am

        Extortion? Playing the victim card, eh? You sound like the the caricature AM talk radio is always splashing Democrats with.

        • Henry February 18, 2017 at 12:09 pm

          Limited vocabulary, Bender? Let me help you out:

          Ex·tort /ikˈstôrt/ verb:
          obtain (something) by force, threats, or other unfair means.
          “he was convicted of trying to extort $1 million from a developer”

          • Chris February 18, 2017 at 1:46 pm

            it’s clearly your vocabulary that is limited, not to mention your intellect. Nothing in this situation meets the definition of extortion. Denying money to someone because you do not agree with their actions is not extortion. Moreover, extortion is a crime, and you do not hear any Utah officials talking about bringing charges against the show organizers.

          • Bender February 18, 2017 at 1:57 pm

            Wow. A total knockout by henry. I submit. I’m yours. Dominate me like Trump does with his handshakes.

          • Henry February 18, 2017 at 5:46 pm

            Improve your reading comprehension, Chris. Reread the definition and example posted from Webster’s dictionary. Trying to intimidate people to change their actions meets the criterion. Different than the legal standard, which no one expected Utah officials to try to apply. If you lack the intelligence to discern that, Dixie State has adult education classes that might assist you.

  • Utahguns February 17, 2017 at 6:34 pm

    Don’t let the door hit you on the arse on the way out. Good riddance.

    • Bender February 17, 2017 at 11:35 pm

      Never did answer my question about whether or not you attended this show.

  • ScanMeister February 18, 2017 at 5:57 am

    We can work to replace that opening with another venue to bring money into the state. There seemed to be no negotiation with them….reminded me of the Obama administration negotiations (or lack there of) my way or the highway.

    • Bender February 18, 2017 at 11:01 am

      The attendees of the Outdoors Retailer’s show have made their displeasure with the legislature’s and governor’s anti federal lands posturing known for years. Utah politicians continued to harden their rhetoric over this time. The last straw was the governor calling for Bears Ears NM dissolution. The governor and legislature both knew the Outdoor Retailers pulling out was a possibility before they called for dissolution. You reap what you sow.

      The fairy tale that state control of our federal public lands will lead to utopia is standard equipment in the satchel of lies every conservative politician seems to be packing nowadays. How is it not a contradiction with conservative principals to ask the citizens of the entire country to give, at no cost, title to federal lands to the state of Utah?

      • Bender February 18, 2017 at 2:00 pm

        whoops, principles

        • Henry February 19, 2017 at 8:07 am

          Your writing skills are improving, Bender. You might yet get a job working for HuffPo or The Nation.

  • indy-vfr February 18, 2017 at 7:08 am

    I’m going to cancel my REI Membership!

    • Bender February 18, 2017 at 11:02 am

      Harsh move bro. Turn your activism down a notch.

    • Chris February 18, 2017 at 1:48 pm

      something tells me you didn’t use REI much anyway.

      • Henry February 19, 2017 at 9:37 am

        “Something tells me” that you’re an active contributor to the ACLU.

  • Thecadean February 18, 2017 at 4:37 pm

    This is capitalism at its finest. Individuals have the right to vote with their pocketbook. If Utah wishes to stay in the 18th century and glorify strip mining over natural beauty that’s their choice. There are many other fine States and countries to go Explorer. Utah’s loss

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.