Advanstar looks at new venues

The 2003 International Powersports Dealer Expo marks the sixth time the event is being staged at the Indianapolis Convention Center and RCA Dome, a facility offering roughly 526,000 sq. ft. of available space.
With over 850 exhibitors and an estimated 16,000 people planning to attend, the Expo has grown considerably since it moved from Cincinnati in 1998. After the 2002 Expo, Advanstar management decided it had better find an even larger facility if it wanted to expand the event in the future.
During the past half-year, the powersports industry has been ripe with rumors that the Expo may soon re-locate to a different location. The rumored cities included Orlando, Atlanta, Dallas, Las Vegas and Chicago.
“We basically instigated the rumor last Spring, when we started asking a lot of questions regarding the location of the Expo,” Tracy Harris, general manager of Advanstar’s Motorsports Group, told Powersports Business. “What we were trying to get to the bottom of was, ‘Would the exhibitors be interested in a move if we could find an appropriate location’?”
Harris says the feedback she received showed that there would be an interest in moving if 1) the location makes sense, and 2) the cost equations don’t change. And if the cost equation does change, Harris said, exhibitors wanted to know whether Advanstar would be able to attract more attendees (i.e., customers) to the event.
“We know that a very high percentage of our retailers drive, so we know that wherever we go, we need a pool of retailers big enough,” she said. “Plus, people are traveling less; they are not traveling more. And they certainly are not jumping on airplanes.”
The first thing Advanstar management did was search the U.S. for buildings which could offer 750,000 sq. ft. or more. Once suitable locations were obtained, Harris says, a 500-mile radius was drawn around them in an effort to gauge the attendee base in each region. A similar line was drawn around Indianapolis to get an accurate reading of the customer pool there. Comparing the numbers from Indianapolis with numbers obtained from the other cities showed that Orlando, Atlanta, Dallas and Las Vegas couldn’t attract the attendees who were apt to attend the Expo in Indianapolis.
“So that’s where the Chicago rumor came from,” she said. “The only city in the Midwest with a big surrounding dealer base and a convention center of the appropriate size is Chicago.”
Advanstar approached the City of Chicago with its idea this past summer. Harris says the city has a very effective non-stop shuttling system, and hotels that are ready to do business at rates comparable to those in Indianapolis. However, while negotiations with contractors regarding labor and freight “went well,” talks with the electricians fell apart.
“Anyone who has exhibited at the Expo knows there is a tremendous amount of freedom in the construction of the booths, and that is very hard to duplicate in most cities,” Harris said. “We will not have that freedom in Chicago if and when we get to that point where we make that move.”
So, bottom line, is the International Powersports Dealer Expo going to be in a different location next year?
“We’re not ready yet, and we think our customer base is not ready yet,” Harris replied. “That’s not to say that we’ll never do it, but as inconvenient as the situation in Indianapolis can sometimes be, there are a lot of pros that go along with the cons, and Indianapolis is just a very easy city to be in.”

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