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Economics, proximity prompted return of Outdoor Retailer to Salt Lake City

Mar 25, 2022, 9:53 AM
The Salt Palace Convention Center and the Hyatt Regency are pictured in Salt Lake City on Wednesday...
The Salt Palace Convention Center and the Hyatt Regency are pictured in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, March 23, 2022. Photo credit: Laura Seitz, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — It was economics that prompted Outdoor Retailer to bring conventions back to Salt Lake City. That, and Salt Lake’s proximity to outdoor venues.

“The economics for them (Outdoor Retailer) is much worse for them in Denver than it is here,” Rep. Doug Owens told KSL NewsRadio. Owens is the founder of Utah Outdoor Partners, a non-profit that works with Utah government entities to support the development of infrastructure that powers many outdoor activities such as trails, campgrounds, and parks.

“The show was, as I understand it, about 30% more expensive to attend for retailers. So they were losing a lot of their smaller entities that wanted to be at the show, it just wasn’t worth it,” Owens said.

And the lure of proximity is another factor, Owens said, that makes Salt Lake City a better option for the large Outdoor Retailer convention. 

“[In] Denver, you’ve got to drive for quite a ways before you can get out and recreate,” Owens said. “The proximity that we have to those outdoor resources here in Salt Lake City is better than Denver.”

Some retailers are still boycotting Utah

Not all of the retailers are returning with the conventions. Outside Business Journal reports that 25 outdoor brands, including Patagonia, REI, and The North Face, have pledged to boycott the Outdoor Retailer conventions if they return to Utah.

Their concern is still Utah’s position on the creation of national monuments and public lands.

It was that concern that first prompted the Outdoor Retailer show to leave Salt Lake City. 

In 2017, the Utah Legislature and then-Gov. Gary Herbert signed a resolution condemning the creation of the Bears Ears National Monument by President Obama in 2016.

Later, President Trump shrunk the size of the monument by about 85%. And that’s when the Outdoor Retailer announced its departure from Utah.

“[The convention] said ‘we as outdoor retailers value access to these tremendous public lands in the west,’ and ‘why are you taking positions adverse to conservation,'” Rep. Owens said.

“They (the convention) had lots of allies in the Native American community that were strongly supportive of the creation of the monument, so they said ‘hey if you’re going to take that position we’re going to take off.'”

The size of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante national monuments was restored to its original designation in 2021 by President Joe Biden.

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Economics, proximity prompted return of Outdoor Retailer to Salt Lake City