Colorado officials expected to announce that Outdoor Retailer show is moving to Denver

BLM Public Lands

Lance Benzel of Colorado Springs climb over a rock slab Tuesday, April 29, 2014, while mountain biking the Oil Well Flats trail area north of Canon City. (Photo by Christian Murdock/The Gazette,)

Colorado is expected to be the new home of the lucrative Outdoor Retailer show following controversy tied to public lands debates.

Sources spoke to Colorado Politics on background, confirming that the news will be delivered at a press conference in Denver on Thursday morning. Because of contract agreements, sources close to the negotiations were unable to speak publicly about the major win.

Gov. John Hickenlooper and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock are expected to join Luis Benitez, director of Colorado’s Outdoor Recreation Industry Office, and business leaders to make the announcement at 10:30 a.m. at City Park Rose Garden near the Museum of Nature and Science.

“We’re excited about Thursday’s announcement from the Office of Outdoor Recreation Industry, Colorado Governor Hickenlooper and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock,” said Allison Keller, a spokeswoman for the Outdoor Retailer show.

Visit ColoradoPolitics.com after Thursday’s announcement for the full story.

State and Denver officials began heavily lobbying for the show to move from Utah to Colorado after some attendees of the event became frustrated with the position Utah leaders have taken on public lands.

“​I’m excited about the prospect of having the Outdoor Retailer trade show come to Denver. It’s a great fit, because outdoor recreation is such a big part of what makes Colorado a great place to live,” said House Speaker Crisanta Duran, D-Denver. “Colorado already has a thriving network of outdoor gear manufacturers and retailers, but we think it’ll be quite all right if downstream companies want to come here to strut their stuff.”

The four-day show in Salt Lake City is the world’s largest trade exhibition for the outdoor retail industry. Emerald Expositions, which owns the show, has reported 45,000 visitors and an estimated $45 million a year to Salt Lake City, where the show has been held for more than two decades.

But major retailers and attendees of the show began asking for it to move outside of Utah after Republicans there called for transferring management of federal public lands over to the state’s authority, which could open up more of it for drilling, grazing or local commerce. Some Republican leaders even called for overturning monument designations in Utah.

It is a familiar debate that has also taken place in Colorado, seeping its way into congressional races as Democrats tried last year to tie Republicans to the volatile public lands conversation.

In the 2015 legislative session, Colorado Republican lawmakers ran an unsuccessful bill to create a study of how the state could help manage federal public lands. Last session, another unsuccessful Republican bill would have given local and state law enforcement more authority over federally managed lands.

Even a simple measure last year in the legislature that created a Public Lands Day in Colorado saw controversy, as Republicans attempted to amend the resolution to include language around state management of federal public lands. Lawmakers ultimately compromised to reach agreement.

Conservationists worry that transferring management of federal public lands to the states would lead to mismanagement or private development on those lands, closing them off for recreational activities.

After Emerald Expositions announced that it would not include Utah in the bidding for future Outdoor Retailer show locations, state and Denver officials began a heavy push to land the show in Colorado.

Officials had the help of conservation groups, including Conservation Colorado, which launched a campaign to woo away the show, including ads in the Salt Lake Tribune and the Desert News, pitching Colorado’s “stronger beer, taller peaks, ‘higher’ recreation,” and a deep commitment to public lands.

The last show in Utah is scheduled to begin on July 26 in Salt Lake City. The winter show is scheduled for January 2018, when it would presumably take place in Denver at the Colorado Convention Center.

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