After 5 Years in Denver, Outdoor Retailer Will Return to Salt Lake City

Outdoor Retailer returns to the state it left over political disagreements five years ago.
Outdoor Retailer attendees gather at the Colorado Convention Center. Photo: Matt Miller

Five years after Outdoor Retailer closed the door on Salt Lake City, Utah and settled on a new home in Denver, the biannual tradeshow will return to Utah in 2023. OR announced their decision today as their contract in Denver nears expiration later this year.

“Salt Lake City and County is our hometown, and we’re going back with a commitment to effecting meaningful change,” read a press release credited to Marisa Nicholson, OR’s senior vice president and show director and Jeff Davis, Emerald Groups’s vice president. “It would be wrong for us to leave the way we did and simply go back as if nothing happened.”

OR decided to leave Utah after several major outdoor brands were vocal about the state’s attitude toward public lands. The decision followed the reduction of protection and size for Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments.

Though OR’s decision to leave apparently didn’t bring change the organization hoped for, the tradeshow will depart Denver after 2022 and restart in Utah in 2023.

“In reality, leaving after 2017 has not brought the change we had hoped for, so we will push back, not pull back,” said the announcement. “We firmly believe that staying engaged and collectively contributing to the ongoing discussion, no matter how difficult, is far more constructive.”

Utah started up talks again in 2021 about a return to the state, citing how important the economic impact from the show to the local economy was and that the state was important for the tradeshow’s growth.

Utah Governor Spencer Cox noted important changes that he believes would help the tradeshow, like a new airport and a new 700 room Hyatt hotel incorporated in their convention center. Governor Cox also mentions finding sustainable ways to manage Bears Ears and other public lands. President Biden restored much of the land cut by former President Trump last year. Governor Cox called the president’s decision disappointing.

Colorado Governor Jared Polis argued last year for the show to remain in Colorado, citing the state’s values of public lands. Outdoor Retailer valued its annual economic impact on the state at around $110 million.

Last month, Patagonia, REI, North Face, and Kelty signed a letter intending to boycott the show if it returns to Utah. Larger brands with larger booths and displays tend to pay a hefty amount to show their product at tradeshows like OR.

SRAM and The Big Gear Show recently announced a partnership as well. The Big Gear Show debuted in Park City last year as a new outdoor tradeshow.

The release from OR says that they’ll commit revenue over the next three years to support outdoor recreation and protect public lands. OR will wrap up their Colorado relationship with the summer show in June.

“As we plan for the coming years back in Salt Lake City and County, we move forward with the same optimism and values that have always guided our industry, and we’re ready to work with you to explore endless opportunities to help our industry grow,” OR said in their news release. “We are excited about what the future holds for Outdoor Retailer.”