When Shows Outgrow Venues

Some of the nation's largest trade shows are experiencing a good problem: their attendance is growing. But while this brings the show organizers more revenue, it can create challenges in terms of site selection.

One case in point: the International Build-ers' Show, one of the nation's largest expositions, which in April was pulled from Atlanta for its 2007 and 2008 dates by the show's sponsor, the National Association of Home Builders. The cancellation was caused, officially, by the show's remarkable attendance growth, which outstripped the city's main convention facility and hotels.

When the 2007 and 2008 IBS dates looming and Atlanta was also eyeing other large events, the city chose to expand its Georgia World Congress Center to 1.4 million square feet. But NAHB, fueled by a torrid homebuilding industry, has been experiencing remarkable show growth. Attendance jumped 18 percent in Las Vegas for 2003, with a similar increase the following year, also in Las Vegas, surpassing the 100,000-attendee mark.

In mid-April of this year, NAHB's board voted to terminate its commitment to hold the 2007 and 2008 IBS in Atlanta. The financials are remarkable: The loss of IBS will cost Atlanta $240 million in direct spending, and NAHB will pay Atlanta a cancellation fee of about $2.7 million. But offsetting the penalty, NAHB anticipates it will gain $16 million to $20 million in added exhibit-space sales and attendance fees if it relocates to Orlando or Las Vegas for 2007 and 2008.