|By Jack Snyder, The Orlando Sentinel, Fla.|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Jul. 9, 2005 - It took months of scrambling to rearrange meeting space and hotel rooms for more than a half-dozen groups, but the Orange County Convention Center is on the verge of scoring a four-year run of one of the country's biggest trade shows.
Contracts will be sent out Monday for 2007 and 2008 to the National Association of Home Builders, the Washington, D.C.-trade group that owns the International Builders' Show, said Kathie Canning, the convention center's deputy general manager.
"We're beyond the proposal stage," she said. "It looks good."
The giant show made its Orlando debut in January and was to stop here again in 2006, then return for 2011 and 2012.
But the builders canceled a two-year stint in Atlanta -- the group paid a $2.6 million forfeiture fee -- because that city's convention center was too small.
The builders group -- its meeting planners couldn't be reached Friday -- originally had proposed returning only for 2007, taking the 2008 show to Las Vegas.
But Las Vegas was unable to move other groups and clear space for the unexpected windfall, said Bill Peeper, president of the Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau.
"We were able accommodate them," Peeper said. The effort involved contacting other groups, changing their meeting dates, and ensuring that hotel space was available on the alternative dates.
Peeper said a 12-day period had to be cleared each year. The builders' show requires five days just to set up, with hundreds of tractor-trailers rolling in with equipment and an army of workers scrambling to assemble exhibits.
The show runs for three and a half days, and takes a like amount of time to be dismantled and shipped away.
Peeper said he thinks the builders will accept the contracts. "It's absolutely going to happen," he said.
The effort was exhausting but worth it, Canning said. "It's like a puzzle," she said. "You have all these balls in the air and hope they come down the way you need them to."
Earlier this year, the builders used all 1.2 million square feet of the Orange County Convention Center's west side and about half of the 972,000-square-foot North/South Building on the east side.
When they return next year, the builders will use all of the west-side building and most of the east-side one, Canning said. By 2011, Canning thinks the show will occupy the entire complex.
Orange County Mayor Rich Crotty said a four-year run of the home show would be fantastic for the area.
The trade show means millions of dollars for the area's economy, though precise numbers are difficult to compute. Just after the January show closed, convention center officials put the economic impact at $154 million.
This year's show set an attendance record for the builders of 104,922 participants. More than 1,600 exhibitors showed off their wares and services.
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