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Colorado expects to lure lucrative Outdoor Retailer show from Salt Lake City

July 5, 2017 Updated: July 6, 2017 at 6:36 am
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FILE - This Jan. 11, 2017, photo, people attend the Outdoor Retailer show at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City. At least two more outdoor companies said Friday, Feb. 10, 2017, they're following Patagonia's lead and planning to boycott Outdoor Retailer shows held in Utah because of a push by the state's political leaders to rescind the creation of the Bear Ears National Monument. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

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

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 what will be a major win for the state.

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.

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.

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 have called for overturning national 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 public 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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