CHICAGO (September 2007) — More exhibitors, more visitors and better timing for FEC owners are among the hoped-for advantages of co-locating Fun Expo with the Amusement Showcase International, beginning in 2009, according to industry leaders.
“We hope we will be able to address a broader market during the spring, especially for our expo seminar programs,” said Harold Skipsky, chairman of Leisure Entertainment Trade Shows, the umbrella organization that owns Fun Expo.
“We’re hoping that FEC owners who have not been able to make the fall program because their facilities were doing heavy business in the later part of the summer season will now have an opportunity to attend a spring program,” said Tracy Sarris, executive director of the International Association for the Leisure and Entertainment Industries. Under LETS, IALEI is Fun Expo’s majority shareholder.
The first co-located spring ASI/Fun Expo will take place at the Las Vegas Convention Center in 2009 from Thursday, March 12 through Saturday, March 14. The 2009 AMOA International Expo, owned by the Amusement and Music Operators Association, will occur at the same venue six months later (September 24-26).
The first operational planning meeting for the Fun Expo and ASI co-location will take place in spring of 2008, said IALEI’s Sarris.
Currently, the move to a spring slot is a two-year agreement, which will expire in December 2010.
Though the change to spring has been discussed for years, the idea became overwhelmingly popular among both exhibitors and showgoers after the December 2006 announcement that the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions would hold its November 2009 show in Las Vegas – just weeks after the planned AMOA Expo in that same city. IAAPA plans to hold its show in Vegas every other year for the foreseeable future, staging the event in Orlando, FL, on even years.
Since both IAAPA and Fun Expo serve fun centers large and small, there was concern among Fun Expo’s owners, exhibitors and show visitors that the event might lose momentum to the amusement parks show on years when the latter was staged in Las Vegas.
“Admittedly, it is difficult to compete with IAAPA,” said Skripsky. He said the parks show is “like a 10,000-pound gorilla in November, and we’re [traditionally] in September. With our move to the spring, we have now distanced ourselves a little from IAAPA.”
IALEI executive director Tracy Sarris told VT that the organization performed extensive opinion surveys before deciding to move Fun Expo, and received powerful indications that the change was favored.
“We surveyed current and past exhibitors, along with attendees and members,” said Sarris. “We had a 60% return from exhibitors and, of these, 98% of respondents favored the move. Part of our State of the Industry report survey at the 2006 Fun Expo, which was sent by email, drew between 260 and 300 operator responses, again all very positive about the move.”
Timing the show to complement FEC calendars was a key concern, and why many IALEI members and Fun Expo exhibitors favored a spring show. Considering that many fun centers are open year-round, there is no perfect time for an FEC-focused trade show, said incoming IALEI chairman Richard Sanfillippo of Sam’s Fun City (Pensacola, FL).
But Sanfillippo said holding Fun Expo in a window between mid-February and mid-March was “as close to ideal as you can get, since many seasonal facilities are not open yet.” Even year-round FECs don’t experience their heavy season during this later winter, early spring timeframe, he said.
Conversely, September is when many IALEI members are still doing heavy business, said Sarris. Some seasonal FECs now extend their “summer” season into October, thanks to warmer weather patterns experienced nationwide in recent years, she added.
With a new calendar slot, LETS and IALEI are hopeful that Fun Expo will draw patrons of fall show as well as new visitors who couldn’t attend before.
AAMA also is pleased at the prospect of adding Fun Expo attendees to its ASI event. “We can only speculate that moving Fun Expo to co-locate with ASI will bring more attendance and the same element to ASI that it did to the AMOA Show, generating cross-traffic and more sales on both sides of the aisles,” said Dave Courington of Valley-Dynamo. Courington is the new chairman of the American Amusement Machine Association, which owns ASI.
AAMA president Mike Rudowicz announced Fun Expo’s move to spring during the association’s Distributor Gala that caps the AAMA midyear board meeting. A signing ceremony took place following the announcement, making the co-location official. Signing the agreement were AAMA’s Courington, IALEI’s Sarris and AMOA president Howard Cole of Cole Vending Co. (Weaverville, NC).
Leisure and Entertainment Trade Shows, the owner of Fun Expo, is a joint venture formed by AAMA, AMOA and IALEI in 2000 when Fun Expo was purchased from Reed Exhibitions.
The 2007 and 2008 editions of the expo mark its ninth and 10th consecutive co-locations with the AMOA Expo. The owners of Fun Expo took pains to express their appreciation to AMOA for many years of support and cooperation. “Fun Expo was pretty successful during the many years it co-located with AMOA International Expo,” said upcoming IALEI chairman Sanfillippo.
LETS chairman Skripsky said, “We love working with Mike Rudowicz and the AAMA team, and we look forward to locking forces with them. At the same time, I hope no one misunderstands the motives for moving Fun Expo from the fall time slot. AMOA, as our partners and hoping to do what is best for the show, has given its approval to give the spring a shot and see how Fun Expo does.”
Fun Expo, AMOA and ASI are managed by William T. Glasgow Inc. For more information, contact show management at (708) 226-1300 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The website is funexpo.com.