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AAMA Holds Annual Board Meet And Gala Showcase; 2009 Convention Planning Goes Into High Gear

Posted On: 9/3/2008

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LINCOLNSHIRE, IL -- The American Amusement Machine Association held its annual membership and board meeting in conjunction with its Distributor Gala equipment showing here at the Marriott Lincolnshire Resort near Chicago from August 5 to 8. AAMA officials focused much of their discussions on next year's Amusement Showcase International in March in Las Vegas, which collocates with Fun Expo for the first time and overlaps with Pizza Expo.

According to AAMA president Mike Rudowicz, next year's ASI will be very a different show because of the Fun Expo collocation. "While producing this joint show has been done with the Amusement and Music Operators Association's exposition, AAMA still needs to address all the processes to make it equitable for both associations," he said.

Fun Expo and its concurrent Fun Academy educational program are sponsored by the International Association for the Leisure and Entertainment Industry. The collocated ASI and Fun Expo shows will take place from March 11 to 13 at the Las Vegas (NV) Convention Center.

Overlapping with next year's spring shows, and adding excitement to the mix, is the International Pizza Expo, which will make its run at the same convention center venue from March 10 to 12. Rudowicz reported that the ASI Show Committee is negotiating an agreement with the pizza show that might involve badge reciprocity and cross-promotional ideas.

International Pizza Expo is the world's oldest and largest trade show for the $30 billion pizza industry. It is attended by more than 6,000 pizzeria owners and operators from around the world, and features more than 500 exhibitors showcasing everything from ingredients to equipment. The pizza show has been on AAMA's Location Trade Show schedule for several years.

In related news, Rudowicz confirmed that eight shows have been approved for 2009's LTS program at this time. In addition to the pizza show, these include the International Bowl Expo, National Restaurant Association's Hotel-Motel Show and International Billiard & Home Recreation Expo, where the association hosts pavilions for its membership.

At the board meeting, AAMA's Industry Promotion Committee, which oversees LTS, agreed to support a new pavilion concept that will attempt to look a lot like a modern arcade on the trade show floors. "Rather than marking boundaries with drapes and pipes," Rudowicz explained, "we'll be taking away the walls and designing an open island exhibit."

Other AAMA committees that assembled during the annual board meeting included those overseeing membership, budgets, government relations and foreign business development. During the board of directors meeting, which was presided by AAMA chairman Dave Courington of Valley-Dynamo, boardmembers Al Kress of Benchmark Games and David Cohen of Firestone Financial Corp. were re-nominated and will return to active duty.

On the international front, AAMA is working with members to increase business in the emerging amusement markets of China, Dubai, India and Russia.

This year's AAMA board meeting once again incorporated the Distributor Cocktail Gala, a small equipment showing that allows the association's manufacturer members to display their latest products for distributors. It was the fifth time AAMA hosted this showcase, which Rudowicz describes as an icebreaker between factories and distributors in a relaxing, social atmosphere.

"It allows distributors to see what's new and in development at one convenient point," he said, "permitting them to save time and money, and to jumpstart the fall selling season. Likewise, it's an important window of opportunity for manufacturers to demonstrate their latest products."

Twenty-one manufacturers displaying 44 new amusement and music products participated in this year's gala, compared with 25 manufacturers and 60 new products last year.

During the gala, the American Amusement Machine Charitable Foundation, AAMA's charitable ancillary, presented checks for $10,000 each to the Children's Miracle Network and KEEN (Kids Enjoy Exercise Now). The presentation was officiated by AAMCF chair Marty Man Smith of Brady Distributing Co.

The association also honored its own members. Jon W. Brady of Brady Distributing Co., a past AAMA chairman, was presented with the Joe Robbins Award recognizing outstanding participation in and contribution to the coin-op industry. AAMA's most prestigious award is named after industry pioneer Joe Robbins, who is best known for heading Atari and Bally Corp. during the heyday of arcade videogames. He was instrumental in forming a manufacturers' association and, shortly after, a distributors' group in the early 1980s. They merged to become AAMA.

Holly Meidl, Bay Tek, received the AAMA President's Award, which recognizes a member's untiring service to the association. This year, Meidl played a key role in AAMCF's fundraising efforts.

Founded in 1981, AAMA is an international nonprofit trade organization representing manufacturers, distributors and part suppliers involved in the coin-operated amusement industry. A board of directors, selected by its members, governs association and committee work with association staff to develop programs that promote and protect the industry.