Photo courtesy of GIE+EXPO

The largest show in the industry just keeps getting larger. GIE+EXPO has grown nearly 75 percent in both show attendance and exhibitor space over the past seven years and it doesn’t show any signs of stopping.

Kris Kiser, president and CEO of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute, says that by listening to what attendees want, the show has evolved over the years, adding hardscape components, more dealer education and a UTV focus.

Growing the Show.

For the past several years, dealers have enjoyed Wednesday’s Dealer Day, which features extra time on the show floor. In 2018, all industry members will have that opportunity. The doors will open at noon on Wednesday for dealers, with general access starting at 3 p.m., giving both dealers and contractors three days at the show.

Another common request has been an extra day for demos, and show organizers have listened on that front as well. The Outdoor Demonstration Area will open at 3 p.m. on Wednesday in 2018.

Photos courtesy of GIE+EXPO

“GIE+EXPO continues to be the industry’s gathering place,” Kiser says. “We’ve heard the contractors asking for an additional day to visit exhibits and demo equipment, and that attendee category continues to expand. So, in 2018 we’re giving them access to the show floor on Wednesday. All attendees will have the opportunity to get outside and test drive all three days, as well.”

For those arriving Tuesday night, the free concerts at Fourth Street Live! will kick off Tuesday and run through Thursday night.

And Hardscape North America isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. The show has contracted to co-locate with GIE+EXPO through 2021 and hardscape contractors will also have access on Wednesday.

Show organizers are switching things up this year.

First, education opportunities have also expanded over the last few years, and that trend is expected to continue.

This year, there’s a new Dealer Boot Camp on Wednesday and ten 30-minute dealer workshops spread throughout the three days. The free workshops, presented by experts from the Bob Clements team, Equipment Dealers Association and United Equipment Dealers Association, cover everything from expense control ideas and strategies to establishing labor rates to visual merchandising.

In 2018, both dealers and contractors can expect to find new educational opportunities. The plan is to add some sessions for contractors on Wednesday before the show floor opens so they can focus on seeing new products and testing equipment during exhibit hours.

This year for the first time, there’s an opportunity for one lucky attendee to win $20,000 toward the purchase of a UTV. Participating exhibitors have their UTVs on display in the UTV Corral just outside the main registration lobby so attendees can get an up-close look at the latest models when they drop their entries at the corral.

This is the latest development in GIE+EXPO’s expansion into the UTV market following last year’s inaugural UTV University. That component has continued this year with three sessions featuring powersports industry experts.

“We’re now seeing powersports dealers coming to the show and the programming for our UTV University adds an education component designed to bring more powersports manufacturers and dealers,” Kiser says.

The Golf & Sports Turf Management Conference, introduced last year, also continues to broaden the attendee base, drawing golf course superintendents and sports turf managers.

With exhibit space maxed out, the show also has expanded creatively. This year, food trucks will hit the Kentucky Exposition Center to alleviate some space on the show floor and allow for more exhibits. Kiser says the food offerings will most likely move to Freedom Hall, which is adjacent to the North Wing, in 2018.

“We’re at a space premium,” Kiser says. “We’ll sell out of the South Wing and we’ll sell out of the North Wing. Where do you put the food? We came up with a solution for that by adding food trucks to provide an option in addition to a traditional food court. Attendees will have some really interesting, diversified offerings. Plus, it gives us some flexibility in where they go. They’re mobile.”

After all, GIE+EXPO is a work in progress — improving, expanding and evolving every year. This year will be no exception to that trend, says Kiser. “The key to its success has been evolution and trying keeping it fresh,” he says.

Louisville’s Expanding Footprint.

Not only is the show expanding, its host city – Louisville – continues to grow as well. Just in time for the show next year, two more large hotels will be open and available for attendees, along with a few smaller properties, which will make about 1,000 more rooms available, Kiser says.

“The hotels around the Kentucky Exposition Center sell out quickly,” he says. “It gets to be a challenge if people are traveling, some traveling significant distances.”

A new 600-room Omni and a new Westin hotel also will allow more meeting space for the expanding show. “The Omni will probably become a headquarters location for one of the show’s partner associations,” Kiser says. “Now the organizations can have a real identity while they’re here because they can have a headquarters hotel. It will be a different vibe and a different dynamic.”

Louisville is also expanding its downtown convention center, which is the Kentucky Exposition Center’s sister property. That facility’s re-opening in 2018 will create even more opportunities. The show is looking to turn it into a significant part of GIE+EXPO, including entertainment, additional education and additional meetings.