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NMMA responds to controversy about New York show dates

The Progressive Insurance New York Boat Show isn’t getting special treatment from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office. It’s simply going back to the dates it held for more than a century.

That’s according to National Marine Manufacturers Association regional show manager Jon Pritko, who told Trade Only Today that the series of events that led the governor to give the show new dates, beginning in 2014, is being misrepresented.

“We didn’t get new dates. We’re just going back to our original dates,” Pritko told Trade Only. “We were moved to less desirable dates and attendance dropped. They didn’t work.”

“I actually have a picture of the New York show history,” Pritko said. “There’s a picture of a boat being pulled in by horses. It’s very impactful. When you see that, you realize that the show is 109 years old. We met with the governor and ... gave him the facts. We had those dates for almost 100 years, until we started getting moved around 10 years ago. This is a nearly $5.8 billion industry, and this show is going to go away. And that could affect almost 1,900 small businesses and 46,000 boating industry jobs. He’s big on small business. He’s big on the state using natural resources, which is what boating does.”

Cuomo announced that the show will move from near New Year’s Day — where Pritko said it got pushed after 100 years about a decade ago — to its traditional mid- to late-January pattern from 2015 to 2019 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.

In addition, the NMMA plans to introduce a fall boating show at the Javits Center and has secured September dates from 2014-2019. That show will include an in-water element on the Hudson River, Pritko said, which organizers and local officials believe will bring more visitors to both the city and to boating.

“It’s really exciting,” Pritko said of adding an in-water component to a new fall show. “We have this opportunity to really create a different and unique event in the Northeast. I feel like it will be truly different than other fall shows. It’s New York. You have a lot of wealth there. I think we might someday be able to have large boats and megayachts. It’s the New York market and people know the value of the New York market. And New York is a destination city and fall is a beautiful time of year to be there.”

News reports said Cuomo had met with a marine industry friend and then moved the dates, citing the industry’s devastation from Hurricane Sandy. Friends of Javits, an organization that represents trade show exhibitors, opposed the decision, saying it would displace six major and more successful trade shows at the Javits Center and that attendance at the boat show has been declining.

Pritko acknowledged that the show does not fill hotels as other trade shows do, but he said attendance has been dropping because of the bad dates and that Cuomo is looking at the overall impact of an industry that brings nearly $5.8 billion to the state.

“Our sales in New York are declining, when they’re up everywhere else, and it’s such an important boating market,” Pritko said. “That’s where we struggle. We’re so thankful for him for going back to where we were, but also we’re not being bullies.”

Pritko said show organizers understand the struggle of having unfavorable dates and are willing to work with the Javits Center to help accommodate everyone’s needs.

— Reagan Haynes

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