Annual National RV Trade Show may move from Louisville

Is Indianapolis facility big enough to host it? RVIA execs are considering there, as well as a few other places. 

Posted on May 8, 2014 at 4:50 p.m.

The recreational vehicle industry is considering moving its biggest annual trade show from Louisville, Ky., to Indianapolis, officials said Thursday, May 8.

Recreation Vehicle Industry Association leaders made that disclosure in a “town hall” meeting following their second annual RV Power Breakfast at the RV/MH Hall of Fame’s Northern Indiana Event Center.

James Ashurst, RVIA’s vice president of communications and marketing, said he and RVIA president Richard Coon recently spent the day in Indianapolis, looking at its facilities. The National RV Trade Show would potentially take place in the Indiana Convention Center and Lucas Oil Stadium.

“We’re awaiting the proposal back from them on how we might be able to make our show fit,” Ashurst said. “It’s not without challenges. Our show is much larger than Indianapolis’ footprint right now. It would take every bit of show space in the convention center and every bit of Lucas Oil Field as well.”

The show, in early December each year, has been in Louisville the past 52 years. The event allows manufacturers to present new models to dealers and make sales to them.

Ashurst noted that the RVIA is under contract to have the show at Louisville through 2015.

“We’ve had a great relationship with Louisville,” he said. “They’ve been a great partner for us but it’s incumbent upon us to always look and see what we might look to do differently. By investigating other venues, like Indianapolis and several others, it helps to keep Louisville honest and on their toes, and very proactive and serving our needs, and listening to our concerns.”

Because the Indianapolis Colts, who play at Lucas Oil, are in season during the show, the team would need to agree to schedule away games for the roughly two weeks it takes to build and break down the show.

Ashurst said he thought the Indianapolis facility was “fantastic.”

“You could put a couple of anchors on the floor of Lucas Oil, you could put a couple of anchors on the floor of the convention center,” Ashurst said. “There’s no posts anywhere, from a sight standpoint, high ceilings everywhere… I think those are all pluses.”

One RV executive who said he has been involved with setting up and tearing down the show in Louisville said there would be a “big learning curve” in moving the event.

Coon reminded people that no decisions have been made.

“Please don’t leave this room and say that RVIA is going to move in two years to Indianapolis,” Coon said.

For next year’s show in Louisville, Scott Graham, the RVIA’s newly hired national show director, said he is working on several improvements. They include moving registration from outdoors to indoors in the west hall, which then would feed into the west wing and help boost west wing traffic. The RVIA also would like to let dealers register online instead of by mail.

Most importantly, Graham said the RVIA will step up its efforts to market the show to dealers.

“If you get the girls to the dance, the boys will come,” Graham said. “Getting more dealers to come will be a big focus for us next year.”

Graham said marketing can be improved.

“The fact that I heard about 20 times today, ‘The Louisville Show,’ that’s a real issue. It’s not, ‘The Louisville Show,’ it’s, ‘The RV industry show.’ The show doesn’t really have a brand. I think that’s an issue as well. We’ve got some work to do.”


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