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New Groups Move to Fill Void in Local Boat Shows

Times Staff Writer

Boat show promoters have had a rough time keeping their shows afloat in San Diego, a city otherwise known for its sail and power boats.

But that could soon change. A new promoter and a longtime boat show operation both hope to grab a share of the rebounding pleasure boat industry.

New-promoter interest was sparked earlier this year when the Southern California Marine Assn. (SCMA), a marine industry trade organization based in the city of Orange, canceled the spring show it had held here for four years because of “scheduling conflicts.”

“When we decided not to continue, several people decided they could come in and take over,” said SCMA executive director Spike Harvey. “The boating marketplace is very strong right now, so there are people trying to pick up where we left off.”

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Boosts Display Space

Fred Hall and Assoc., a Sherman Oaks-based show production company that has held fishing boat and fishing tackle shows at the Del Mar Fairgrounds for seven years, reacted to SCMA’s decision by boosting its display space reserved for pleasure craft. Next March’s show, for example, will include more than 200,000 square feet of display space for fishing, sail and power boats, as well as for exhibitors who sell boating accessories, according to Hall & Assoc. spokeswoman Lois Hall.

“We are now the boat show in San Diego,” Hall said. “Others have come and gone, but we’re the only one that remains.”

Duncan McIntosh Co., a Costa Mesa show producer that stages luxury boat shows in Newport Beach each spring and fall, hopes to prove Hall wrong--it plans an in-the-water show in November at the year-old Chula Vista Marina in San Diego’s South Bay to fill the gap created by SCMA’s departure.

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“We’ll have in excess of 200,000 square feet of display space,” said spokesman Lee Gjolme. “We will establish a first-class, international boat show in San Diego that will surpass any show ever staged in the city.”

The fledgling Chula Vista site joins a list of several area exhibition sites that includes San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium, Golden Hall, the Sports Arena, the Del Mar Fairgrounds and Sea World. Except for Del Mar, boat shows at those sites have been generally unsuccessful.

Question Posed

Can San Diego, which sits in the shadow of well-established boat shows in Los Angeles, Long Beach and Newport Beach, support a full-blown boat show?

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“Absolutely, it needs a show,” Gjolme said. “There are quite a few dealers there on Shelter Island, and Harbor Island is another hot bed.”

“San Diego just passed Dallas as the nation’s eighth largest (metropolitan area) in the U.S.,” agreed Hall. “All those people have two forms of recreation--fishing and golf. Boat dealers need a place to display their wares.”

But a successful boat show depends on boat dealer and manufacturer support, according to Bud Aronis, a San Diego-based consultant who coordinated SMCA’s four shows. “Dealers want to have the shows at their lull time, when business is slow,” he added.

Unfortunately, those lull times occur during San Diego’s wettest and coldest months, and “if the weather is bad, an outside show won’t draw people,” Aronis said.

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