Huge Boat Show to Drop Anchor at New Center

Share via
San Diego County Business Editor

A San Diego consumer boat show designed to rival the hugely successful Miami International Boat Show in size and economic benefit is being organized by the former manager of the Miami event and a local association of pleasure-boat manufacturers and related businesses.

John Rogers and the San Diego Marine Trade Assn. said Friday that they have joined forces to sponsor the San Diego International Boat Show from Nov. 30 through Dec. 6 at the San Diego convention center, now under construction on Harbor Drive.

The dates are tentative because construction delays may postpone opening of the convention center, said Carroll Armstrong, the center’s marketing director. The sponsors of the boat show, which is geared to sailing and powerboat enthusiasts, have booked backup dates in 1990 in case the building is not ready, he said.


The promoters predict that up to 18,000 daily visitors, or 90,000 people in all, may attend the five-day consumer part of the show. The first two days will be set aside for trade representatives only. The promoters would pay up to $300,000 if they rent the entire convention center, Armstrong said.

Second Major Event

The boat show is the second major event scheduled for the convention center, the first being a home and garden exhibit earlier in November.

Rogers managed the Miami International Boat Show, the industry’s most successful event, until six years ago when the show changed owners. Held every February, the Miami exhibition attracts “a couple hundred thousand” visitors each year, said Frank Scalpone, executive vice president of National Marine Manufacturers Assn. (NMMA), the Miami event’s sponsor.

The Miami boat show is the largest in the United States, with 850 exhibitors and 555,000 square feet of exhibit space, Scalpone said in a telephone interview Friday from New York. Actual attendance is larger at the annual New York boat show, however, an event also organized by NMMA.

Scalpone said San Diego is a logical site for a major consumer boat show because of the many local boat owners and boat companies. A high concentration of both--plus a suitable hall that up to now has been unavailable in San Diego--is required for a successful show, he said.

Event Faces Competition

The San Diego event, however, faces competition from similar shows held annually in Los Angeles and Long Beach, Scalpone said.


Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce spokeswoman Sandy Klukas said the event held at the Miami Beach convention center now generates $150 million in product sales each year as well as $50 million in economic benefit to Miami.

Rogers “nurtured the Miami event, which is to that city what the Mardi Gras is to New Orleans,” said Armstrong, the San Diego convention center marketing official. “If John can do here what he did there, San Diego is in great shape.”

Most Will Be S.D. Companies

The sponsors said 75% of the 500 exhibitors targeted for the San Diego show have already committed to lease exhibit space. The majority of exhibitors will be San Diego companies and may actually offer their products for sale on the convention hall floor.

Co-sponsor San Diego Marine Trade Assn. was formed last year “to organize and promote the industry,” executive director Jay McCaulley said. The formation of the nonprofit group, which now numbers 135 San Diego-area businesses, “had nothing to do with trying to get a boat show together,” he said.

Proceeds from the boat show will finance marine-related apprenticeship programs, McCaulley said.