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Cashman Center closing a blow to smaller Las Vegas trade shows

Laura Covington has been going to the bridal show her mother started at Cashman Center since she was a toddler.

Now, the 28-year-old co-producer of the Bridal Spectacular is getting ready for this weekend’s final showing at Cashman. The exhibition space will be mothballed at the end of the year.

“It’s like losing a piece of us,” Covington said. “It’s a big part of our family.”

The news this year that Cashman’s convention areas will close left the trade and consumer show organizers surprised and scrambling to find space for the events they often book over a year in advance.

Limited options

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority transferred the Cashman space to the city of Las Vegas in June, but the authority will continue to operate the exhibition facilities through the end of the year. The LVCVA was losing money on the convention space at Cashman, and the city doesn’t have the staff in place to operate convention facilities, city spokesman Jace Radke said.

The LVCVA has been working with convention and trade show organizers to find alternative locations, while the city is working to find alternative theater venues, Radke said.

The options for consumer shows catering to locals are limited when it comes to affordability and accessibility. On top of a substantially heftier price tag, convention centers at casinos and resorts often come with the expectation of a couple hundred hotel room bookings, show organizers said.

The Bridal Spectacular has found venues for its 2018 shows, but not all of the trade show organizers can afford a cost hike. Others are looking frantically for new space. And the large, long-running Craft Festival will leave Las Vegas entirely.

The Craft Festival will hold its the “grand finale” at Cashman this fall, ending a run that began in 1983, before Cashman’s facilities were even finished, organizer Steve Powers said.

Without a comparable facility when it comes to accessibility and affordability, the November show will be Powers’ last in the region. The show typically draws 13,000 people over three days, and 90 percent are locals, he said.

“I’m not looking to throw my show in a tent behind World Market Center,” Powers said. “It’s not the same.”

Meanwhile, the stadium portion of Cashman will get busier in 2018, when a new United Soccer League team begins to share the field with the Las Vegas 51s.

Finding a venue

The Bridal Spectacular has called Cashman home for all 26 years of its existence, save for 2009, when the venue was booked solid for a monthslong bowling tournament, Covington said.

The shows will be held at the Rio in January and the Las Vegas Convention Center next August, but the spaces for the bridal show will either be significantly smaller than Cashman’s 98,000 square feet of exhibition space, or double the price for a similar area, Covington said.

Organizers submitted 30 requests for proposals for venues, and were either ignored or told no from most, Covington said.

The shows draw 700 to 1,000 brides, depending on the season, and up to 2,500 total attendees. Debbie Hansen, who has grown the twice-yearly bridal show significantly in the past two and a half decades, said she doesn’t think local officials put enough thought into the economic effect of closing Cashman’s convention side.

Harry Sleight, who’s been putting on shows at Cashman since 1988, has a fall Home Expo slated for September. Sleight is hoping he can get into the Rio or another space in the valley for the spring home and garden show he puts together every year, but nothing has come through yet.

“In the city and county, there’s no place that’s taking care of the constituency,” Sleight said. “Cashman was designed to support the locals.”

Sleight pays $4,000 per day, per hall at Cashman, and he estimates other venues would cost $15,000 to $20,000. With Cashman Field still in use, Sleight questioned why the exhibition space can’t continue to operate, too. Sleight supplies the security staff for his events, he said.

“If they wanted $6,000 or $7,000, we’d go for that in a heartbeat,” Sleight said.

Contact Jamie Munks at jmunks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0340. Follow @JamieMunksRJ on Twitter.

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