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Nation’s largest motorsports trade show returning to city

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The nation’s biggest motorsports trade show, the Performance Racing Industry Show, is returning to Indianapolis next year, bringing about 40,000 guests and millions of dollars of visitor spending with it.

PRI had a seven-year run in Indianapolis through 2004, but outgrew the city’s convention facilities and left for Orlando.

Now, it’s returning in 2013 after its owner, the Diamond Bar, Calif.-based Specialty Equipment Market Association, acquired the upstart International Motorsports Industry Show on Monday.

The acquisition of Indianapolis-based IMIS is set to close in December, SEMA said in a press release. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but IMIS will be folded into PRI.

SEMA said its acquisition of IMIS unifies the racing industry’s two trade shows into one, creating the opportunity for exhibitors and buyers to do business in a single location.

For Indianapolis, the announcement translates into a five-year economic impact of roughly $40 million per year (double the impact of the IMIS show), or $200 million through 2017, when IMIS' contract with the city is set to expire.

An expanded Indiana Convention Center made the show's return possible, convention officials said.

“It’s a huge win for the city and a perfect example of, if you build it, they will return,” said Chris Gahl, spokesman for Visit Indy, the organization formerly known as the Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association..

The convention center underwent a $275 million expansion completed in 2011 that increased exhibit space to about 566,000 square feet. That number does not include Lucas Oil Stadium, which is used by some of the largest conventions.

At its 2011 show, PRI occupied about 750,000 square feet of space in the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando.

PRI is not slated to use Lucas Oil Stadium next year, but could in 2014 after determining demand, organizers say. The preference is to remain in one building, using space in corridors and other areas if necessary.

“We looked at Lucas Oil Stadium and looked across the street at the Indiana Convention Center,” PRI President John Kilroy said. “And I asked our exhibitors, ‘Do any of you want to exhibit in the football stadium?’ and none of them wanted to exhibit in the stadium.”

The need to unify the racing industry trade shows, making it more affordable for exhibitors that might participate in both shows, seems to have trumped any exhibitor concerns about the smaller space in Indianapolis.

“The racing industry needed to have just one motorsports trade show in the U.S.,” said Scooter Brothers, chairman of SEMA’s board of directors, in a written statement. “I’m proud to say we’ve accomplished that.”

IMIS was formed in 2009 to fill the void left by PRI and stage a similar event in the Racing Capital of the World. Led by a group that includes NASCAR driver and Columbus resident Tony Stewart, IMIS this year will be held at the Indiana Convention Center from Dec. 6-8.

The event is expected to draw 25,000 visitors, up from about 10,000 three years ago. While IMIS has grown in stature since PRI’s departure, it’s no match for PRI, which draws about 40,000 spectators annually.

Having the two combined entities hold one event in Indianapolis is huge for the city, said Barney Levengood, executive director of the Capital Improvement Board of Marion County, which operates the convention center and Lucas Oil Stadium.

“Bringing PRI back here is so big,” he said. “That’s just huge.”

This year’s PRI trade show will run Nov. 29 to Dec. 1 in Orlando before it returns to Indianapolis next year for a three-day run, Dec. 12-14.

Besides NASCAR driver Stewart, IMIS owners are Chris Paulsen, president of locally based C&R Racing, and Jeff Stoops, president of Stoops Freightliner.
 
 

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