Executive Director’s Commentary
By Don Eversmann, F240000
The September 1980 issue of Family Motor Coaching magazine contained an article written by FMCA’s national president at the time, Harry Palmer, L481. His “FMCA Update” was titled “Help Choose A Convention Site.”
I thought you would be interested to see the convention site specifications he shared with the membership in that article, because they make for an interesting comparison with those of today. Over the past 23 years the requirements for FMCA’s conventions definitely have changed.
Following is an excerpt from Harry Palmer’s 1980 column.
Help Choose A Convention Site
Having completed our 17th Annual Summer Grand International Convention at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds in St. Paul, the national office would like the help of all chapter officers and members in developing a file of suitable future sites for both summer and winter conventions. Our requirements vary for parking facilities from 1,000 to 2,000 coach families. We need a place for entertainment that will seat 1,500 to 4,000 people. We should have an indoor exhibit area of at least 20,000 square feet adjacent to an outdoor exhibit area of five to 10 acres. Also required is a meeting room that will seat 500 people for seminars and meetings. The reason for this wide range of parking facilities for coach families is the recent trend of lower convention attendance due to economic conditions and the price of gasoline. Hopefully this condition will not last forever. Therefore, we would like to know about larger facilities for future reference. The actual specifications are much more complicated than those just listed. Here are some items that must be considered before a final decision can be made:
Availability of shopping and laundry facilities at a reasonable distance
Suitable access roads with 20-ton bridges with adequate clearance
- Availability of motel or hotel accommodations (200 to 400 rooms)
- Commercial air service within one hour from site
- Availability of more rooms and buildings mentioned above to save expense of tents
- Restrooms and showers
- Dump stations or sanitary sewers
- Availability of three-phase electrical service, 500-kilowatt for outdoor displays and 150-kilowatt for indoor displays
- Availability of concession stands
- Emergency facilities “” paramedics and hospitals
- Telephone service
- Drinking water
- Garbage pick-up
- Security, fences, police, etc.
Last but most important:
- Does the community extend a sincere welcome to FMCA and will the Chamber of Commerce or other similar organizations actively and willingly work with FMCA prior to and during the convention?
Today “” in 2003 “” we are already considering convention sites for 2006 and beyond. Family Motor Coach Association routinely sends out convention prospectus information to fairgrounds, convention centers, and other venues that have been referred to us as potential sites by family or commercial members. We also provide our requirements to facilities that have contacted us for information about hosting an FMCA convention.
Any potential convention site is sent an information booklet we have prepared called “Convention Site Specifications.” If the facility operators think they can handle an FMCA convention based upon their review of these specifications, they are asked to submit a formal proposal to Jerry Yeatts, FMCA’s director of conventions and commercial services. Proposals are reviewed, and promising locations are then scheduled for an on-site visit and evaluation.
The current site specifications for an FMCA convention are as follows.
- Parking Area “” 5,000 to 7,000 motorhomes. This computes to 20,000 to 28,000 cars or 150 to 200 acres.
- Holding Area “” Nearby area of at least 20 acres of flat, solid land for use as a preconvention holding area and/or overflow parking area.
- Seminar Rooms “” Air-conditioned rooms to be used for 10 concurrent sessions each day of convention with the following occupancies: 1,000 (2 rooms); 600 (4 rooms); 100 (4 rooms); board room for 35 to 40 people.
- Offices “” Numerous smaller offices are needed for staff; the FMCA president; four youth centers; an exhibitors’ lounge; the show decorator’s storage and office, etc.
- Outdoor Exhibit Area “” Minimum 1 million to 1.3 million square feet or 30 acres of hard or paved surface for motorhome displays.
- Indoor Exhibit Hall “” Minimum 100,000 to 120,000 square feet of air-conditioned space preferred for 500 to 600 10-foot-by-10-foot booths.
- Utilities “” On-site sewage dumping area is preferred, or on-site pump-out trucks. Electrical hookups or access to electricity desired.
- Arena or Grandstand “” For evening entertainment that will seat approximately 8,000 to 12,000 people. Inside air-conditioned area preferred.
- Grounds Exclusivity “” Site exclusivity is necessary; any shared days must be negotiated.
- Hotel Rooms “” A minimum of 2,000 needed in various price ranges within a 30-mile radius.
- Rental Cars “” Approximately 200 rental cars must be available in the area.
- Airport “” Major airport should be available within one hour or less of site.
- Campgrounds “” With approximately 50 to 150 sites each, within a 100-mile radius for a total of 1,800 sites.
- Transportation “” Availability of buses (metro, school, or charters) to be utilized for on-site tram service.
In addition, it is important for us to determine whether the convention facility is in a state or municipality that is “motorhome friendly.” We check for laws restricting the display or sale of motorhomes by out-of-state manufacturers and dealers. We also check to see whether any other laws may be on the books that may deter FMCA members from traveling to the area for the convention. When the above criteria are met, we may consider the site for an FMCA convention.
Studies conducted by chambers of commerce or convention and visitors bureaus in locations where our conventions take place show that the events add an estimated $15 million to $30 million to local and state economies. This is generated through the sale of fuel, food, accommodations, tours, facility rental, and more.
FMCA rotates the location of its conventions to give the majority of members an opportunity to attend periodically without traveling significant distances. Two conventions are scheduled each year, one in the March-April time frame, and the other usually in July or August. The convention locations are rotated on a three-year basis. The plan was devised by dividing the United States into three areas “” East, Central, and West, with northern locations being sought for summer conventions and southern locations for winter events. Following is the rotation plan:
YEAR WINTER SUMMER
1 West East
2 Central West
3 East Central
Any of you who have attended an FMCA convention would agree that these events require the equivalent of setting up a small city and operating it for about a week. If you visit any locations that you believe might be potential sites to host one of these events, do not hesitate to contact the FMCA Convention Department. We will be happy to send the facility a “Convention Site Specifications” booklet.
I hope you will join us at one of our future conventions, as they are certainly worthwhile experiences. The shopping opportunity alone makes them a motorhomer’s “toy store,” not to mention all the seminars and entertainment that are provided, and the opportunities for fun and fellowship. Our next event is FMCA’s 71st International Convention in Albuquerque, New Mexico, March 16, 17, and 18, 2004. See you there.
An Albuquerque convention registration form appears in this month’s issue of Family Motor Coaching magazine and also will be included in the December 2003 and January and February 2004 issues; or, you can register by phone (800-543-3622) or online at www.fmca.com starting November 10, 2003.