For six decades, the Los Angeles Boat Show called the Los Angeles Convention Center home. All that changed last week as the new company behind the show — Duncan McIntosh Co. Inc., which publishes Sea Magazine, Boating World and The Log Newspaper, FishRap and Editor & Publisher — opted to move the show to the popular Fairplex in Pomona, which is about 30 miles east of downtown L.A.
The move happened in large part because of the many vendors who voiced their displeasure over the convention center for the past several years, and ended up being moderately supported by local performance boat builders and accessory suppliers. In terms of other markets, such as wakesports, pontoons and personal watercraft, they were all represented according to a few contacts I spoke with after missing my first L.A. Boat Show since 2005. (My family’s move to Northern California was timed with the show’s move so it just didn’t work out this year.)
As expected, depending on sales, location and the overall foot traffic or exposure, the opinions of those I spoke with varied. Generally the location itself was well received but the organization, according to a couple of sources, had plenty of room for improvement.
“We liked the new location, but our layout was screwed up from the get-go because of a leaky roof in one of the buildings, which we understood isn’t the promoters’ fault, that forced us to move our boats the night before the show opened,” said John Lovell, production manager of Nordic Boats in Lake Havasu City, Ariz. “After that we were in an unfinished building that was not easy for our customers to find. It was a mess, but we ended up taking deposits on two boats and left with several good leads and shop visits lined up.”
Lovell, who said Nordic is planning to display several boats at the Fred Hall Show in Long Beach, Calif., in early March, added that the company is likely to return to the L.A. Boat Show in 2018.
Also likely to return if sales go well this year is Joe Malich, who recently purchased the Alabama-based RPM Powerboats and showed off the final RPM ever built, a 2014 26 Redline powered by a Mercury Racing 700SCi engine. The owner of Boat Shop Northwest in Gig Harbor, Wash., said the boat drew rave reviews from onlookers and that he had a great time despite the “too-close-to-home” weather in “sunny” Southern California.
“I thought it was a good show and that there were a lot of serious people in attendance,” Malich said. “It was a great barometer for the revival of the RPM 26 Redline, that’s for sure. Everyone loved the boat.”
In terms of parts, no company had more to offer than the team at CP Performance and Hardin Marine. The team loved the new location and felt like the costs, conveniences and cleanliness were better at the Fairplex.
“The show traffic on Saturday was amazing,” said Jim Stedry, general manager of CP Performance in Rohnert Park, Calif. “Thursday and Friday were light days amidst the torrential storms flooding L.A., but Saturday was the most traffic we have seen in more than 10 years. The booths with boats across from us were actually selling boats and the vibe was great.
“It would have been nice to see some more support from the industry especially after seeing the promoter invest in the show and step up the advertising for this year’s event,” he added. “Either way we enjoyed ourselves. Shows are not about immediate gratification; they are about building a rapport with customers and showcasing the products. They are a component of business that attributes to our branding. Sure the web offers shopping convenience, but purchasing decisions are still made based on a brand. People shop price but ultimately buy based on a brand.”
It’s safe to say, Stedry and company will be back in L.A. next year, and they’ll be recruiting their comrades to help “make boat shows great again.”
Former Powerboat editor Jason Johnson was an integral part of the magazine staff from 2005 through 2011, utilizing journalistic integrity and experience in and around performance boats to report on all aspects of the go-fast lifestyle. The award-winning writer resides in Southern California and is the executive editor and co-publisher of speedonthewater.com.