Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2011 | 2 a.m.
One day it houses thousands of slot machines. The next, hundreds of nurses. A week later, it’s filled with rows of guns, bullets and camouflage gear. Today, it’s a debate among Republican presidential candidates.
The Sands Expo and Convention Center is one of the most used and versatile convention spaces in Las Vegas. Its 1.9 million square feet of meeting rooms and show floor get a makeover nearly every week.
Today, it serves as a Republican bully pulpit, with seven presidential hopefuls debating public policy before a crowd of voters from 16 states. But the convention room isn’t always given over to such heady matters and political theater.
Here are former and upcoming tenants of the same convention center:
Photo by Steve Marcus
Oct. 3-6: Global Gaming Expo (G2E)
The nation’s largest gathering of gaming industry professionals attracted 17,000 people to the Sands for a four-day run. Panels of industry experts discussed trends in casino technology and business, while game manufacturers showed off their newest creations.
G2E in previous years was held in mid-November at the Las Vegas Convention Center, but organizers moved the show to early October to give buyers more time to investigate new products before closing out annual budgets. The conference will return to the Sands next October.
Photo by Heather Cory
Sept. 14-16: Interbike Expo
After a two-day outdoor demonstration at Bootleg Canyon in Boulder City, the Interbike International Bicycle Expo took over the Sands for three days of exhibits, product launches and seminars. About 18,000 people attended, including 13,000 international buyers and brand representatives.
The trade show is contracted to return to the Sands in 2012. Next year, the Regional Transportation Commission hopes to use the conference as a way to entice people to participate in Viva Bike Vegas, an annual bike tour.
Photo by Steve Marcus
Coming soon: Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show
The SHOT show is a must-see for any gun enthusiast. It is the largest trade show for professionals involved with shooting sports and hunting. It even includes a law enforcement component.
About 45,000 people from more than 100 countries are expected to attend the conference, which runs Jan. 17-20. The event is owned by the National Shooting Sports Foundation.
Coming soon: AAPEX and SEMA show
The Specialty Equipment Market Association and Automotive Aftermarket Product Expo arrive in Las Vegas every fall to host the biggest automotive specialty products display in the world. Aftermarket goodies for cars and trucks are exhibited on showpiece cars scattered throughout the trade show floor.
A crowd of about 120,000 is expected when the shows return to the Sands Nov. 1-4. The global aftermarket industry generates $395 billion annually.
July 27-29: World Shoe Association Show
Almost 20,000 shoe lovers made the trek to Las Vegas this summer for the World Shoe Association Show, the largest footwear exhibition in the world. The convention included far more than just sneakers and sling backs. Hundreds of accessory buyers and distributors took part as well.
Conference attendance has dipped in recent years, and organizers have had to downsize the event since the economy soured. But enough people attend that the exhibition is still kicking twice a year. The shoe aficionados are set to return to the Sands Feb. 6.
Aug. 19-22: Off-Price Specialist Show
This convention, which lands in Las Vegas in August and February to coincide with Fashion Week, maintains that “everyone who loves fashion loves a bargain.” It is the largest trade show of its kind in the country and features more than 10,000 vendors and buyers who hawk and shop for below-wholesale clothing, accessories and footwear. It returns to the Sands Feb. 12-15.
Oct. 11-13: IMEX America
This year’s IMEX America convention was a first for Las Vegas. About 8,000 people from 140 countries gathered at the Sands for the three-day conference on events, meetings and incentive travel. Simply put, it was a convention about conventions.
The conference included an unusual hosted-buyer format in which London-based producer IMEX Group paid for travel and accommodation for 1,500 buyers known for developing events domestically and internationally. IMEX contracted with the Sands for three years, so the conference will return to Las Vegas through at least 2013.
Coming soon: Photo Marketing Association show
Almost 30,000 people are expected to descend on the Sands for this convention aimed at photo enthusiasts, photographers, manufacturers and retailers. This year brings many changes for the event.
It previously targeted primarily photo retailers; now it hopes to attract photographers as well. The trade show also rebranded itself as “CliQ.” And it moves back to Las Vegas after two years in Anaheim, Calif. The Photo Marketing Association canceled the convention, slated for September, earlier this year and instead pushed it to Jan. 10-13 to coincide with the Consumer Electronics Show.
Coming soon: HIMSS12 annual meeting
HIMSS, a nonprofit group focused on optimizing information technology and management systems for the betterment of health care, brings its weeklong annual meeting to Las Vegas in late February. The group estimates 30,000 members will attend. HIMSS represents health care providers, government groups and corporations, and the conference includes educational workshops, technical exhibits and networking events.
Coming soon: GlobalShop 2012
GlobalShop is the world’s largest annual event for retail design and shopper marketing. Each year, the Sands is transformed into a psuedo-shopping mall with thousands of square feet of store fixtures, products and accessories including shelving, mannequins, signs and displays. Keynote speakers lecture attendees on how to squeeze better performance out of a retail space.
The convention runs Feb. 29-March 2. About 10,000 people are expected.