Rotary International announced that its 2007 convention, which is expected to draw up to 25,000 attendees, will be held June 17-20 of that year in Salt Lake City, instead of in New Orleans as had been previously scheduled.
Salt Lake had been chosen to host the convention — the largest ever in the county, with delegates from 166 countries — in 2011. New Orleans was the site for 2007 but will be unable to host in the aftermath of this summer's hurricanes. So, Salt Lake Rotary spokesman Gene Banks said, the cities agreed to swap dates.
"Hurricane Katrina really decimated the infrastructure and made it very difficult for the Rotarians there to take care of all the things they needed to do" to plan and carry out the event, Banks said. An alternate site was needed, and Salt Lake Rotarians, with perhaps a twinge of sadness, agreed to trade with New Orleans.
"Rotarians in Utah have presented to Rotary International from the beginning our desire to maintain the 2011 convention date, mainly because it's the 100th anniversary of the Rotary's introduction to the state," Banks said. "Also, for the time, because it's a reduction of four years in preparation."
However, Banks said, "what we did tell them is that if we can give service, and if we can come to the aid of Rotary International, we'd be glad to host in 2007, and we'll have a great convention here."
Fortuitously, Banks said, both the Salt Palace Convention Center and local hotels happened to have openings in their bookings to host the delegation, which would not have been the case in 2008, 2009 or 2010.
Steve Lundgren, a member of the Salt Lake Convention & Visitors Bureau board, said Tuesday that expansions under way at the facility are on track to be complete well ahead of the 2007 convention.
"It's the largest convention that we will have held in Salt Lake City/Salt Lake County, of the scale and size only to be eclipsed by the 2002 Winter Olympic Games," Lundgren said. "Work will be completed (on the expansion) by August 2006, enabling the Convention & Visitors Bureau to successfully pursue Rotary International."
Though the date has been changed, Lundgren said the economic impact is still likely to be significant. Citing findings by the University of Utah's Bureau of Economic and Business Research, Lundgren said that each visiting Rotarian is expected to spend about $1,000 during their visit to Salt Lake City, and that the total boon to area coffers is likely to reach $25 million.
But, there is much to be done between now and June 2007, and Banks said the event planning committee will beef up significantly — from 40 to 60 members to more than 1,000 — to deal with the expedited time frame.
"It's like we were running a marathon, and have switched now to the 400-meter (dash)," Banks said.