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RSNA postpones Orlando move after Chicago yields concessions


Vendors cheer decision to stay in Windy CityMedical imaging vendors breathed a collective sigh of relief when the Radiological Society of North America and the city of Chicago announced that they had reached an agreement enabling the RSNA

Vendors cheer decision to stay in Windy City

Medical imaging vendors breathed a collective sigh of relief when the Radiological Society of North America and the city of Chicago announced that they had reached an agreement enabling the RSNA conference to stay in the Windy City for two more years. At a Dec. 1 press conference, RSNA executive director Del Stauffer and Chicago Mayor Richard Daley announced that the meeting will stay in Chicago at least through 2004, reversing a decision to move the convention to Orlando in 2002.

Key factors in the reversal were changes in union and hotel arrangements negotiated between the city and the RSNA. A labor agreement signed Sept. 29 modified overtime rates, reduced the number of labor personnel overseeing booth construction, and gave greater leeway to exhibitors who prefer to do their own booth setup.

The RSNA last year revealed its plan to hold the meeting in Orlando in 2002 and 2003 and to rotate the meeting between Orlando and Chicago after that (SCAN 3/5/97). The RSNA cited Chicago's persistent hotel room shortage and high costs as the primary reasons for the move. According to Stauffer, professional attendance at this year's meeting was down 2% through Dec. 1, primarily because radiologists refused to accept out-of-town hotel room assignments.

In the past year, several other large conventions also announced plans to move out of Chicago, giving the city an incentive to offer concessions to the RSNA. Mayor Daley admitted that Chicago had become overconfident about its power to attract and retain large conventions, given increased competition from convention centers in Orlando, Las Vegas, Atlanta, and other cities.

"We always were the number-one convention city, and we took a lot of things for granted," he said.

To solve the hotel room shortage, city leaders promised a big increase in the number of rooms in downtown Chicago. Other factors cited in the decision were the new $70 million parking garage at McCormick Place and $1.4 billion in overall capital improvements to the city that will have a direct impact on trade shows. Among these are new express bus lanes to and from McCormick. The trade unions were thanked repeatedly for their willingness to cut deals favorable to convention groups like the RSNA.

When Orlando representatives received the news on Monday, their reaction was one of "obvious disappointment," Stauffer said. Some exhibit space problems had developed with the convention center in Orlando, he said. Moreover, many RSNA vendors had complained about the upcoming move, worrying that attendees would turn the convention into a family trip and spend much of their time away from the convention center to visit area attractions like Disney World. RSNA veterans were also concerned about traffic congestion around the Orlando convention center, and whether the city had an adequate number of restaurants suitable for entertaining clients.

Nonetheless, the RSNA was prepared to take its show out of town if Chicago had not agreed to meet its demands.

"Without this commitment, we would leave," Stauffer said.

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