Auto show misses goal on attendance

Still, organizer and head of dealers are pleased overall

January 24, 2001|By Gus G. Sentementes | Gus G. Sentementes,SUN STAFF

The Motor Trend International Auto Show at the Baltimore Convention Center last week drew a crowd of 401,875 over a five-day period - 60,000 more than last year's nine-day show in Timonium, but short of its goal of a half-million - according to the event's organizer.

"It's one of our top three shows. It's right up there with Anaheim and San Diego," said Brian Lilley, Liberty Productions' executive producer for the show. Liberty staged the show with Motor Trend magazine and the Maryland New Car and Truck Dealers Association and produces 16 other shows across the country.

"I was very, very pleased with the attendance that we had," said Peter Kitzmiller, president of the dealers association. "There was some concern about going from a nine-day show to a five-day show, but we always felt that we could draw more people downtown.

"Moving the show downtown was important. We wanted to have a first-class event for Baltimore and for Maryland."

Inclement weather Saturday and Sunday, and a lack of awareness of the show's new location (it had been held at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium since 1993) helped contribute to the lower-than-expected turnout, he said.

"The weather forecast turned nasty," Lilley said. "If it wasn't for the whole doom and gloom, I think Saturday night would have been better."

The show, which ran from Wednesday to Sunday, hit its peak attendance Saturday, he said. Jamal Lewis, the Baltimore Ravens running back, signed autographs and took questions from the crowd, helping to boost attendance that day, Lilley said.

The Baltimore show had about 140,000 square feet last year at the Fairgrounds and about 350 vehicles, he said. This year at the convention center, the show had 290,000 square feet and nearly 500 vehicles.

Next year, Lilley said, the show will increase its floor space by about 20 percent at the convention center. That will mean more cars, and bigger exhibits on display, he said.

"We've had several manufacturers approach us saying they want to increase their [display] space by 50 percent next year," Lilley said. "Mazda expressed interest to double their space next year."

Liberty and Motor Trend magazine are divisions of Emap USA Inc. Of the 16 auto shows Liberty produces, only the shows in Baltimore and Las Vegas carry the Motor Trend brand name as part of the title.

Lilley said next year's show at the convention center will be Feb. 6-10. A spokesman for the Baltimore Convention Center did not return a phone call seeking comment.

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