Terry Haskell was an athletic director at William Penn College (now University) in Oskaloosa, Iowa, when he attended his first Athletic Business Conference & Expo more than 30 years ago.

(Photo by Brian Ebner)

Terry Haskell was an athletic director at William Penn College (now University) in Oskaloosa, Iowa, when he attended his first Athletic Business Conference & Expo more than 30 years ago. He went from buyer to seller when he transitioned to Musco Lighting, also based in Oskaloosa, which specializes in outdoor athletic and recreational field lighting. Haskell returned to ABC as an exhibitor in 1982 with Musco to reach the high-level attendee that ABC attracts.

"The strength of the educational programs that ABC offers brings in a better quality of delegate. You normally get the decision-maker at the show," he notes. "ABC is also a good cross-reference of the population we sell to since ABC has a lot of architects and engineers, as well as end users."

This year's Athletic Business Conference & Expo, to be held Nov. 20-23 at the San Diego Convention Center, will reunite high-level attendees and top manufacturers from around the world as the largest fall sports and fitness show in the industry.

And while Haskell enjoys interacting with attendees, he also values the friendly atmosphere ABC offers for vendors. "The most lasting thing about the shows are the contacts that we make and the relationships that we build with end users and other people, including vendors," he says. "The quality of any trade show is not only the delegates who attend but the vendors that attend, too. ABC tends to attract pretty good people."

Musco will be demonstrating Light-Structure GreenTM, its complete sports-lighting system that can cut both operating costs and spill light in half. The popular product, which Musco has been demonstrating at ABC for the past nine years, includes Control-Link®, a system that helps control, monitor and manage facility lighting and other electrically operated equipment. Users can directly control their fields via website or enter, edit and update schedules via smartphones.

Musco is active beyond the trade show floor, sponsoring the popular Athletic Business Golf Classic, which will be held this year, its 12th, at Coronado Municipal Golf Course on Wednesday, Nov. 20, at 12:30 p.m. Attendees and exhibitors alike enjoy the golf outing as a way to relax, network and enjoy some friendly competition in a beautiful setting - a competition fellow exhibitor David Noe is very familiar with.

HAVING A BALL
Noe, the vice president of sales and marketing with Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Schelde North America, knows a thing or two about the golf outing, having been a part of multiple winning foursomes in the past. But Noe contends his most memorable victory came at ABC when his company made the largest sale in its history.

"We met with American Sports Center at ABC, which included its main investor and its president - the people that were going to be putting that facility together - and that cemented our relationship," Noe says.

Schelde started as a volleyball net manufacturer but has evolved into a complete sports equipment manufacturer that can provide virtually all of the equipment needed to build a gym, including the basketball goals, volleyball equipment, bleachers, benches and chairs. While the college market is a strong focus for Schelde, Noe admits that ABC allows his company to reach other key audiences, as well.

"More than any other trade show, ABC is a place where we see not only the college market, but more real private projects represented by the principals of those projects," he says.

Another key benefit for Noe is access to the military.

"ABC has also been a great conduit for us into the military and military sales. We see bases from all over the world at ABC, and there's really no other venue where we get in front of those people," Noe admits. "We probably wouldn't have gotten sales if we hadn't seen these really good military contacts who come to the show and actually put their hands on our equipment." These become long-term relationships, according to Noe, who adds, "Once we do business with a base in Japan or Korea or wherever, we continue to be one of their vendors."

This year, attendees stopping at the Schelde North America booth will have the opportunity to view a new volleyball product and expanded offerings in the basketball and field equipment areas. "We look at ABC as a place for us to roll out new things. We've had many conversations about getting stuff done in time for ABC, so it's a point of focus for us because of the large and varied audience that attends," Noe says.

Those varied audiences will not only come together on the exhibit floor, but at the keynote presentations, as well. Ken Dychtwald, president and CEO of Age Wave, will present one keynote, while basketball legend Earvin "Magic" Johnson will deliver the other. One exhibitor looking forward to Magic's speech is Hossein Noshirvani, executive vice president of Motionsoft.

A SLAM DUNK
"Two years ago, the keynote was Bill Walton, and it was one of those great experiences," Noshirvani says. "His speaking was unbelievable; such a charismatic personality, and you can learn so much from a guy like that. I'm excited to hear what Magic has to say."

Compared to Musco and Schelde, Motionsoft is a relative newbie at ABC, exhibiting for only its ninth time. But like his peers from Musco and Schelde, Noshirvani praises the strength and diversity of the ABC attendees.

"ABC is great because it brings together a lot of different parts of the industry - military, JCCs, YMCAs, commercial clubs. That combination allows us to hit our entire marketplace in one shot," Noshirvani says, noting those attendees come ready to buy. "The people who come to this show are more serious about buying, whereas a lot of other shows, you get the impression that it's kind of window shopping." Noshirvani partially attributes this to ABC's 79 educational sessions in 10 tracks. "There's no other show, to my knowledge, that has the breadth of educational seminars. Even as a vendor, I try to attend a couple," he says.

While Noshirvani and Motionsoft will be exhibiting its club management and hospital wellness software, it's Motionsoft's additional services that will be prominently displayed at this year's show. As Noshirvani puts it, "We want to show people what we can do as a technology provider to help them get more members, keep members longer and provide a world-class reporting platform."

Dennis Van Milligen is Editor in Chief of Athletic Business.