Down By The Boardwalk

Aq 105 79pg 0001

Atlantic City conjures up visions of . . .well, it depends on who is doing the conjuring, but most people have a well-defined sense of Atlantic City, N.J., whether it's summers spent at the seaside, gaming junkets from New York City or NESPA's long-running, loyally attended Atlantic City trade show. Just as the expo's home city has come a long way from its modest origins as a sleepy, seaside summer village, the NESPA show is no longer a humble regional show.

Sponsored by the Northeast Spa & Pool Association, the Atlantic City Pool & Spa Show is the successor to NESPA's New York Trade Show, which started in the 1960s and was held in the fall each year at various New York City hotels.

"This show was originally identified and created as a regional show," says Joel Caesar, show manager from 1984 to 2003. "It serves a particular marketplace, which is the east and half of the Northeast, as well as the Atlantic coastline."

A NYC Teamster's Union strike cancelled the 1980 NESPA show just two weeks before it was scheduled to open at the Americana Hotel in New York City. Soon after, the NESPA Board of Directors decided it would not sponsor another trade show in 1981, but would instead devote time evaluating other show venues besides New York City.

Because of its East Coast location, its convention center and a rapidly expanding hotel industry due to gambling growth, the NESPA Board of Directors chose Atlantic City to host its maturing trade show.

The Atlantic City Pool & Spa Show, as we know it today, debuted in January 1982 in the Atlantic City Convention Center, which was built in the late-1920s. "It was one of the first great convention centers in the United States," says Caesar.

This first show was a modest success when measured against shows to follow, with approximately 4,000 attendees and 125 exhibitors in 17,500 square feet of exhibit space. The show also included 10 educational seminars and a keynote address.

The show remained in the Atlantic City Convention Center from 1982 to 1997, surviving an Atlantic City Teamster's Union strike that lasted nearly three years. By 1997, it drew 8,647 attendees and 365 exhibitors in 78,250 square feet of space.

When Atlantic City built the New Atlantic City Convention Center, the old Atlantic City Convention Center was closed and renovated. It is now an event center called Boardwalk Hall, and subsequently, the New Atlantic City Convention Center is now simply called The Atlantic City Convention Center.

"A lot of people were sentimental about the old building," says Caesar, which made the move to the new Atlantic City Convention Center in 1998 emotionally difficult for show managers and attendees. However, with the change of location came the potentiality of half-million square feet of show .oor space. "For the last two years we've had around 120,000 square feet of exhibit space at our show," Caesar says. "In the old building, if I used every inch of space and used the stage where Miss America gets crowned, I could probably squeeze in 50,000 square feet of exhibits."

The center also provides updated and expanded freight-handling and storage facilities as well as modern meeting and seminar rooms.

However, this newer building does not hold the memories the old convention center does for Caesar. In 1987, the Atlantic City Spa & Pool Show lost one exhibit day due to an abundance of snow that fell during the Sunday Super Bowl game. "I remember [that] very specifically because the New York Giants were in it and I'm a Giants fan," says Caesar. Because Atlantic City had little snow-removal equipment, the mayor was forced to shut the city down on Monday, which was the show's setup day. "Exhibitors already in the convention center put their booths together against the rules and we moved setup to Tuesday and show hours to Thursday, which is normally a shorter day," Caesar says.

Despite such obstacles, the show has continued to grow, show managers say, with the 2004 show drawing 11,900 attendees and 460 exhibitors in 120,200 square feet of space.

"From time to time somebody suggests, 'Why don't you move the show from Atlantic City? '" Caesar says. "And we've got two or three locations within our area where we could consider moving the show, each of which has certain disadvantages." He says both New York City and Philadelphia would be more expensive for attendees and exhibitors "as far as hotel rooms, cost of meals and transportation." Besides, he says, "we just feel it's a good location and it's working and the numbers keep going up, so why stop?

"It's where we are, it's the marketplace and it's very easy to get to," Caesar says. "Because transportation is not a great cost, because accommodations are at economical rates, because of the broad spectrum of educational programs and social activities we present and because of the recognition of the exhibitors as a good place to do business, we draw good crowds."

We hope you join the AQUA staff and the rest of the crowd at this year's Atlantic City Spa & Pool Show.

See you there!


TUESDAY, JAN. 25 12:00-6:00 p.m.

WEDNESDAY, JAN. 26 12:00-6:00 p.m.

THURSDAY, JAN. 27 10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m.

Buyer's Guide
Find manufacturers and suppliers in the most extensive searchable database in the industry.
Learn More
Buyer's Guide
Content Library
Dig through our best stories from the magazine, all sorted by category for easy surfing.
Read More
Content Library