TAMPA CONVENTION CENTER AXES ADULT SHOW

TAMPA CONVENTION CENTER AXES ADULT SHOW
Author: Dave Brooks
Date: August 16, 2006

A Florida convention center has axed an
adult-themed consumer adult show from holding an expo in one of its
convention halls, sparking a first-amendment debate about
accessibility to publicly owned meeting-facilities.

On Aug. 2, the city-owned Tampa Convention
Center rejected an application by Canada-based Showcase Productions
to host the ?Sex and So Much More Show? in one of the center?s
large ballrooms. Facility director John Moors said the show
violated local zoning ordinances, which ban adult entertainment
from the downtown area where the convention center is based. City
Attorney David Smith said the show included the ?exposure of
certain anatomical parts? and would have to be shifted to a part of
town that allowed for strips clubs and sex shops.

?It?s not an issue of rejecting their
application, it?s that there is an ordinance in place not allowing
this type of activity in the downtown area,? said Moors.

Event organizer Kari Calder rejected the claim
that her show contained any nudity. ?There are some aspects of
adult entertainment, but our dancers wear pasties over their
nipples and fuller thongs to cover themselves up,? she said. ?We?re
always very accommodating to facility needs and local laws.?

Calder said the show consists off a large live
entertainment portion featuring exotic dancers; a seminar area
where local experts are brought in to discuss issues of sexuality;
a beer garden and a vendor expo area with 125 to 155 vendor booths
used by 50 to 75 exhibitors. Exhibitors range from adult-toy shops
and DVD sales, to hot tubs, gym membership and beauty services.

?Basically anything that has to do with
sexuality, whether its toys or just looking good, we carry it,? she
said. She estimated the show needed about 100,000 square-feet of
convention center space to operate ? most space offered by
adult-theme facilities like strip clubs was far too small, she
said.

Calder said her group is looking at challenging
the Tampa ruling on the grounds that a public facility cannot
discriminate against any group that wants to rent the facility.

The show has also been held up in Albuquerque,
N.M. amid zoning concerns, although the Canadian group has been
able to push forward with two shows at the Colorado Convention
Center in Denver and the Minneapolis Convention Center earlier this
year. Calder said she has rebooked the two cities for a 2007 tour
and recently added Detroit?s Joe Louis Arena and another in
Phoenix, although she didn?t release the facility name. Calder said
she hopes to grow the event by two cities per year. Admission is
generally $20 to $25 per person and limited to individuals 19 years
or older.

?We understand that some 18-year-olds are high
school seniors, so in the interest of protecting the parents, we?re
not allowing them to attend,? she said.

While the show has drawn considerable press, it
was a rather tame and orderly affair, said Jody Geiselhart, sales
manager for the Minneapolis Convention Center which booked the show
last November.

?We got a lot of publicity for the show and a
few complaints, but mostly in went over very smoothly,? Geiselhart
said. ?There was a copycat show a couple months later and it was
very dirty and didn?t do so well.?

Geiselhart said the center did really well on
concessions, especially alcohol and beer sales, although she didn?t
have any exact figures for the show. Geiselhart also said the
convention center required additional police presence to monitor
for nudity and inappropriate behavior, but there were no incidents
at the show. Neither Minneapolis nor Denver have zoning laws
banning adult conventions.

Calder said her group will continue to monitor
U.S. convention center laws and push for access into more markets
as her company continues to grow.

?In Canada, these type of events are the most
successful consumer trade shows around,? she said. ? Dave
Brooks

Interviewed for this article: Kari Calder, (888)
268-0020; John Moors, (813) 274-8423; Judy Geiselhart, (612)
335-6000