The renovated Kansas State Faigrounds in Hutchinson is beginning to attract more state and national events.
But, according to a report in the Hutchinson News, one thing they aren’t attracting are major recreational vehicle rallies.
The Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) would like to come back to Hutchinson as soon as 2011. But the group actually broke state law when it came to the fairgrounds in 2002 with 10,000-some members.
At issue is an old state law that prohibits out-of-state recreational vehicle and auto dealers to sell products in Kansas, said Kansas State Fair Board Manager Denny Stoecklein.
Dealers can exhibit, but they can’t sell anything, he said, adding that a trade show component is a strong part of any big rally or convention.
Motorhome sales did occur during the 2002 event. Stoecklein said the law came to light after the convention ended. State Sen. Terry Bruce, R-Hutchinson, said he introduced a bill in 2005 to change the law. It was quickly met with resistance.
Bruce said there was concern that out-of-state dealers would flood the market and harm local dealer franchises, which is why the state law exists in the first place.
But amid a poor economy, FMCA officials are hoping the state will reconsider, said Jerry Yeatts, director of conventions and commercial services for the FMCA.
He said FMCA, which brought more than 4,000 RVs and 10,000 people to town in 2002, has estimated its impact on the state was in excess of $20 million. In Hutchinson alone, the event infused at least $10 million into the local economy. The fair generated $200,000 by renting the fairgrounds.
Yeatts said he and others with the organization hoped to begin working with the state this year. He added that local dealers could not support an event of FMCA’s magnitude.
“It is very vigilant for wanting to protect the in-state dealers, and we can appreciate that,” he said. “But our argument is most of our members who attend are from out-of-state. Many of our members are brand and dealer loyal. Maybe they met (a dealer) at a FMCA convention and built a relationship over the years.”
He also said dealers attending the convention invest a lot of money and time bringing RVs.
They can’t pack a motorhome up in a suitcase and put it on a plane,” Yeatts said. “They are driving it to the convention site. What they hope to do is not take them home themselves. They put a significant investment into the convention and into the show.”
He said he runs into the issue from a few other states. Some, however, have helped the organization work around the problem.
Stoecklein said he wouldn’t be pursuing the issues with Kansas legislators this session. However, he said, “We would support something that would better enable us to host this event again. We want to make sure everyone is on board with it. We want to make sure to address (state dealers’) concerns.” Meanwhile, he stays in constant contact with Yeatts.
“We’ve kept in contact that someday we will be able to return and have another convention,” Yeatts said.