Change of scene: Preview the new space for the 2020 Golf Industry Show

Same place, new space: The North/South Concourse of Orlando’s Orange County Convention Center will be the setting for many of the goings-on at GIS. Get familiar with the premises.


Orange County Convention Center
The Orange County Convention Center is centrally located in the tourist district of Orlando, just a 15- to 20-minute drive from Orlando International Airport. The venue consists of two buildings — the West Concourse and the North/South Concourse — that are joined by a pedestrian walkway. Photos courtesy of Visit Orlando

Editor’s note: Download the GIS 2020 app on your smartphone to organize your personal event schedule; view all education offerings, speakers and trade show exhibitors; connect with fellow GIS attendees; and access maps and other handy resources.


Sorry, those aren’t the lucky numbers in a lottery — but they are important digits if you’re attending the 2020 Golf Industry Show, Jan. 25-30 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla. This year will mark the 10th time GIS has been held in central Florida. This one, however, won’t be like all the others.

“Same ZIP code (32819 at OCCC), different building,” says Matt Brown, GCSAA’s director of corporate sales.

The Orange County Convention Center is the second-largest convention center of its type in the United States — behind only McCormick Place in Chicago — with a total of 7 million square feet of space (2.1 million square feet of exhibit space). It annually hosts events ranging from the PGA Merchandise Show (which this year will take place one week prior to GIS) to the AKC National Championship dog show to the American Society of Hematology’s annual meeting and expo.

At GIS 2020, though, the spotlight will be on the OCCC’s North/South Concourse, which for the first time will host GIS activities Monday through Thursday. The West Concourse, which GIS has used during previous visits to Orlando, will still be in play — GCSAA educational seminars are scheduled there Monday and Tuesday. The West Concourse and the North/South Concourse sit across from each other, on opposite sides of International Drive.

GIS activities in the North/South Concourse will include the trade show, Turfgrass Talk Show, GCSAA Opening Reception and Closing Celebration, and activities for new GIS presenting partners the American Society of Golf Course Architects and the Golf Course Builders Association of America.

Watch this quick video for help navigating GIS 2020 at the Orange County Convention Center:

“We do have additional space. It allows us to get creative with our meeting needs and creative with our layout,” says Jana Brown, GCSAA’s director of conference events and meeting planning.

She says that familiarizing attendees with the North/South Concourse is a major priority for GCSAA, and the association is taking numerous measures to ensure that the thousands of people who will be at GIS can navigate the property easily and safely. “It’s a big campus. We’ve taken steps, as many as we possibly can, to get people where they need to be in a safe manner,” Jana Brown says.

Pedestrian bridges do connect the West and North/South Concourse, and attendees can also move between the two at street level. Jana Brown says crossing guards will be on duty along International Drive, which is one of the main thoroughfares for the convention center district and a link to prime Orlando destinations such as Walt Disney World Resort and SeaWorld Orlando.

Click on the map to enlarge.

GIS 2020 map

The convention center district map, above, will be a valuable guide. Jana Brown adds that GCSAA has hired eight “human arrows” who will be in bright yellow shirts and stationed at shuttle bus drops. “We want to make sure everyone finds their way as easily and as quickly as possible,” she says.

Opportunity calls

All told, GIS will occupy more than 600,000 square feet, counting the trade show floor, classrooms for education, the main stage, etc. But the focus will clearly be on the new space in the new building.

“It (North/South Concourse) actually is a better building because of the limited number of entrances to the trade show floor. There are two,” says Melissa Householder, GCSAA trade show specialist. “The other building had at least 10. Now, we can control things more easily to create a better experience for the attendees. Overall, we think it will be easier for people to navigate the trade show floor.”

GCSAA anticipates more than 500 exhibitors. Matt Brown says the trade show floor will resemble a square more than a rectangle, which he considers advantageous for show goers. “This building provided us with advantages we haven’t seen because of the layout,” he says. “The trade show floor is not as wide as in the past, but it is deeper. It provides us with more linear, grid-like aisles and will provide a better experience for attendees and exhibitors. There will be fewer steps to take to find the attractions, and we think we’ll see more traffic past all booths.”

Editor’s note: View the trade show floor plan and exhibitors list for the 2020 Golf Industry Show.

From his vantage point, R&R Products vice president and chief financial officer Brian Larson likes what he sees — at least on paper — with regard to how the trade show will be configured. “It looks like (exhibitors) will have more exposure. It (the trade show floor) seems a little more compact, and not a quarter mile to the other end. I think it’s good for a show to change up the layout,” says Larson, who recalls his first GIS in 1976, when he was 6 years old and tasked with handing out company brochures.

You’ll find ample dining and entertainment options not far from the Orange County Convention Center, including SeaWorld Orlando, Universal Orlando Resort, Pointe Orlando and ICON Park.

The trade show floor will be hopping with traffic, and besides checking out goodies at booths, another point of interest will be a drone area. “It’s something members have asked for. We’ve had it in the past, but never had it on this scale before,” Matt Brown says.

There will also be more room for Inside the Shop, which will allow for more hands-on learning. And yes, those darling dogs will return in the Flyaway Geese area. In essence, it will be all GIS, all the time. “In the past, other (non-GIS) things were taking place in the building. In this setting, we’ll be the only show in town,” Matt Brown says.

Dress rehearsal

The experience of a new layout in a new building will also serve as a dress rehearsal for upcoming shows. In 2021, GIS will return to Las Vegas for the first time since 2012. Here’s why Orlando is good preparation: A new addition to the Las Vegas Convention Center, West Hall, is under construction. That means GIS will be held in an unfamiliar spot, and it will be one of the first shows to use the space. The $980 million expansion is slated to be ready for its first event — the CES consumer technology show — in January 2021. GIS is scheduled Jan. 30-Feb. 4 of that year.

And in 2024, GIS will return to Phoenix for the first time since 1987, so this year’s and next year’s efforts should prove to be instrumental in the Valley of the Sun. For the time being, though, the Sunshine State is in focus.

“We’re going to see some things (in Orlando) we’ve never seen before because we have a bigger space. This helps us prepare for next year, because we’ll have to get creative there (Las Vegas) too,” Jana Brown says. “It gives us a chance to try some new things in places that, in a way, are kind of new.”

Orlando, meanwhile, is happy to welcome some old friends.

“As a destination with a long-standing connection to the golf industry, we are excited to host the Golf Industry Show and its approximately 14,000 attendees,” says George Aguel, president and CEO of Visit Orlando. “It’s been three years since the last show, and attendees may feel like they have traveled to a new city, as Orlando continues to up the ante with new options year after year. In addition to being the home of more than 150 golf courses, attendees will discover exciting theme park expansions, new attractions, a thriving culinary scene, and a variety of new retail, dining and entertainment complexes, many within walking distance of the Orange County Convention Center.”

Howard Richman is GCM’s associate editor.