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ORLANDO-Reed Exhibition Cos. of Norwalk, CT, the nation’s largest trade show promoter, has signed a 25-year leasing deal with Orange County government to rent at least one million sf per year through 2026 at the four million-sf Orange County Convention Center which currently has 1.2 million sf of existing exhibition space.

The center will have two million sf by 2003, making it one of the 10 largest exhibition halls in the United States. The value of Reed’s deal with Orange County wasn’t disclosed. But Reed is charging $27.50 per sf to 1,450 exhibitors who already have signed up for the annual event, open only to the retail golfing industry.

Reed, county and convention center officials couldn’t be reached at GlobeSt.com’s publication deadline to learn leasing details. But area retail brokers intimate with the PGA show tell GlobeSt.com on condition of anonymity Reed expects to lease out at least 710,000 sf with an estimated aggregate rent value of $19 million.

Although the 1,450 exhibitor count to date is down from last year’s 1,535 exhibitors, the leasing activity comes at a time when metro Orlando’s hospitality industry has been looking for a revenue spark since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks coincided with a national economic recession to scare off guests.

“This will give the hoteliers and the retail market here the proverbial shot in the arm,” Dean Fritchen, senior associate, Arvida Real Estate Services Commercial Division, Winter Park, FL, tells GlobeSt.com.

The event is expected to generate $70 million in retail and hotel revenue based on an average expenditure of $1,300 per person, according to the convention center’s administrative staff.

Convention officials anticipate a crowd of 53,000, down fractionally from last year’s 53,877; 53,429 in 2000; and 50, 319 in 1999. Reed’s expected rental volume of 710,000 sf is also down from last year’s 711,000 sf but up from 671,696 sf in 2000 and 604,150 sf in 1999, according to the company’s numbers.

Backing up the PGA extravaganza is the 73rd Golf Course Superintendents Association of American International Golf Course conference/show slated for Feb. 3-10 at the convention center.

A total 700 exhibitors are taking at least 275,000 sf to attract an estimated 20,000 attendees at the closed event. Attendees are projected to spend about $24 million during the eight-day show, according to convention center officials.

The convention center agenda also comes as Orlando’s key attractions are unofficially acknowledging record attendance declines.

Amusement Business, a trade publication, projects the Magic Kingdom attraction at Walt Disney World lost 4% in total customer count this year, down to 14.7 million guests. Epcot at Disney had only nine million guests, down 15%; Disney-MGM Studios, 8.3 million guests, down 6%; and Animal Kingdom, 7.7 million guests, down 7%.

Disney’s chief rival in Orlando, Universal Orlando, saw 7.2 million guests at its Universal Studios attraction, down 10% from last year; and Islands of Adventure, 5.5 million guests, down 8%.

SeaWorld Orlando, part of the big three attractions in Orlando, had 5.1 million guests, down 2%, according to Amusement Business.

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