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Chris Jones

Legal Battle Looms Over MAGIC's Planned Move

31 March 2004

One of Las Vegas' most popular trade shows is getting a new home.

Sort of.

And perhaps only if a judge says it's all OK.

Beginning in August, the Men's Apparel Guild in California trade show plans to consolidate its semiannual fashion extravaganza at the Las Vegas Convention Center, the show's top official said Tuesday.

While that move was welcomed by frequent show attendees, it also prompted a pending legal battle between the show's organizer, MAGIC International of Woodland Hills, Calif., and the parent company of Las Vegas' Sands Expo and Convention Center, which stands to lose its portion of MAGIC.

Sources close to the deal said both parties have filed federal lawsuits related to the proposed move. Court records show a case was filed March 19 pitting MAGIC against Interface Group Holdings, a Sheldon Adelson-owned venture that controls the Sands Expo, though details of that case were unavailable late Tuesday.

Sources on both sides of the dispute declined comment on the pending litigation, but MAGIC International Vice President and General Manager Laura McConnell said Tuesday her company intends to fulfill its contractual obligation to stage three events at Sands Expo between now and late summer 2005. However, she declined to elaborate on what the new event might entail or how many attendees it may attract.

Instead, McConnell focused on her company's perceived benefits of staging MAGIC in one location, a change she said was driven by numerous requests from the show's attendees.

Since it came here in 1989, MAGIC has staged the bulk of its events at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Since 1998, however, it has held its Women's Wear Daily, or WWDMAGIC, ladies' apparel show at Sands Expo. But McConnell said a growing number of MAGIC attendees have become tired of traveling to a second site to attend different portions of the show.

"We're seeing that the number of crossover buyers that attend MAGIC have gone up," said McConnell, referring to buyers who purchase a combination of men's, women's or children's apparel rather than goods from just one category. "(A combined venue) helps them to get a broad overview of the market.

"Everyone is suffering from time poverty, and this is what (attendees) have been asking for to make their lives easier. Obviously, it's in our best interest considering they're the one's we're trying to please."

That change was welcome news to Les Norton, a longtime attendee who uses MAGIC to place new clothing orders for his family's three small stores in Laredo, Texas.

"For those of us that carry men's and women's wear, it's a godsend," Norton said. "It was always a major problem getting from the Convention Center to the Sands. If was hot in the summer or cold in February and you had to wait around outside for a shuttle; it became a logistical nightmare."

And while the Las Vegas Monorail would have eased some travel concerns, McConnell said it makes more sense to stage everything in one site.

"That's been the No. 1 most-requested thing we get from our customers -- to have it all as one," McConnell said.

The most recent MAGIC Marketplace, held Feb. 23-26, enjoyed a 14 percent increase in overall attendance, which topped 90,000. Thanks to the recent expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center South Hall, McConnell is confident that location can make up for the roughly 210,000-square-feet of space MAGIC will vacate at Sands Expo.

"We still have room to grow; it's really about how we choose to utilize the venue," McConnell said.

A spokeswoman for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, which promotes the city as a whole but owns and operates the Las Vegas Convention Center, said what matters most is that MAGIC will remain in Southern Nevada.

"This announcement substantiates that our destination is enjoying a very successful relationship with MAGIC," Marina Nicola said. "There is no question this show has a tremendous impact on Las Vegas. It is propitious for all of Las Vegas that MAGIC remains committed to our city."

In 2003, MAGIC produced a nongaming economic impact of nearly $225 million. This year's February show was expected to add another $125.6 million to the local economy, according to convention authority estimates released last month.