DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — A town best known for rowdy spring breakers and race cars tempoararily became sports turf managers central, as turf pros from around the country flocked to the annual STMA show.
As the Sports Turf Managers Association’s 24th Annual Conference and Exhibition in Daytona Beach, Fla., wrapped up, the news seemed to be good. Attendee numbers appeared to be up, action on the trade show floor was good and both attendees and exhibitors seemed to be happy.
“It’s been excellent, we’ve had more pre-registrants this year than we’ve had any other year,” Kim Heck, CEO of the STMA, said. “The numbers aren’t final yet, but we expect this year’s attendance to be larger than last year’s.”
Zach Holm, head groundskeeper for the York (Pa.) Revolution, was attending his sixth STMA conference and said the show was going in the right direction.
“It seems like there’s a few more (people), but not terribly bigger, but bigger than my first year when it was in Phoenix. And there seems to be more and more students,” Holm said.
Chris Vernon, vice president of marketing and product management for Jacobsen, was thrilled with the crowd they saw on Thursday, the first day of the show. Jacobsen was unveiling their new 5-gang fairway mower, the LF510 (pictured), and that event “brought a lot of people” to the Jacobsen booth, Vernon said.
“I think last year wasn’t quite as good,” Vernon told Athletic Turf News. “I think last year’s show wasn’t as attended, so I think they’re recovering and getting more attendees.”
Peter Moeller, director of marketing, The Toro Co., also noticed an uptick in people as well as in overall optimism. Toro was showing off their new Tier 4-compliant engine, as well as new rotors on the irrigation side.
“I’ve felt a renewed buying interest from the customers who are here,” Moeller said. “I’ve talked to many in the municipal sector who have seen their buying budgets come back a little bit. In general I feel like there’s some optimism. It feels like attendance is up, and a better mood than in some of the recessionary times.”
Will Wolverton, general manager, North America for Wiedenmann, said his booth had a huge influx of people when the show’s doors first opened. He was crediting some of his success to the fact that one of his products was discussed at a seminar that day.
“We got two new products for synthetic turf. The Terra Clean 100 is a pull-behind, it sweeps debris up, seperates the rubber crumb and collects the debris and puts the rubber crumb back on the ground,” Wolverton said. “It was mentioned during one of the seminars.
“The STMA is a really good organization, they’ve always been fair to the vendors,” Wolverton concluded.
Tracey Hawkins, market development manager, sports, for Profile Products, believed that the STMA show was doing the right thing by adding more educational opportunities to the agenda.
“They’re really pushing the new educational speakers they’re having,” she said. “I think (the STMA is) learning from the GCSAA and local chapters that education is important, and it’s been well received.”
Blair Elliot, who works for the City of Aspen, Colorado’s Parks and Recreation department, serves on the STMA’s environmental committee, and says education is definitely the biggest draw to the STMA conference.
“Some of the speakers and classes I attended were excellent. They always are,” Elliot said. ”But it’s also important to see what the vendors have in store for us.”
For Elliot, he was most intrigued by Netherlands-based company Campey and their verticutters. This was Elliot’s 15th time to attend the STMA conference.
“They get a lot of people, from NFL and Major League parks to local ball fields, they get everyone here,” Elliot said. “Is it growing? No, I don’t think so, but I think it is stable. I would say that this year’s show is bigger than last years.”