by Tom Isler | September 01, 2005

America’s Center in St. Louis

America’s Center in St. Louis

The National Rifle Association announced on Aug. 4 that St. Louis will host its 2007 Annual Meetings & Exhibits, April 13 to 17, expected to draw about 60,000 people to the city.
    “It’s a great piece of business for us,” said Bruce Arnold, director of sales for the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission.
    The decision came just two weeks after the NRA retracted its verbal agreement to host the event in Columbus, Ohio, in protest of a ban on assault weapons passed by the city council on July 11.
    “When freedom comes back to Columbus, we will come back to Columbus,” said Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the Fairfax, Va.-based group, in a statement on July 18.
    The NRA had known since December that the city council was considering the ban, said Joe Marinelli, senior vice president for Experience Columbus, the city’s convention and visitors bureau. “Our organization really conducted this whole process with a spirit of full disclosure,” he noted, adding that NRA officials gave no indication that the ban, if passed, would affect their decision.
    Andrew Arulanandam, director of public affairs for the NRA, said the organization had hoped the city would vote down the proposal. When NRA lawyers concluded the ban would prevent the group from holding its traditional gun show at the convention, the group began to search for an alternate city.
    Because the NRA had not signed a contract with Columbus, the NRA did not owe any cancellation fees.
    The St. Louis CVC, which had been negotiating with the NRA to host a future convention, expects the event to bring roughly $20 million to the city.