Of all the shows I've attended in my brief Club Industry career, I've never attended an actual show floor ribbon cutting.
NIRSA did it up right Thursday afternoon at the Austin Convention Center, complete with a big red ribbon and an even bigger pair of scissors, scissors you definitely don't want to run around the house with. After the ribbon cutting, attendees rushed inside, as if there were Wiis on sale.
One of the first exhibits that caught my eye was the NEOS game from Playworld Systems. It's designed for kids of all ages, really. In a two-person game, the object is to touch as many of your colored lights on the board as possible (I think). The game involves quickness, reaction and the ability to bowl over your opponent.
I was kind of thinking our sales guy Matt would be a worthy opponent for me in this game, but I never bothered to ask. We were too busy checking out the Zumba demonstration, and the good thing is, we weren't alone. It's one thing to watch a demonstration of a group of women working out; it's an entirely different thing if you're watching them all by yourself. You wouldn't want to get labeled as a creep or anything.
(Speaking of Matt--no, I didn't write, "speaking of creeps"--our man from Chicago by way of Cincinnati recently got engaged. The wedding is not until 2009, so there's plenty of time to get the couple a gift. I hear they're already registered for 1/2 page ads, 3/4 page ads and full-page ads.)
One unusual but effective item I saw sold on the show floor was an official's whistle for recreational sports that sounds like a whistle, only you don't have to blow in it. You just push a button to produce one of three whistle tones. This sure beats having to avoid swallowing your whistle.
There was a sports memorabilia booth that sold autographed items of famous pro athletes. The one that intrigued me was an encased autographed jersey and photo of Hall of Fame running back Eric Dickerson from his days at SMU. I asked one of the guys in the booth if the No. 19 jersey was stuffed with the thousands of dollars in cash that Dickerson got from SMU boosters, prompting the NCAA to put the SMU football program on the so-called "death penalty." The guy correctly pointed out that opening up the case and searching for the money in the jersey would de-value the autographs.
I ran into one of our friends, CheckFree/Fiserv's Randy Ivey, on the show floor. (That guy is at EVERY show.) Randy made the short drive from his Houston office to see if NIRSA would be a good fit for his company next year when the show moves to Charlotte. Randy also told me that CheckFree had 10,000 lanyards (those things attached to your badge) at the IHRSA show last month, and they ran out of them the second day of the show. IHRSA must have been a monster this year.
The food was pretty good on the show floor (free pasta on Thursday, free chips and quesadillas on Friday), and like last year, there were plenty of computers (20, in fact) available for checking e-mail. The NIRSA show has the most computers available of any show in the industry.
A familiar face over at Octane Fitness told me his company was shipping all of its equipment from the NIRSA show directly to New York for our Club Industry East show that begins next week. I bet they're not the only ones doing that. Hope to see them and you there. --Stuart