SportsFest attendance sets three-year high

(June 12, 2006) A number of factors including the National Convention’s West Coast trip this year helped SportsFest reach a three-year attendance high during this weekend’s event at the Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, Ill.

The show’s eighth annual edition in the Chicago area and ninth overall drew its best attendance since 2003 and featured 40 more dealer tables than last year, when the National Convention was in the same building six weeks later. Also this year, the event was scheduled for earlier in June to miss the Cubs/Sox series, and the autograph lineup included most of the World Champion Sox, plus Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart.

“Many factors came together to improve attendance, and sales were good at most dealer tables, according to our feedback,” said F+W Sports Group publisher Jeff Pozorski. “Throw in the usual dealer-to-dealer activity and you have a good event for the hobby.”

New to the show was a “What’s It Worth” appraisal station that brought in some interesting and unique collectibles, and Upper Deck put together a popular redemption set featuring cards of superstars from all sports, with randomly inserted autographs. The White Sox game went into extra innings Saturday afternoon, but the players (with the exception of Freddy Garcia, who was also a no-show for a Mounted signing last November) made it to the show in plenty of time to sign for fans.

 “I think finally separating it from the White Sox/Cubs weekend was a good thing,” Mitch Adelstein, president of Mounted Memories. “Overall from the ticket numbers that I saw and the lines, I think it was a very good show and one of the strongest SportsFests that I’ve seen in a while. Saturday was crazy with all the White Sox legends early in the day and then all the current guys that we had. I think we had 17 players and coaches, including all the main players, and they were really great with the fans.”

Adelstein said Bush signed more than 300 autographs to the public and Leinart signed 200. “They were both great and they signed a lot of USC stuff and combination USC stuff,” he said. “Gordie Howe doesn’t do too many public appearances and he’s just a super guy, plus he signs every item ‘Mr. Hockey’ below his autograph for every fan who comes through the line, at no additional fee. And Buddy Ryan is here, and he hasn’t been here in Chicago in many years.”

One of the highlights of the show was a pair of huge original-art exhibitions by Art of the Stars and Upper Class Collectibles. Artists Stephen Holland (Art of the Stars) and Bill Lopa (UCC) signed free autographs all weekend.

Other feedback after this year’s event:
• Brian Drent, Mile High Cards: “It was a great show. The attendance was really strong and we had a great response to our auction lots, which were out for preview. Our retail sales were off a little, but we did pick up some really nice things from walk-ins.”

• Don Williams of Upper Deck: “SportsFest was an amazing success for us and our redemption process was fantastic. We went through through our redemption cards by noon the first day (Friday) and by 3 p.m. on Saturday. It’s been a good show for us.”

• Dave Silver, Dave & Adam’s Card World: “The newer baseball and football products did very well. The redemption set that Upper Deck produced was a big help. Attendance was great – pretty much packed from start to finish.”

— Rocky Landsverk & T.S. O’Connell

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