Marketplace Events Gears Up to Launch New Home Shows In Houston

March 17, 2021

Consumer show producer Marketplace Events is growing its Texas footprint with the launch of two annual home and garden shows in Houston. Set to debut Feb. 11-13 and Oct. 21-23, 2022 at NRG Park, the new Houston Home + Garden Shows will join MPE’s three Austin and two San Antonio home improvement events as the company continues a multi-year effort to become the preeminent home show producer in the Lone Star State.   

“As we begin to see light at the end of a dark COVID tunnel, the time is now for our industry to look forward to what can be gained, not backward to what was lost,” said Tom Baugh, CEO of Marketplace Events. “Our commitment to launching new, upgraded home shows at NRG Park in 2022 is the first of many steps Marketplace Events is taking across North America to do exactly that.”  

Both shows will be managed by Dave Maughan, MPE group manager, who also oversees home shows in Salt Lake City and Denver. 

The announcement comes as MPE initiates the restart of its extensive show portfolio, beginning with the Johnson County Home + Garden Show, which was held March 5-7 at the Overland Park Convention Center in Kansas City and marked MPE’s first show since March 2020. 

Since that time, the company has been forced to cancel or postpone 77 shows – 37 in 2020 and 40 so far in 2021, including 2021 Indianapolis Home Show, 2021 Great Big Home + Garden Show and 2021 Minneapolis Home + Garden Show.

“Running the first MPE show in a year was stressful but invigorating,” Baugh said. “It was important to provide solid ROI to our exhibitors and I believe we delivered on that. Homeowners came in larger numbers than anticipated and were definitely ready to buy.”  

The event’s quality of attendance, sales and customer satisfaction metrics all exceeded MPE’s expectations, with more than 9,000 attendees and 214 exhibitors spanning more than 26,000 square feet of expo space, according to MPE officials.

Texas-Sized Recovery

The announcement of the new Houston Home + Garden Shows follows significant changes happening in Texas that will likely result in a surge of group business. On March 2, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed an executive order lifting the state’s mask mandate and allowing businesses of all types to open to 100 percent of capacity as of March 10. 

Although businesses are still encouraged to follow state health recommendations and can choose to implement sanitation protocols, require employees and customers to wear masks and adopt other COVID-related measures, they can’t be required to operate under 50% capacity. Additionally, individuals can’t be penalized for not wearing face coverings, among other limitations. 

In addition, Houston’s hospitality and tourism community sees far better times ahead. According to Michael Heckman, acting president and CEO of Houston First Corporation, the CVB’s sales team has successfully rebooked 92% of canceled citywide conventions into future years and is forecasting a record-breaking six-month stretch of conventions for the second half of 2021.

“This success is due in large part to our strategic, nimble and innovative response to the pandemic,” Heckman said. “We are one of the first tourism destinations to implement an ongoing citywide program, Houston Clean, and also the first convention center in the country to deploy the new IVP biodefense air filtration system.”

He continued, “These efforts, combined with our new virtual studio, demonstrate the city’s unwavering commitment to cleanliness, safety and providing versatile hybrid event options that allow planners to rebook with confidence.”

More for MPE

Meanwhile, MPE is gearing up to run 11 shows in cities including Des Moines, Oklahoma City, Raleigh and San Antonio through early June, with hopes for a full slate of events in the Fall. However, the shows will only move forward as long as they can be executed safely and MPE is confident that the resulting show experiences will provide significant value, Baugh asserted.

“Local, state and provincial safety requirements vary across our North American markets,” he explained. “The returning shows are where protocols and common sense align. We know from our homeowner and exhibitor surveys that both groups are enthusiastic for shows to safely restart. We’re not going to rush it, but we are ready to get back to business where conditions allow.” 

And getting back to business will be key to restoring MPE’s vibrant workforce, which was reduced significantly due to layoffs last year. 

“Losing so many talented and loyal people through no fault of their own was unbearable,” Baugh said. “But we kept 100% intact our entire management core, protecting our promise and obligation to our customers that our shows will not only continue, but grow post-pandemic.”

He added, “Our intent is to rehire as quickly as possible to aggressively rebuild our business. We are looking forward to re-engaging with our customers.”

Once able to fully restart, MPE’s portfolio will include more than 70 events in 33 markets, including the two new additions in Houston.  

“Houston is a huge market and deserving of dynamic home shows reflecting the city’s influence and importance,” Baugh said. “It’s an exciting opportunity for MPE. We’re ready to deliver great shows to our customers and the Houston community for many years to come.”

Marketplace Events produces 57 consumer shows annually in the U.S. and 16 in Canada, including 65 home shows, six holiday shows and two wedding shows. During “normal” years, the 73 combined events, in 34 markets, attract approximately 22,000 exhibitors, 1.9 million attendees and another three million unique web visitors annually. 


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Partner Voices
Less than six months ago, Lisa Messina joined the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) as the first-ever chief sales officer after leading the sales team at Caesars Entertainment. A 12-year Las Vegas resident, Messina is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and serves on MPI International’s board of directors. TSNN had a chance to catch up with this dynamic leader and talk to her about her vision for the new role, current shifts in the trade show industry, creating more diversity and equity within the organization, and advice to future female leaders. Lisa Messina, Chief Sales Officer, LVCVA With Las Vegas becoming The Greatest Arena on EarthTM, what are some of the things you’re most excited about in your role? Our team was at The Big Game’s handoff ceremony earlier this month, and I couldn’t help but think, “We’re going to crush it next year!”  These high-profile events and venues not only drive excitement, but also provide unmatched opportunities for event planners. Allegiant Stadium hosts events from 10 to 65,000 people and offers on-field experiences. Formula 1 Grand Prix will take place in Las Vegas in November, after the year-one F1 race, the four-story paddock building will be available for buyouts and will also offer daily ride-along experiences that will be available for groups. And, of course, the MSG Sphere officially announced that it will open in September, ahead of schedule, with a U2 residency. It’s going to be the most technologically advanced venue as far as lighting, sound, feel, and even scent, and it will be available for buyouts and next-level sponsorships inside and outside. There’s no ceiling to what you can do when you’re doing events in Las Vegas.  Allegiant Stadium As the trade show and convention business returns to the pre-pandemic levels, what shifts are you noticing and how do you think they will impact the industry going forward? Our trade show organizers are very focused on driving customer experience. Most of our organizers are reporting stronger exhibitor numbers and increased numbers of new exhibitors, with trade shows proving to be almost or above 2019 levels. Now our organizers are really doubling down on driving attendance and focusing on the data to provide that individualized, customized experience to help attendees meet their goals and get the best value. Some companies continue to be cautiously optimistic with their organizational spend when it comes to sending attendees, but I think it will continue to improve. As the U.S. Travel Association makes more progress on the U.S. visa situation, we also expect a growing influx of international attendees. What are some innovative ways the LVCVA helps trade show and convention organizers deliver the most value for their events? We focus on customer experience in the same way that trade show organizers are thinking about it. We got rave reviews with the West Hall Expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), so over the next two years, we will be renovating the North and the Central halls, which will include not just the same look and feel, but also the digital experiences that can be leveraged for branding and sponsorship opportunities.  Vegas Loop, the underground transportation system designed by The Boring Company, is also a way we have enhanced the customer experience. Vegas Loop at the LVCC has transported more than 900,000 convention attendees across the campus since its 2021 launch. Last summer, Resorts World and The Boring Company opened the first resort stop at the Resorts World Las Vegas , with plans to expand throughout the resort corridor, including downtown Las Vegas, Allegiant Stadium and Harry Reid International Airport. The LVCVA also purchased the Las Vegas Monorail in 2020, the 3.9-mile-long elevated transportation system that connects eight resorts directly to the convention center campus. This is the only rail system in the world that integrates fares directly into show badges and registration. For trade show organizers, these transportation options mean saving time, money and effort when it comes to moving groups from the hotels to LVCC and around the city. Also, the more we can focus on building the infrastructure around the convention center, the more it supports the customer experience and ultimately supports our trade show organizers. Scheduled to debut in Q4, Fontainebleau Las Vegas will offer 3,700 hotel rooms and 550,000 square feet of meeting and convention space next to LVCC.  What are some of the plans for advancing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) within your organization? We’re currently partnering with instead of working with a leading consulting firm, to lay the foundation and create a solid DEI plan and be the leader when it comes to DEI initiatives. The heart of that journey with the consulting firm is also talking to our customers about their strategic approaches to DEI and driving innovation in this space.  What are your favorite ways to recharge? My husband and I have an RV and we’re outdoorsy people. So, while we have over 150,000 world-class hotel rooms and renowned restaurants right outside our doorstep, one of my favorite things to do is get out to Red Rock Canyon, the Valley of Fire, and Lake Mead. Five of the top national parks are within a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, so there’s a lot you can do. We love balancing the energy of Las Vegas with nature, and we’re noticing that a lot of attendees add activities off the Strip when they come here.  Valley of Fire What advice would you give to women following leadership paths in destination marketing? I think it’s about being laser-focused on what you want to accomplish; building a team around you that lifts you and helps you achieve your goals; and being humble and realizing that you do it as a group. No one gets this done alone. Thankfully, there are a lot of women in leadership in this organization, in our customers’ organizations, and in this city that we can be really proud of. We’re a formidable force that is making things happen.   This interview has been edited and condensed. This article is exclusively sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. For more information, visit HERE.