Operations at the NY Boat Show: Getting 350 Boats In and Out, On Time

NEW YORK–Like the ball that dropped a few blocks away last week, the New York Boat Show at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center is a kickoff mega-event that sets the tone for the rest of the year in the boating industry. More than 40,000 consumers show up to see more than 350 boats featuring the latest there is to offer.


Jon Pritko, manager of the New York Boat Show, explains how his team moves 350 boats on and off the showfloor.

It’s a monolith that takes almost a week to set up, a year to plan and has roots that go back to 1905.

It all comes down in about 36 hours though.

“We literally have a day-and-a-half to get out,” says Jon Pritko, a regional manager with National Marine Manufacturers Association and director of the New York Boat Show.

But Pritko has to get that inventory in before he can start worrying about moving it out.

Mapping out the showfloor has been more difficult the last few years with on-going construction at the Javits Center forcing the show to adapt, but Pritko estimates 80 to 85 percent of the space is carried over from the prior year. The remainder is dealt out on a seniority-based point system that also takes size and logistical needs into account.

With less than a week to move in, the team coordinates with owners and specialty haulers to get their products to the center by a specific date and time. Varying state-by-state restrictions on transport for oversized loads—New York only allows passage from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., for example, while New Jersey and Connecticut only allow them during daylight hours—make travel difficult, sometimes forcing them to adjust on the fly. A food court was moved from a faraway corner to a featured location this year after Pritko wasn’t sure an exhibitor would get his boat there on time.

Once they’re on site, the trucks navigate a series of twisting ramps to a back entrance that’s only about twice the height of your garage door. At less than 17 feet tall, several of the boats—many have more than one deck—need to be disassembled, wheeled in and put back together once inside.

The operations end obviously poses different challenges than your typical event, but meticulous floorplans and bringing exhibitors into the fold make it doable.

“Typically, what happens when we’re bringing the boats in, first we ask for the boat information. Then we can allocate what equipment we need and how much time we have to allocate for that specific boat,” he says. “Thankfully for us, a lot of our exhibitors are self-sufficient. They’re marina owners and operators, so they’ll actually unload some of the smaller boats themselves taking the load off of us and reducing our labor costs as well.”

Barter deals—and managing the sometimes-contentious relationships than can arise from them—have also been helpful, he notes.

Running the four-day show is a comparative breeze to the labor-intensive move-out process that follows. It always gets done though, thanks to a well-thought-out, efficient plan for the showfloor.

“Our show breaks at 6 o’clock on a Sunday night; we start moving out about 6:30,” Pritko says. “The mom-and-pops and the in-line booths, they’re the first ones to go out so we can open up the doors and free some space for some of the larger equipment that we have. About two hours after the show closes, that’s when we pick our first boat. We go throughout the night, insert a fresh crew bright and early in the morning. It’s a very tight timeframe.”

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Posted by Michael Rondon

Michael Rondon is a senior editor for Expo. Reach him @Mike_Rondon or mrondon@accessintel.com.... View all articles by Michael Rondon →