Q&A with AAMA – July 2016

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Positive Vibes

Gala Plans, Buyers’ Program & the Dallas Expo

Q: Registration for the AAMA Meeting and Gala opened recently. How are plans shaping up for this year’s event?

Chris Felix

Chris Felix

A:  It’s coming together very well. Registration is open and the schedule is out. If you’re an AAMA member, you’re welcome to join so by all means, please come out and attend it.

It’s going to be a full week with numerous committee meetings, our Government Relations luncheon, which is usually pretty insightful into the world of legislation, the sponsor presentations and the Gala’s dinner, awards ceremony and product preview. I think Dave & Buster’s Kevin Bachus is going to be a great speaker at the keynote on Thursday, offering a lot to the FEC community as he talks about some of his success.

There have been people asking about the timing since it’s typically in August and we moved it to mid-September (Monday, Sept. 12, to Friday, Sept. 16). The big drive behind that was to further accommodate the FEC community. Since August is usually pretty busy and filled with so many end-of-summer activities, moving it into September creates the opportunity for more of those members to attend.

Also, in talking with manufacturers, they’ve told me that the later date actually helps them, too, because it’s more in line with their product development cycle. If we think about why we’ve traditionally held the meeting in August, it was because of the fall trade show. Now manufacturers are designing products with IAAPA in mind, which is in November. August is pretty early in their development cycle when you think about it. By going a month later, we’re further into that cycle and we’re more likely to see early versions of product they plan to show at IAAPA.

Overall, I feel confident that this year’s event will be well attended. To back that up, you’ll notice that the location has changed from last year (it will be held in the Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles, Illinois). The reason for the move is we outgrew the hotel we’ve been using!

We loved the previous hotel. They bent over backwards for us and had our event down to a science –– it just got to be too small for us. That’s a great problem to have!

In my earlier days, I went to the gala when it was more of a “let’s get together, play some golf, have some drinks” event. It wasn’t really business-oriented. I’ll give John Schultz a lot of credit for getting this annual meeting to be more productive and relevant. We got rid of the golf even though there were people who wanted to do it, because it wasn’t really accomplishing anything substantive. We brought in the manufacturer-sponsored presentations so they could talk to distributors and other members about what they have coming out. We condensed the schedule to squeeze as much as possible into the time so our members weren’t gone from their businesses longer than needed. The result is a strong, busy schedule.

While I’m talking about the things John Schultz accomplished leading the group, I want to remind readers that we’re doing the AAMA Charitable Foundation fundraiser during the Gala and honoring John’s lifetime achievement. We’ll be talking about his contributions in a bit more detail than we did at the Amusement Expo.

Another highlight will be our kids’ charity event the last morning. This will be our second year having kids from a local group come to play our games, and we’re expecting a much greater turnout. The kids’ charity group really didn’t know what to expect last year when we invited them. There was concern about how the kids would react and if it would be “too much” for some, so they brought a limited number of kids to see how it would be and how they would do. It went over so well they are bringing a much larger group this time.

We also didn’t quite know what to expect either. It’s a tough balance because most exhibitors probably would have liked to pack up Thursday night after the Gala, but we gave them a reason to be there Friday morning for the kids’ event. I’m happy to say that all the feedback was really positive.

It was fun watching the children experience the new games. After all, these kids are not always going to be able to go to a big FEC with all the bright lights and a lot of stuff going on, but in that environment, they were able to relax and enjoy playing. Personally, I think it’s a very positive thing for the association to do. We’re bringing people together to show off product in this Gala, but it’s not just for us. It’s also to help the community and kids in need. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Changing the subject a bit, we’re finishing up the details on our FEC Buyers Program. Pete Gustafson has taken charge and within the next 14 to 30 days (close to when your July issue will be in your readers’ hands), we expect to have the program out and running. In what Pete has looked at so far, we’re going to exceed our goal of providing value for the $995 AAMA membership fee with discounts and rebates through this program.

The company we’ve partnered with, Client Services, has a pretty broad spectrum of products –– everything from cleaning supplies to carpeting, paper goods and other things FECs are buying already. By using the program, we expect they can save enough money to more than pay for their AAMA membership. And to make sure it’s as good as it sounds with no hidden catches, Pete has really taken the lead.

The other big thing going on at AAMA is our continued preparation for the Amusement Expo next March in Dallas. It’s an exciting challenge. Room registration should be open very soon and I strongly suggest people book their rooms as early as possible. We have a pretty significant block of rooms booked, but at the same time, our concern is that we might exhaust that. In Las Vegas, you can always find a room somewhere, but it may be more of a challenge to find a good rate near the venue outside of our block. We have managed to negotiate a great room rate for inner city Dallas; we want people to book early to take advantage of it.

We are excited about the Amusement Expo being in a new venue and think the location will be of particular benefit to people on the east coast. Before, with the show in Las Vegas, you either had to leave early the last day to get home or stay an extra night. With the show being more centrally located, people can stay for the whole last day and still catch a flight home without it being a redeye. It will work as well for our trade members from the west coast, too. I think people will really appreciate that.


Chris Felix, National OEM Sales Manager for MEI Conlux/CPI (Crane Payment Innovations), worked for MEI prior to its acquisition by Crane. Felix, who was elected to his two-year term at the AAMA Annual Meeting and Gala in August, has been honored with the group’s President’s and Joe Robbins awards. A U.S. Navy veteran, he served as a Nuclear Reactor Operator aboard the USS Minneapolis St. Paul and the USS Greeneville submarines. When he’s not busy with work or association duties and travel, you might find Chris out training for a marathon.

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