AKC/Eukanuba National Championship Draws Record Entries to Orlando Convention Center

Photo: Claire Pacelli for BizBash

The American Kennel Club/Eukanuba National Championship brought nearly 5,000 dogs from 60 countries to the Orange County Convention Center Saturday and Sunday to compete for $225,000 in cash and prizes, making it the largest show in the event’s history. The show used nearly 700,000 square feet of the convention center for various competitions, demonstrations, a vendor mall, and a “meet the breeds” area with more than 150 different dog breeds on display to the public.
“This is triple the amount of space we’ve ever used before,” said Michael Canalizo, director of event management for the American Kennel Club. “This facility can provide that kind of space, and that’s what made Orlando so attractive to us.” The show is scheduled to return to Orlando through 2015. In addition to the national championship, the program also included the American Kennel Club's Agility Invitational and National Obedience Invitational.

To accommodate the unique needs of an event for dogs, organizers made several modifications to the building, such as bringing in sod and sawdust to create areas for handlers to walk the animals inside and outside. Canalizo said they also spent $30,000 to provide electricity for dog dryers, and they rerouted the plumbing supply to create a large bathing area.  

Several hotels around the convention center modified their “no pets” policy for this event. The Peabody Orlando estimated it hosted about 100 dogs during the show. “We’ve made some special arrangements with owners to place door knob hangers to tell the housekeepers that there are dogs inside,” said Alan Villaverde, the hotel’s managing director. “Just for fun, when guests check in, we are also taking the names of the dogs to add to our guest registry.”

The weekend culminated with the championship competition Sunday night. Organizers constructed a 7,000-seat arena inside the convention center to host the event, which will air on ABC in early February. For the first time, the show was also live-streamed on the Internet, and organizers set up a viewing lounge inside the convention center where attendees who did not have a seat in the arena could watch the competition as it happened.

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