TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The Tucson Gem, Mineral and Fossil Showcase is officially underway.
Tucson's Mayor Jonathan Rothschild held an afternoon press conference at the newly renovated TCC arena to thank the participants and welcome visitors from a host of nations around the world.
55,000 thousand people are expected to come to Tucson for the 17-day event.
The Gem Show has called Tucson home for 61 years.
According to the Visit Tucson CEO Brent DeRaad, the Gem Show will pump $120 million into the local economy, up from $100 million the last time a study was done in 2007.
Even though the gem sellers and buyers have been coming here for six decades, it does not always give the appearance of being permanent.
That's because during the show, white tents line the freeway giving it a look of being temporary.
However, one show wants to change that and is willing to take a $12 million gamble to do it.
Eons Expos wants to build a 150,000 square foot, three story permanent exhibit hall at 22nd and I-10.
The bottom two floors will include 86 individual showcases which will be owned by individuals, vendors, artists, dealers and whomever believes they need a permanent exposure in Tucson.
If all goes well, the groundbreaking should happen in early 2016.
Eon Expos spent $1.6 million for the six acres which is now uses to host its Tucson, Gem, Mineral and Fossil show.
"Just from our Facebook page we have 60 potential buyers," says Lowell Culhart, one of three family members which owns the show. "Now we have 17 days to make the sale."
Joe Aaronson, who has been coming to the Gem Show for 20 years from Sarasota, Florida, says he will buy in.
"It makes sense," he said.
He will spend at least $7,000 rent for the show plus expenses of storage and shipping which also run into the thousands of dollars.
"I'd save money by owning," he said. "I've been coming here for 20 years and I have at least 25 more."
Tucson city officials are also urging first time visitors to the Gem Show to be prepared.
Officials with Visit Tucson recommend doing some research and being prepared before hitting the shows. First, get an idea about what it is you would like to see or buy. Each show has a different emphasis. Some are all about jewelry, while others specialize in antiques.
It is important to note though that all shows are not open to the public. Some are for wholesalers only.
Organizers will turn visitors away if not a business member. Also not all the shows have the same start and end date. Some begin on Saturday and run till the end on Feb.15, while some last only a few days during the week.
For those who can wait, the main show happens at the Tucson Convention Center. That show goes from the Feb. 12 - 15.
For detailed information on what shows are open to the general public use the following link: