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Natural Products Expo East, a longtime partner of the Baltimore Convention Center, has outgrown the event space and will move to a new city in 2020, a convention center official said.

The natural and organic products trade show is one of Baltimore’s biggest events and draws nearly 30,000 attendees to the Inner Harbor. Last year's event had an economic impact of $17.3 million, according to Visit Baltimore.

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“They would love to stay and have expressed that if we can grow the convention center in the future, they would consider coming back,” Peggy Daidakis, executive director of the convention center, said.

Natural Products Expo East isn’t the first event to cite space issues for leaving Baltimore. Otakon, a Japanese anime and lifestyle convention, moved to Washington in 2017.

Ahead of last Otakon in Baltimore, fans reflect on anime convention's legacy

Otakon, one of the country's largest conventions dedicated to anime and East Asian culture, has been held at the Baltimore Convention Center since 1999, but will move to D.C. next year. For many attendees, the move is bittersweet as they bid farewell to their memories in Charm City.

“This is a signal that groups are outgrowing us," said Amy Calvert, senior vice president of convention sales with Visit Baltimore. “People are becoming more aware of it. It’s further proof that we really need to expand our convention center.”

The annual expo will host its final Baltimore event in 2019 before moving to Philadelphia, Calvert said. This year’s event will be held Sept. 12-15.

A spokesperson for Natural Products Expo East could not be immediately reached for comment.

Natural Products Expo East began hosting the annual event in the 1980s, Daidakis said. The convention outgrew Baltimore back then too, which forced a move to Washington. The event moved back to Baltimore in the late 1990s, did a stint in Boston and finally returned in 2011.

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City and state economic development leaders have concluded that a plan to build a replacement for Royal Farms Arena on the site of the Baltimore Convention Center is too ambitious and complicated to be realistic.

“This is a unique show that we’ve watched grow,” said Daidakis.

Calvert said the city will have to seek out new businesses to replace large-scale conventions that have grown too big for Baltimore, but the process could take years.

“The convention sales process is such that it can take anywhere from 18 months to multiple years to work with a customer and secure that business,” Calvert said.

Convention center officials are discussing expansion with the Maryland Stadium Authority, but the plans are still in “the infancy stages,” said Daidakis.

“We’re hoping a year from now we will have more information,” she said.

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