Friday, January 23, 2015

D'You Know What I Mean 2015: Con-Man

Busy week for all things comic conventions as WonderCon tickets went on sale and once again, chatter about the future of San Diego's mother show came into question.  After starting off in a small room 40 years ago with a few hundred fans, San Diego Comic-Con International has become the premiere destination for all things popular arts.  Don't let any of the social media hype from New York, Salt Lake or Comikaze fool you, San Diego is the real deal.  A once in a lifetime opportunity that happens once a year.  Nothing else comes close in terms of events, panels, programming, guests etc as San Diego takes over the convention center, surrounding hotels and downtown district.  As a non-profit, their purpose isn't to suck the money out of show goers with ticket upgrades, celebrity photos, autographs or meet and greet sessions. With attendance capped at 130,000, organizers do their very best to ensure each attendee has a unique and kick ass time.  Crowds and lines are the new normal but that hasn't stopped me from checking out and picking up tons of swag and comics, attending half a dozen panels and still going out to drink, party and mingle with my fellow fans afterwards on a daily basis.  CCI has an agreement with San Diego that expires in 2016 so proposals from the likes of Anaheim, Los Angeles and Las Vegas are all in the works.

With 2014's celebration bringing in towards $177 million to the local economy, San Diego has tried to appease the organizers by attempting to expand the convention center.  As it stands San Diego has over 600,000 square feet of exhibition space but events spill out into the hotels next door and outside the hall is a mess with only two major crosswalks going in.  Their efforts failed as the $520 million plan was shot down by a state appeals court over who could decide on tax raises to finance it, hotels or voters.  Apparently attendees account for 60,000 room nights from it's 11,000 rooms within walking distance.  To me, Anaheim is the best option.  With it's proximity and infrastructure set up by Disneyland, the convention center is designed to handle crowds.  There are 13,000 hotel rooms within a mile of the center with Downtown Disney, The Garden Walk and other dining/entertainment options nearby.  It wouldn't be as obviously convenient as the Gaslamp district but let's face it, with an extra couple of hundred thousand people walking around, it's not convenient during Comic-Con either.  Anaheim's convention center boasts 800,000 square feet of exhibition space with another 200,000 on the way.  Plus they're adding free wi-fi!  If that weren't enough, nine new hotels equaling 1,500 additional rooms are under construction.

Los Angeles would be next but it's not a great idea.  Sure it housed Anime Expo and it's 100,000 plus attendees but there's really not that much around the convention center.  Neighboring entertainment complex L.A. Live would quickly be overrun and there's only so many food trucks you can bring out.  Worst of all is the fact that there's less than 5,000 hotel rooms within a mile of the center.  And the absolute worst option is Las Vegas if only because it would be so, so hot in July.  Woof!

This weekend we'll be hitting two conventions on Sunday, the California Comic Convention in Orange County's Yorba Linda as well as the weekly Frank & Son Collectible Show in the City of Industry.  I'm pumped for CalComicCon as it's a comic book based show with no media guests so here's hoping for a huge room full of back issues ready for plucking.  From there we'll head up to Frank's, a weekly show held on Wednesday and Saturday that touts free admission and parking as well as guests ranging from athletes to actors to comic book figures.  This weekend is a special two day event as Stan Lee will be attending and I'll be on the look out for the new Big Trouble In Little China Funko's and a Rocketeer mini figure.

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