A tale of two convention centers: SD and NYC

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They’re the sites of the continental US’s two biggest comics pop culture explosions. And neither one is nearly big enough.

¶ If Bruce Lidl’s fine piece on the revenue-raising scheme for the San Diego Convention Center expansion wasn’t enough for you, Voice of San Diego has the George Smiley version, with all the links, charts, reports, and conspiracy theories you could want.

One thing that occurs to us: it is a fact that trade show business is down around the country, and the internet has tamped down the need for giant all-in-one shows. A larger SD con center would benefit other huge shows that can’t fit there now, but it is Comic-Con that is driving the expansion. That’s still going to be a tough sell to locals, and we’d be surprised if all the legal challenges mentioned in the piece weren’t deployed at some point.

aqueduct1 A tale of two convention centers: SD and NYC

¶ MEANWHILE, over in New York, the Javits Center is DEFINITELY too small, situated as it is in land-poor Manhattan, yet it is one of the nation’s busiest facilities because…people like coming to New York! Thus Governor Andrew Cuomo’s wacky scheme to tear it down and put up a giant complex in Queens miles away from the Times Square Bubba Gump is being pointed out as the silly notion that it is.

More to the point, they add, Aqueduct is a 60-minute subway ride from Times Square. They fear that some conventions, trade shows and conferences will decide to go elsewhere. “The industry is skeptical about the viability of the Aqueduct site,” said Jeff Little, a 40-year trade show veteran. “It has the potential to be a big white elephant. It’s true that there are large shows that can’t go to the Javits, but that doesn’t mean that they’ll go to a large facility at Aqueduct.”


The proposed Queens facility (artist’s rendering above) would be the biggest in the nation, and would be paid for in its entirety by the Genting Group, a Malaysian gaming company that would, in return, put in a giant casino and gambling complex attached to the Aqueduct Racetrack.

Call us nutty, but isn’t this the kind of thing that kept Philip Marlowe employed as he investigated the trail of murders left behind by the cover-up? The Internet does save lives!

Our solution: If only there were a way to tear up every Chipotle Grill in Manhattan and combine their square footage, there would be plenty of room for the hugest con center of them all.

Comments

  1. I think the problem for us, from a comics-centric point of view, is that the biggest comics conventions have been borged by the motion picture and gaming industries.

    Not that there’s anything wrong with those industries per se, but I think the strategy of combining them with comics under the rubric of “pop culture,” intended to bring in more crowds so that they may re-discover comics, has back-fired.

    Back in the ’80-90s, SDCC was a fun, relaxed event I looked forward to. I could drop in for a day (back when I lived in SoCal) or stay over a few nights at one of several reasonably-priced hotels within walking distance. I could bump into someone like Mike Richardson or Ron Randall roaming the dealers’ room aisles and have a casual conversation.

    Nowadays SDCC is a giant stress-fest that the comics pros attend not so much because they want to, but they feel they have to, to market themselves, to be seen.

    And I don’t see that this combining of pop culture industries has helped comics, beyond certain individuals managing to get movie deals (and more power to ‘em, but there’s gotta be a more sane way to rub elbows with movie producers). It certainly hasn’t boosted readership, but it has transformed SDCC from a place readers go to look for new, off-beat stuff, to a place readers go to find the latest version of what they already know.

    There is a side-benefit of networking/hanging out with other pros from around the country, which is the one reason I’m sorry I’m not attending this year. Fortunately we have Internet social media for keeping up with each other now, and smaller, “regional” cons where we can get face-time.

  2. MAKE these Comic conventions only about comics and problems solved.

  3. Y’know what convention center has plenty of room? The McCormick in Chicago. Here’s hoping C2E2 continues to comfortably grow into the copious space available there…

  4. Secret Identity says:

    “…but it is Comic-Con that is driving the expansion.”

    I don’t know that this is entirely true. While Comic-Con has gotten the lions share of press on this, the city is not just looking for one or two big events.

    They have said they are looking to hold smaller shows concurrently (something which is difficult to do now) which will keep the facility at capacity and make restaurants and hotels happy.

  5. R. Maheras says:

    Jason — You got that right!

    Take the total New York Javits Center exhibit space, add it to the total San Diego Convention Center exhibit space, DOUBLE IT, and it’s STILL smaller than the exhibit area of Chicago’s McCormick Place.

  6. Torsten Adair says:

    Yeah, and McCormick is a bit out of the way as well… and Rosemont (bigger than Javits) coexists.

    Orlando is out there as well.

    Then there’s Las Vegas, where the official convention center ranks third in the U.S., yet there are also the Mandalay (1 Million square feet) and the Sands (1.2 Million).

    Javits ranks 30th in size in the U.S.

    The new center would be near the airport, so there are already hotels nearby, and plenty of space for new ones.

    There is ample room for expansion towards the Van Wyck Expressway. Picture a complex of buildings, which can house separate trade shows at the same time. Consider the Messegelände Hannover, a complex of 27 halls with a total of 5.3 Million square feet.
    http://www.messe.de/messegelaende_e

    (CeBIT takes place there every year. 339,000 attendees last year, 850K is the record.)

    Howard Beach and the basins could be redeveloped into entertainment districts.

    My suggestion? Keep Javits. Build a giant, one million square foot “Las Vegas” hotel convention center at Aqueduct for the massive shows. Give conventioneers TWO options. When both sites reach capacity, then you build another hall next to the hotel. And another…

  7. Pablo says:

    Comic Con needs to be made into two different events in two different times of the year already! Make one an offical comic convention (comics only! Hollywood need not show up!)early in the year (Spring)and the other a pop culture convention in the Summer (movies, tv shows, video games, but no comics whatsoever). But that would take a lot of hard work and courage! Could the people who run Comic Con do it? I say no way. They don’t have the guts!

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