San Diego admits Comic-Con brings in OODLES AND OODLES of money

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Suck it, gastroentologists! Comic-Con does SO make lots of money for the city of San Diego! At long last an in-depth survey has shown what most long suspected: the San Diego Comic-Con is a cash cow for the local economy.

While the con’s own internal estimates have the economic impact of the 130,000+ fans who attend Comic-Con every year at more than $50 million, official estimates by the local convention bureau had the show’s fiscal impact much lower — $32 million in 2008. However, an actual survey of con attendees in 2008 has revealed the stunning truth: the con brings in $163 million a year, QUADRUPLE what was thought.

And that’s STILL NOT ALL:

While economic impact analyses are sometimes regarded as overly inflated guesses of spending, corporation officials point out that their latest estimates likely understate Comic-Con’s impact because they do not take into account money spent by the roughly 50 percent of attendees the survey found do not stay in hotels.

In all, Comic-Con in 2008 attracted more than 134,000 people, of whom nearly 68,000 spent the night in a hotel room, according to the survey, conducted by San Diego-based CIC Research. Spending alone on lodging, meals, transportation and other related items totaled $67.8 million, which includes $25 million in revenue rung up by conventioneers occupying nearly 31,000 hotel rooms.


While this huge amount will come as no surprise to anyone who actually tried to get a hotel room or buy a turkey burger during the show, the methodology was such that even the biggest skeptics on the San Diego city side of things will have a hard time dismissing Comic-Con as a huge revenue generator for the city.

But still not the largest: a fall confab of 36,000 neuroscientists brings in an estimated $170 million to the local economy — or $4722 per attendee. HIgh rollers indeed. But still, as Convention Center spokesman Steven Johnson points out, the $163 million figure for Comic-Con does not include what locals spend on the show — and a neuroscientist gathering is unlikely to draw locals.

The study and its flabbergasting figures should provide all the proof the convention center and con organizers need to finally get the community to step up and do the things that the Con needs to continues to thrive and grow — and, oh yeah, stay in San Diego instead of skarpering to Anaheim or Los Angeles.


As always, the comments to this epochal article show that local feelings are running high on this issue — with possible construction of a new stadium for the Chargers another local issue thrown in for good measure. Most comments fall into two camps — those who see the con and its revenue as a good thing for the community, and those who see local government and business leaders as running some kind of elaborate con. Two representative comments of the latter viewpoint, first from CaringChristian:

GET RID OF THE FREAK SHOW, IT AINT NOTHIN BUT A BUNCHA FREAKS AND LIBERALS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


and this from SanDiego92129 :

Does anyone believe this number? The city can’t balance the budget, or tell us how much the unfunded liability of Union pensions are, but they can “estimate” the financial impact of Comic-Con? The “Con” is the city Government’s inability to confront the liabilities of the Government Unions.


As much as we distrust local government as well, this time, they seem to have gotten an actual handle on the con’s finances. Let’s hope the right people have been persuaded.

Comments

  1. Charles knight says:

    So a survey comissioned by the conference centre *itself*, and who are worried that it’s about to move, say that it’s has a massive positive impact – well blow me down, I’m *amazed* they’d come to such a conclusion, no really.

  2. mpneeb says:

    Heidi,
    Never pay attention to the remarks at the end of a SDUT article.
    They’re made by John Birch rejects who couldn’t pass the intelligence test.

  3. wayne beamer says:

    Heidi…

    Last month, I recall you speculating that SDCC would probably move northward for the short term, a very telling sign. Have you changed your mind about this?

    Just my 2 cents: SD city fathers won’t show SDCC the money until AFTER they leave, meaning they’ll migrate to LA for a little while before coming back.

    Interesting that folks are talking about a new football stadium for the Chargers, something I knew would get cussed and discussed with a SDCC deal…

  4. William Gatevackes says:

    It always seems to be posters named “CaringChristian” and the like who come off with uncaring sentiments like the one here. Oh, you care about people, as long as the vote republican and don’t read Superman, right?

    Yet if called them a bible-thumping neo-con freak, I would be insensitive.

    And if SDCC did move out and buisness started failing, public services started being cut back and taxes started being raised, I’m sure the same people would be complaining about them letting SDCC going away.

  5. Oh, they’ll never let the city raise taxes in San Diego. Most folks like that seem to think that their basic services are made of pixie dust and unicorn farts. And I met a lot of ‘em like that in SD when I lived there.

    And, more importantly, do news crews get sent to neurologist conventions from all over the place?

    Yeah, I didn’t think so.

  6. “The study and its flabbergasting figures should provide all the proof the convention center and con organizers need to finally get the community to step up and do the things that the Con needs to continues to thrive and grow — and, oh yeah, stay in San Diego instead of skarpering to Anaheim or Los Angeles.”

    Skarpering: British Slang, to run away; go away; leave in a hurry.

    If that’s the case, then this is the most slow-motion “leave in a hurry” I’ve ever witnessed. For years, all the parties involved have been like deer in the headlights…not entirely sure what to do as crowds continue to get larger and more unmanageable (which makes the experience exponentially more irritating).

    Comic Con should be savored, not endured…for both the attendees and its host city. I personally won’t return to the Con until it can once again be savored and enjoyed, not endured and survived. Whether that’s in San Diego, Anaheim, or LA, I don’t care.

    Just get it the hell done, Con organizers!

  7. The survey wasn’t done by the city, but by the San Diego Convention Center Corp. And it was only a non-scientific survey, not the most accurate way of finding out economic information.

    Plus, whatever money the con does generate for the local economy is lessened due to the fact that it gets to claim that it is a charity and not the money making machine that we all know it is. Not only do they not pay any taxes on the massive profits they generate ($740,000 in 2008) they pay less for city services because they get to claim to be a charity.

    SDCC is no more a charity than Wizard World or the New York Comic-Con is. The difference is that Wizard World and the New York Comic-Con pay taxes.

  8. Yawn. Of course it makes a lot of money. Unless you’re an industry insider or willing to sleep six to a room, it’s also impossible for an average comic fan to afford. I’d rather go to Wondercon or MoCCA. Easier to navigate, cheaper and just as many great people to talk with. Add to that that you can actually get near those people without being trampled and it becomes a more enjoyable experience!
    Also, Wondercon and MoCCA are still about comics, whic have become the periphery of SDCC.
    I’d still go as a guest, but unless I got a really sweet deal on a room, I doubt I’d ever go again if I had to pay.

  9. OODLES AND OODLES! OH MY!

    “The survey wasn’t done by the city, but by the San Diego Convention Center Corp. And it was only a non-scientific survey, not the most accurate way of finding out economic information…”

    Shhhh…. don’t tell them that! Like most politics SPIN is very important. Polls, data and such that is slanted in your favor is all part of the game. This is not a perfect world we live in. If true facts got in the way our world would change in a heartbeat.

  10. I will say that the near $5000 figure per person is almost right on with my personal spending, tallied over the course of the last 5 years. One year I managed to spend less but only because a friend was treating me to many meals, so that only means I wasn’t spending the money, but somebody was.

    I’ve got to think that more natives of S.D. understand that the money SDCC brings in is a good thing and that it’s only the very vocal minority who are making the most stink.

    At least, that’s what I tell myself. Maybe I’m delusional.

  11. Charles Ranier says:

    This will be the first year I couldn’t go to SDCC, not because I couldn’t get the time off or didn’t have the money, but because I could not get in. No memberships. No hotels. No nothing. Even the one year that had Fleet Week the same weekend, where the nearest hotel vacancies were in Temecula, I still managed to be able to get a membership and find a space to crash.

    It’s become way too big for itself. Either it needs to move (personally I vote for Vegas, no shortage of hotel or convention space there!) or it needs to separate all the movie hype stuff from the actual comic book part of the convention. I for one can’t wait till Twilight Mania goes away at last and all those Twimoms stay home and go back to bullying their teenage daughter’s rivals on the internet.

  12. Christian says:

    Well this liberal freak is going and I plan on having a good time. I just hope this doesn’t become E3 where no real “fans” get to actually go to the show.

    Though if they do move there’s no way in hell I’m going to Vegas or LA.

  13. The study was scientific and done by an outside firm that does statistical analysis for a range of clients, from homeland security to the airport authority, port authority, etc., and conducted with the assistance of Comic Con so the researchers could accurately evaluate the data.

  14. Brett says:

    The Vegas Convention center is absolutely immense. They also have a monorail that travels along the strip and then some, making transportation between the hotel and convention center simple and easy. Also, there’s never a shortage of hotels in Vegas.

    That said, I’d go if they moved it but I don’t see it ever moving out of SD.

  15. Surprise, surprise— SDCC visitors generate $100M+ more than that initial estimate of $32M??

    I’m shocked. And stunned. Aaaaand, curious at the timing of the release of this ‘revised finding’: a month before SDCC ’10 gets underway— while the CCI Board comes closer to its stated deadline of whether or not the contract with the City gets extended to 2015.
    Coincidence much? But, I suppose the political and p.r. games have to be played out before the all the signatures are laid on the lines?

    Nothing like the Springtime dance of Comic-Con/City of San Diego contract renewal every 3 years or so… Sure makes an entertaining show before the ‘meal’ of next month’s Con!

  16. Christian says:

    >> They also have a monorail that travels along the strip and then some, making transportation between the hotel and convention center simple and easy.

    Well thank god for that, otherwise if you went outside for even a second you’d combust. You’d burst into flames like a vampire it’s so effing hot in July.

    There’d be so many cosplayers in clunky Stormtrooper helmets dying of heat stroke it’d look like a Death Star reenactment.

  17. While I’m at it:

    Whenever ANY downtown developement plan is raised— a new docks reorganisation, Convention Center expansion, a new downtown Library— there WILL BE the issue of a new Stadium for the CHARGERS thrown in there. Just a fact of the San Diego political landscape, with its many embedded Bolts-boosters in the City’s governmental gentry. No surprise at all that there’s the attempted link between a Convention expansion with a new downtown Football Stadium east of PETCO…

    That ‘Union pension’ fiasco referred to in the Comments to the article? Just another negative political legacy left by the previous (REPUBLICAN) Mayor to the current (REPUBLICAN) one…

    And lastly, despite the above: San Diego voted 54% for Obama in the last election, nevermind it’s national rep of being a REP stronghold. (In toto giving Obama even more votes for him than that libbural bastion of the Bay Area.) And with a growing Hispanic and Asian population that’s registering DEMOCRAT moreso than GOP, the trend is that this region will grow even more ‘Blue’ in the future… We’re tryin’ Rico. Tryin’ real hard to bring change to this Phoenix/Topeka,KS-by-the-Bay. ;)

  18. Christian says:

    Heidi,

    One question I have, and you might be better at finding this out than I am, how much of that giant real estate there at the Convention center do these neuroscientists use?

    Okay, so let’s assume CCI does leave – what do they do with all that real esate? Reminds me of when Walmart leaves a town and leaves behind this ginormous piece of land nobody can seem to do anything with.

  19. michael says:

    Whether it brings money or not isn’t really the issue anymore right? It obviously does. Isn’t the big thing simply whether or not it will stay in SD?

  20. Christian…

    Dunno about San Diego, but here in New York City, the Javits Center sometimes holds two shows at once.

    In the past, NYCC has been paired with small, “public” shows like the New York Times Travel Show, or a small trade show. (NYCC takes the big Third Floor exhibition space, trade show takes the First Floor space.)

    This year, NYCC has the entire building, like most major trade shows.

    Also, convention centers have a variety of public spaces. Ballrooms, meeting rooms, etc. can be rented to multiple parties at the same time.

    My question: Where did that profit number come from? What are the financials for CCI:SD, and what are they doing with the money

  21. The study was scientific and done by an outside firm that does statistical analysis for a range of clients…

    According to the article, the study consisted of walking up to random people at the con and asking them how much they paid to stay in their hotel rooms. There was no clear methodology to it. At least none mentioned in the article.

    The city of San Diego didn’t commission this survey, the San Diego Convention Center Corp did. The city does not need to have anyone do a survey to see how much money hotels made during SDCC. They already know how much this is due to the 10.5% transient occupancy tax.

  22. William Gatevackes says:

    “There’d be so many cosplayers in clunky Stormtrooper helmets dying of heat stroke it’d look like a Death Star reenactment.”

    Do you know why this is funny? Because it’s true. I was in Vegas in 2008 before Comic Con and I would have been more comfortable walking through a volcano than I was walking through Vegas at that time.

  23. why is the beat so obsessed with con staying in san diego?

    san diego is a nasty place with really ugly locals. we should have a beautiful con where we’re wanted!

    a con in la or anaheim would be perfect both of these cities have held major nerd cons from disney fan cons to huge anime cons with no problems.

    there’s less of a conservative creep small town attitude with a big city like la.

  24. No offense, but have you ever been to San Diego? There’s some really beautiful places within walking distance of the Convention Center, a downtown area chock full of bars and restaurants right there as well, and plenty of people who are happy to have the business and to welcome con-goers without any judgment whatsoever.

    Downtown LA is pretty much a pit, and Anaheim is, well, Disney. No one’s going to care if the con is there or not, they’re making money either way.

    And as for your comment on the locals, I guess everyone is beautiful where you live, and full of love for their fellow man. You truly are blessed.

  25. wayne beamer says:

    Just got finished reading a piece about the biggest convention the city of San Antonio expects to host — The International AA Convention — this weekend. The city expects to draw 50,000 tee-totalers, sell out of 15,000 hotel rooms from here to Austin and generate more than $65 million (http://www.mysanantonio.com/business/sa_to_host_50000_from_alcoholics_anonymous_97531309.html).

    So the $163 million the convention center estimated for SDCC seems a bit low to me, and the city’s offer to convention folks an insulting one…

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