As announced last evening, CCI: San Diego’s board, despite intense wooing from other cities, has decided to keep Comic-Con in San Diego. The announcement has been met with generally universal relief thus far. Yes, we moan, we complain, but exchanging the city of San Diego’s mild temperatures and convenient layout for the bland boulevards of Anaheim or tent cities filled with lovable hobos of Los Angeles wouldn’t have really been much of an improvement. It isn’t much of a surprise, really — things had been going this way for a while and it was very clear that the board wanted to stay in San Diego.
Steadfast Lori Weisberg at the San Diego Union-Tribune has the wrap-up story and it’s clear that after all the misunderstandings and local tensions, the people running the city realized that keeping Comic-Con was vitally important for their economy and image. But it was a long battle, and some hearts were broken along the way.
Despite being disappointed by the decision, Anaheim tourism officials remain optimistic that Comic-Con could eventually come their way in the future. “We certainly recognize how difficult a decision this was by virtue of how long it took,” said Charles Ahlers, president of the Anaheim/Orange County Visitor & Convention Bureau. “We understand it was not a unanimous decision by Comic-Con so clearly there is interest in alternative locations so that gives us hope for the future.”
“I truly think the catalyst was the mayor getting involved personally, having meetings in his office to let the hotel community know we were all committed,” said Carol Wallace, Convention Center Corp. president. “People really stood up and took notice. I also had a staff person assigned full time working with Comic-Con for the last year.”
San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders is a figure not without controversy, and in times past he was thought to be a bit dismissive of the con. But if this story is to be seen as the denouement, Mayer Sanders has now been won over and stands tall and proud beside the nerds, stormtroopers and Glee cast members:
“I think everyone met face to face on this and decided this was really important for the San Diego region.” said Mayor Sanders. “This is a great employment generator in terms of people working on the convention and all the things it spins off. It’s also good for the psyche of the city. And we literally couldn’t buy the kind of P.R. we get. We get more journalists and magazines and TV here during Comic-Con than we get for anything else in San Diego.”
If it took a little longer than expected for city fathers to notice what those of us who go to the show found obvious, we shouldn’t begrudge their standing atop the podium this time. But there are still a few factors that remain.
What about the hotels??? is it still going to be horrible???
The Comics Reporter immediately got David Glanzer on the blower to answer just this question:
GLANZER: Well, we’ve received assurances that we will have access to more rooms for our room bloc. This gives us the possibility of doubling the amount of rooms available to our attendees. Rates are always an issue, and the hotels fully understand this. This agreement will hopefully keep hotel rates competitive.
Which is about as vague as you can get. We know people who have already paid for their rooms for 2011 at full price of $500 a night. Getting the hotels to agree to terms the Con was comfortable with is seen as the last holdout for getting the show to stay. However, according to the Union-Tribune story, the Manchester Grand Hyatt, San Diego Marriott and Hilton San Diego Bayfront have pledged “an additional 300,000 square feet of meeting space free of charge in 2013 through 2015.” And the room block has been expanded to 14,000. That’s right, even the nutty Hyatt came on board. 14,000 rooms is a lot more than have previously been available through Travel Planners, so all the hotel rooms should be gone in about two minutes this time, instead of one.
While the bigger room block sounds great, we can only hope that room rates will stay at least only crazy instead of crazy-ass insane. And please note:
The Agreement was only for three years.
Did you see what the Anaheim guy was doing there? “We understand it was not a unanimous decision by Comic-Con.” See, he’s trying to sow dissension! And Comic-Con has signed on to stay in San Diego until 2015. Since it was staying until 2012 originally, this is only a three-year extension. While that’s in line with previous contracts for the show, it leaves the situation open enough so that if things don’t go well in the next two years, we can start the whole competition all over again. And there’s also the matter of
What about the convention center expansion?
That is still a go, with an architect being selected but the city needs to come up with $750 million to pay for it — not an easy task. Realistically, the city needs to expand the exhibit hall not just for Comic-Con but for other large shows — several of which outgrew the venue several years ago. With all the features we already mentioned, San Diego is really the ideal site for major trade shows — but the need for a larger convention center is holding it back from being more competitive with Las Vegas, Chicago, and Orlando. Expansion is a major goal for the city overall. But if the venue doesn’t get bigger, and the Con stays the way it is…come 2013, things may need to be reexamined yet again. And finally –
What about that pedestrian bridge?
A lot of people have been mentioning this in the comments. A pedestrian bridge over Harbor Ave. is already under way (opposite the Bayfront Hilton) and should be nearing completion.
Finally, although this all seems to have a happy ending for now, in true thriller fashion, a cryptic comment in the UT story is a perfect set up for a sequel:
On Tuesday October 4, 2010, Las Vegas based The Clarence Group (theclarencegroup.com} will announce a new well-funded, visionary and comprehensive consortum with unrelenting intentions to purchase, expand and relocate Comic-Con to Las Vegas.
A visit to the Clarence Group website shows a bunch of statements so creepy and boilerplate that we’re half convinced it’s some kind of alternate reality game. Nonetheless, they do have this graphic:
The Clarence Group comments have been removed since we copied the above, so it’s certainly some kind of hooey, but the idea of a secret cabal planning to annex Comic-Con sounds like something out of…well, a comic book.
So in the end, order is restored. The mild breezes of San Diego Bay, the tasty tropical cocktails at the Marriott, the torch-lit roof at Petco Park, the shimmering mirage of Ralphs…it’s on!