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With 125,000 people attending the San Diego Comic Con, the city of San Diego is bursting at the seems. With a limit on the number of people that can get into the convention hall, and growth expected, is it time for Comic Con International to move the show somewhere else?


It’s the question that’s been popping up the last couple of year as the biggest comic convention in North America first sold out on Saturdays, then two days, and now for two years in a row, the entire four day show is sold out long before the show even opens.

With Hollywood’s great interest in hyping the target demographic (who would have known the Twilight Cast panel would have been the epicenter of fan girl screaming), and with a dramatic increase in the number of comic related television shows and movies coming in the next two years, Comic Con International is going to be the place to see and be seen.

Distance
Since Hollywood is one of the big factors with CCI: San Diego, being within an hour’s flying time from L.A. puts a limit on major cities that could host the show.  With this in mind, here are three places CCI could go that would really work; San Diego, Las Vegas, or Los Angeles.

Size
Even if the H’wood crowd were left out of the equation, the growing size of the convention is a big concern.  Thousands of fans end up getting stuck in long lines waiting to get into the show once the halls fill to capacity, and if the show wants to grow, it will need an increase in bodies.

San Diego Convention Center
From the convention center website, there are approximately 796,362 square feet in the convention center, making it a pretty good space to hold record crowds.

Los Angeles Convention Center
On the flip side, the LA Convention Center only has 720,000 square feet, making it the smallest convention center on the list.

Las Vegas Convention Center
The biggest of the big is no doubt the Las Vegas convention center that boasts 3.2 million square feet, including 144 meeting rooms.  Since one doesn’t have to use the entire convention space, there is certainly plenty of room to grow for years to come.

Location
Location is everything when it comes to having a fun and safe time at a comic book convention.  I’ve heard people complain that certain conventions are located in really bad parts of town, there isn’t much to do within walking distance, and transportation really sucks.  So how do the three contenders stack up when it comes to location?

San Diego
There are, surprisingly, a lot of things to do that are within walking distance of the convention center.  For those who don’t want to spend five days in the convention center proper, San Diego has a wealth of museums and parks, the Padres might be in town playing a game, and the beach is just a few blocks away.  For food fanatics, the Gaslamp Quarter in San Diego has it all.  And for those who want something a little more extreme TJ is just over the border – just make sure you bring your passport, two forms of I.D. and know what a donkey show is before your friends get you liquored up and take you to one.  Not that I would know first hand…

Los Angeles
Even though the Los Angeles Convention Center can hold 5,600 cars, I’ve been to the convention center enough times to know it is a place I don’t want to venture too far from after dark – the neighborhoods surrounding LACC can get pretty scary, and a costumed convention goer would make an easy target.  While the beach, dining locations, movie studios, and shopping are within a few miles of the centrally located convention center, you’ll need a car, cab, or public transit to get there safely.  Sadly, there’s just not much going on in the near vicinity.

Las Vegas
I love Las Vegas!  The city has it all, and with its location to the strip just a monorail ride away, conventioneers are moments away from everything.  Movies, shows, shopping, and more food than you could ever eat in one sitting are all there.  Add in the gambling and numerous bars, and you have something that will keep anyone occupied.  Wouldn’t it be cool to see Iron Man, Batman, and the Hulk shooting craps?  I’m sure the publishers would object to that, as would the casino pit bosses, but it would be fun none the less.

Accommodations
If you are going to a show, you need a place to stay.

San Diego
There are a lot of hotels in the area, but if you don’t get a hotel room the day the bookings open, you are pretty much out of luck.  It seems during the convention, room rates jump to anywhere from $200 to $300+ a night.  A four day stay is going to easily set you back close to $1,000.

I’ve had friends who stayed an hour or so away from the convention center and then drive in everyday, but that’s gotta suck just to save a few bucks.

Los Angeles
There are some very nice hotels in Los Angeles, too bad they are a distance from the convention center.  Room rates are going to vary, plus you’ll have to find some way of getting to and from the show.

Las Vegas
The best part about the LVCC is it is connected to the Hilton hotel, that alone can accommodate 100,000 people.  And don’t forget it has the awesome Star Trek Experience and Quark’s bar that should satisfy most of the Trekkers or Trekies attending the show.

Prices for rooms in Las Vegas vary, but they are on par with San Diego.  Room rates run from $500 – $1000 for a week’s stay. but for those attending the show for a night or two, remember the weekend rates get quite a bump.

For the rest of us, the monorail gets you to and from select hotels in no time.  I’m a big fan of the Sahara and Flamingo, but if you are looking for a place to park your stuff and you don’t care about decor, the Imperial Palace has the cheapest rooms on the strip.

Sure, you could stay at a small hotel within a block or two of the strip, they aren’t glamourous, and on at least two occasions, I’ve stayed at a non-strip hotel, where I was told be careful walking through the parking lot after dark.  Remember, it’s Las Vegas, live it up.

Transportation
Getting to and from the convention center easily is a must.

San Diego
Free shuttle service to and from select hotels and parking lots.  Most hotels have shuttle service to and from the airport.

Los Angeles
I’m sure the same deal can be made with hotels in the LA area.

Las Vegas
Monorail all the way.  Get a 10 ride pass for $20, and you’re set.  I would love to see a battalion of Storm Troopers squeezing on to the monorail – a whole coffee table book of photos just from the platforms and cars alone would be worth moving the show to Vegas.  Cab rides aren’t cheap in any city, but to get a club or other hotel not easily accessible by monorail, is way to go.

Climate
This is the one category San Diego wins time and time again.  With temperatures this week in the mid 70s, you can walk around without sweating your ass off.  Los Angeles comes in a close second with temps in the mid 80s, but nothing is more brutal than Las Vegas in the summer.  Temps this week topped out at 106, which can be dangerous for people in costume.  Fortunately, the LVCC is climate controlled, and save for the time spent on the monorail platform, conventioneers can walk around in air-conditioned comfort.

Move or Stay
When weighing all the options, the organizers of Comic Con International: San Diego have a tough choice ahead of them.  If they are content with capping the number of attendees and turning away fans at the door, then I say don’t move the show.  With the large number of things to do in the area, and wonderful weather year round, San Diego can’t be beat.

If however, the show wants to expand (which I think it should), and doesn’t mind high temperatures, then Las Vegas is where the show needs to move to.  For those with long memories, there used to be a comic convention in Las Vegas for a number of years, but dwindling numbers shut the show down.  With H’wood and CCI behind a convention in Vegas, I think it would work, and with enough support CCI: Las Vegas could be the biggest convention in the world, beating out the ones held in Japan.

I’m not a logistics person, so I don’t know if the show can move in one year, but I would bet a 2011 or 2012 date could be made.  I’m also not privy to any of the contract information CCI may have with the convention center. For all I know, CCI could be locked into San Diego for the next 10 years.

UPDATE: I’ve been informed, CCI has a contract with the convention center until 2012, so unless some breaking of contracts are made, look for the show to be sold out for the next four years.

Comic Con International: Las Vegas – how does that sound to you?

The Author

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher began his career writing for the Digital Media Online community of sites, including Digital Producer and Creative Mac covering all aspects of the digital content creation industry. He then moved on to consumer technology, and began the Coolness Roundup podcast. A writing fool, Stephen has freelanced for Sci-Fi Channel's Technology Blog, and Gizmodo. Still longing for the good ol' days, Stephen launched Major Spoilers in July 2006, because he is a glutton for punishment.

You can follow him on Twitter @MajorSpoilers and tell him your darkest secrets...

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20 Comments

  1. July 27, 2008 at 4:50 pm — Reply

    Well I have a spare room, but 125,000 would be pushing it.

    Though to be honest after following this years activities in practical real time thanks to Marvels Live Blogs and Twitter I’m definately intending on saving up for next year!

  2. July 27, 2008 at 10:33 pm — Reply

    I believe CCI has contracted with the San Diego convention center through 2012.
    So any move would have to take place after that (unless they are willing to pay penalties to get out of the contract).

  3. Jay
    July 27, 2008 at 11:04 pm — Reply

    Re: “he Padres might be in town playing a game”

    Part of CCI’s contract with the city is that there are no Padres games scheduled at the same time as Comic-Con. It’s already hectic enough with one of those, so to have two at the same time would be a little crazy.

  4. Joe He
    July 28, 2008 at 1:07 am — Reply

    The Star Trek Experience is closing, however:

    http://blog.wired.com/underwire/2008/07/star-trek-exper.html

  5. John Baker
    July 28, 2008 at 10:29 am — Reply

    I don’t think there’s any formal limit to the Padres being in town, unless you have actual details of the contract that says otherwise. They were in town both in 2005 and 2006, although they were on the road in 04 (first year on new stadium), 07 and 08. Comic-Con schedules its dates at least two years ahead of time and MLB doesn’t come out with its schedule until December or January before the season. While MLB probably takes requests on scheduling, there’s only so much it can do with 30 teams to track.

  6. July 28, 2008 at 12:59 pm — Reply

    As a local San Diegan I am proud and very protective of San Diego ComicCon.

    Please know that most of SDCC is created and run by Volunteers. Yes there are the folks who work for the Convention center, and the Elite Services people but most, if not all of the pre-show work and organizing, and some important floor work is done by volunteers if it goes to Vegas it would lose most of that. nothing in Vegas is free. (no offensive to Vegas Fen, go WesterCon!)

    San Diego has a great Trolley system and many a nice and slightly less expensive hotel can be found along the special ComicCon trolley line. A $15 4 day pass gets you all over San Diego, with the last rain leaving the Convention Center a 1:30am. Many of my LA friends take the Amtrak Surfliner down from Los Angeles. Most of the trip you get great ocean views and there’s a bar car, a bar car!

    Anyway… How much bigger does ComicCon have to get? Do the BSG and Joss Whedon Panels have to be held in Padres Park? If it’s crowded while you hunt for swag so what, Disney land is crowded as hell in the summer and they don’t give out free stuff.

    What I would really like is a simulcast and podcasts of the panels. Hall H and Ballroom 20 are so big, if your not in the first 50 rows you might as well watch the panel on a screen. A podcast would also allow people to catch a neat panel they may not have known they wanted to see until it was recommended. That and better traffic control in the halls and to get a day of the Con sponsored by a deodorant company.

    If ComicCon leaves San Diego, San Diego will just create another great Con (Try Conjecture or ConDor to see what I mean) and that will fill up and take ComicCon place.

  7. July 28, 2008 at 2:26 pm — Reply

    The solution isn’t change the venue; the solution is change the event. Move retailers to a hotel lobby or other large meeting space, so that those shopping for comics can do so without the crowds clamoring for the Hollywood freebies and sneak peeks. Essentially divide the root comics element from the pop culture element; this doesn’t make it two events, nor does it solve the accommodations problem, but perhaps with different levels of membership and accessibility it would alleviate the convention center traffic/liability hazard some. I saw another smaller convention center along the trolley route, reminded me of Industry’s Frank & Sons show. Thoughts on this?

  8. The Dude
    July 28, 2008 at 4:17 pm — Reply

    Anaheim. 815,000 sq feet. It’s great and they break it up. Would be SO much better than San Diego.

    LA is out (and I live here). That convention center “sucks” for lack of a better word.

    If you want to keep ComicCon in San Diego then let’s do a few things:

    – Stylin’ tshirts? You get 1–ONE– booth. Doesn’t matter how much you pay. Oh and no tiny inside area either. If I didn’t buy at the one end, or the middle, I’m not buying at that other.

    – Old comic book stores that bring all your stock? You’re gone. Scram

    – Playboy playmates? Sorry, fun to look a few a few minutes but you’re gone. you too Suicide Girls.

    – Bob the Angry Flower? I know Keith Knight likes you but… sorry, man but don’t you have better things to spend your money on than a booth at the Con?

    – Weird booths selling crystals? You’re gone.

    – If you’re not Comics, SciFi or “fantasy” (ugh) you’re gone. Just because you have action figues to sell doesn’t mean you should have a booth.

    – Weird, random artists who just seem to copy stuff? Why don’t you all just share a booth and take shifts.

    – NBC, did we really need a 30 Rock/Office booth? Really?

    There, I’ve just freed up space for us all to move around.

    Oh, and people can we stop freaking out about huge, useless bags? Who at Warner Brothers do I have to stomp to end that nightmare…

    (Though I LOVED the registration process this year: was inside and registered in 5 minutes… just didn’t know where to go after that)

  9. July 28, 2008 at 11:15 pm — Reply

    It doesn’t take a genius to see that Comic-Con MUST be prepared to move from San Diego by 2012, else the con will become a disaster. Capping the number of convention attendees will only lead to the con remaining stagnant forever. It has already led to ticket scalping and price gouging. Hotel rooms are nigh impossible to get. There are 3+ hour lines to get into any popular panel. The crush of people in the hallways is insane, to say nothing of the show floor itself. Even a table at a reasonably priced restaurant for dinner is a challenge.

    If the con is to ever grow and help comics culture become a part of the mainstream, it needs to be in a place that can accomodate it. The Las Vegas Convention center is that place. With many presentation halls that dwarf Hall H you can say goodbye to those 3 hour lines. Immense show floors mean less crowding and claustrophobia. More room availability means lower prices.

    The only issue with Vegas is the heat. It’s a punishing, relentless heat that kills pets and old people weekly. Walking to the con is simply not possible. Fortunately Vegas has a somewhat effective monorail and would obviously have con shuttles and pedicabs and plenty of taxis, so people won’t drop dead walking from place to place.

    The choice to move to Las Vegas seems clear.

  10. Matt
    July 29, 2008 at 11:09 am — Reply

    Vegas is a disaster. No comic convention has ever worked there. There are still a ton of kids at CCI as well (Sunday is devoted to kids) and most parents aren’t going to drag there kids to Vegas in 110 degree temperatures to go to this thing.

    Anaheim has the convention space but the hotels are maxed this time of year with Disneyland peaking.

    If L.A. worked, Wizard World LA wouldn’t be such a flop.

    San Diego can still work but some things need to change. The people that run the show do such a great job with the greater volumes of people now than they did 10 years ago—their experience in running this thing is invaluable. Perhaps the thing to do is to spread it out to a six day event, only sell three day passes and singles, and only allow three days at the con, per person. I have never had trouble findng an affordable place to stay on the trolley line (a major plus IMO), despite all the complaints you hear from everybody.

    While some people may be mad that they couldn’t go, I’d say that the majority of people that attended had a great time, like usual. If you plan ahead and do your homework, this is still an affordable, hassle-free experience—I think the problem is that there are just a lot of whiners who want to just show up if they feel like it and don’t plan ahead (therefore, paying higher prices for everything or not being able to go at all).

  11. Matt
    July 29, 2008 at 11:15 am — Reply

    One more thing (as Arabella said):

    If this show thinks it’s moving to LA or Vegas and not being replaced by a Wizard World San Diego in July or August, you’re high. The venue is a large part of the draw, not just the show (believe me, Shamus and Co. wouldn’t be the only ones trying to fill this void should it happen).

  12. Rob
    July 30, 2008 at 2:09 pm — Reply

    It doesn’t matter how big a venue you move it to, it will still have the same problems. If you move to a convention center with twice as much floor space, it will cost more to rent the place, and you will have to sell twice as many tickets to pay for it, leaving it just as crowded (or you could just double the ticket price). If you have twice as many Hall H sized rooms, there will be twice as many panels scheduled.

  13. Cory
    August 7, 2008 at 5:01 pm — Reply

    you can’t move a convention where people spend money to a gambling town. It takes too much money out of the room, and vendors that sell stuff, (which is probably half the room) will stop going. Ask Sports Collectible dealers why the National Sports Collectors Convention will never again be held in Atlantic City again.

    The promoters in San Diego need to leverage the hotels that if more don’t throw there rooms in the convention blocks they’re going to lose the convention in general. In my opinion the Hotel Issue is the biggest problem. The gouging is disgusting.

  14. Philip
    August 11, 2008 at 2:58 pm — Reply

    I have been attending the SDCC since 1995 and live here in San Diego. Years ago attendance was not an issue or crowds until Hollywood showed up and networks pimping their new shows. Remember that this convention was started by a non-profit group and is still a non profit organization so moving it elsewhere to make more money is moot. On the other hand other cities are seeing the cash cow on hotel taxes and tourism which will try to sway the SDCC to move with promises of better deals. If it does move will the same people who run this now will relocate to run the show in another city? When you boil it down it is about $$$ for the hosting city and the local goverment. Funny how this convention was barely given a glance 4 years ago and considered a “geek fest” and now people talk about it moving. San Diego Comic Con started here and should stay here.

  15. Rob (ShutUpRob)
    August 11, 2008 at 7:15 pm — Reply

    Let me put it this way: I attended the first six Wonder-Cons (and worked five of those six for one of its founders) when I lived (grew up) in the San Francisco Bay Area. And I worked for a secondary market distributor In San Leandro (actually, same guy as that Wonder-Con co-founder) and thus know, knew or at least met a LOT of retailers from the SFBA of that era (R.I.P., Rory!) I went to college in the San Diego area and lived there for eight years. I now live in Central Missouri, where the humidity just kills in the summer and this was my tenth straight Comic-Con, my fourth having to fly out from Missouri rather than trolley in from La Mesa.

    So imagine me reading the non-comparison above. If it were a magazine article, I would have instantly thrown the magazine against the wall the *second* I read that it was attempting to compare San Diego with Las Vegas (much less with the Los Angeles Convention Center.)

    Where to begin, where to begin? There’s just so many levels on which this blog entry is so wrong, so full of straw-men arguments that attempt and fail to make any case whatsoever for *Los Angeles,* much less Las Vegas, being a credible alternative location for Comic-Con that I honestly don’t know where to begin. Especially several of my points have already been said by other posters.

    Okay, first off, I’ll just recap the most obvious points from the comments above:

    1) Vegas, 110-degree heat, gambling, huge amounts of prostitution and strip clubs. On that basis alone, Comic-Con, which is geared toward older teenagers and young (ie: under-21) adults, moving to Vegas simply would not happen. Period. Your lack of consideration for Comic-Con’s younger skewing audience just makes your bias in favor of Las Vegas all the more appallingly obvious.

    2) Los Angeles. You know, there’s a reason that AnimExpo’s own attendees were so appalled by the location that they made it known to that convention that if it returned to that location, they’d stop coming. You note one of the big ones — that the hotels aren’t nearby. And that should have been enough for you to have deleted it from your comparison at the same time that you should have deleted Las Vegas from your comparison. But hey, if the convention could get merged with the TCAs at the Beverly Hilton and surrounding hotels up in Hollywood, that would be great for me (and, okay, totally unfeasible.) since I’m both a comics fan and a tv/movie geek (a redundancy, I know.) But since the hotels aren’t nearby, you essentially have a mess that is inhospitable to guests and exhibitors who don’t already live in the area. So there goes the last few comics dealers from the convention and at least half of the artists and publishers as well. The SDCC’s proximity to so many large hotels makes it practical for industry professionals, exhibitors and attendees alike.

    3) San Diego is Comic-Con and Comic-Con is San Diego. For reasons number one and two above, if Comic-Con were to leave San Diego, it wouldn’t work. Another convention would come in, take its place and become “Comic-Con” in destination if not in name for exhibitors and attendees alike. Maybe it would mean that CCI would take the movie and TV segments with it if CCI ever moved, but that really would do nothing but delay the inevitable, assuming that the CofSD weren’t able to expland the SDCC by 2012. With movies and TV being absent from a new San Diego convention, it would revert to being an actual convention for howeverlong it took after 2012 to expand the SDCC and after that, whatever con that took over the space from CCI would be in place to grab the movie and TV aspects from CCI, wherever it would be at the time.

    Or, in other words, the comics convention aspect of CCI would likely stay in San Diego — partly due to tradition, partly due to the superiority and the gorgeosity of the area. And that whole shedding the movie/TV aspect of the convention would be a huge plus for comics fans. It’d suck for fans like me who are interested in comics, movies and TV, but nevertheless, I don’t see any longterm upside for CCI if/when it were to move out of San Diego. And I hope that nobody on the San Diego City Council is reading this as it might make them move more slowly on any proposals or plans to expand the SDCC.

    — Rob

  16. John Boyd
    July 27, 2009 at 12:52 pm — Reply

    I’m no expert at the whole history of Comic Con, I just moved here about two years ago, also this was my first year going. I loved it, but it took so long to get to the stuff I went there for, comics, and being a comic book fan, it was irritating to have to walk by all the movie booths just to get to the comic booths. I was thinking, if Comic Con has become more about the movies and basically “gone Hollywood”, why not give Hollywood their own convention, call it Movie Con. Comic Con is supposed to be about Comics and books right, paying homage to the writers. Keep Comic Con in San Diego.

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