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by Brian Schrader

Re: Comic-Con

Posted on Sun, 07 Jul 2013 at 02:35 AM

The now world famous convention in San Diego California is one of the largest pop culture conventions in the world, and over the years has grown far beyond expectation. As a lucky local who has been going to Comic-Con since 2005, there are a few things worth mentioning that seem to bother myself and the other repeating attendees.

Too Big for its Britches

Comic-Con is huge. This year alone the convention boasted a whopping 130,000 attendees. With that number of participants, it's clear that the San Diego Convention Center (the current home of the convention) is in no way big enough to contain such an event. In recent years the convention has been expanded to include the neighboring Hilton and Marriot hotels as well as the park next to the convention center, Petco Park baseball stadium, and the entire Gas Lamp District, but it isn't enough.

A view of the Convention Center from the Trolley stop.The convention center is overflowing with people. Signs are posted throughout the building to warn of where not to stand by order of the Fire Marshal. The three biggest halls (Ballroom 20, Hall H, and Indigo Ballroom in the Hilton) can't hope to fit even half of the people who line up. In order to get into a popular panel, say at 5:30pm, attendees will line up around 5am and sometimes the night before. While some people are obsessive, and over excited, the fact is that even those people may not get in. They waste their whole day in line, 12 hours of queuing, and they can't get in, it's unacceptable. While I understand that even with all the room in the world some people won?t get in, however it shouldn't be this bad. The smaller panel rooms are filled to the brim as well, and independent panelists have a hard time getting a spot because the spots fill too quickly with corporations paying for the publicity. All the overcrowding has gotten to the point of ridiculous.

Out of everything though, the exhibit hall is the hardest hit. The hall stretches from one end of the 5 block convention center to the other, and is filled with booths selling everything from video games, to clothing, from artist commissions to hentai. It's crowded even before the attendees show up, but when they do, it gets maddening.

Comic-Con still wants to be a small, basement get-together, and it isn't. It has to grow.

Grow with the Times

A view of the massive crowds at Comic-Con.The Consumer Electronics Show (C.E.S) in Las Vegas is another huge convention (just over 150,000 attendees) and it handles things differently. Unlike Comic-Con, which takes place in a specific place, the Convention Center, C.E.S. takes place in the city of Las Vegas. This is a huge change in mindset. The convention is in a multitude of hotels, exhibit halls, and convention centers throughout Las Vegas, and attendees can shuttle between them. True, this does spread the goodies out to many places but the overall idea is to increase attendance, increase safety, and decrease overcrowding (to an extent at least). This is something Comic-Con could learn a lot from.

San Diego and Comic-Con are perfect for each other, but Comic-Con cannot stay confined in the convention center. It needs to expand; luckily San Diego already has places for it to expand to close by. San Diego actually has 2 convention centers! San Diego Concourse, or 'the old convention center'' as it is most commonly known, is a building just a few blocks from the heart of Comic-Con. This building, along with the Civic Theatre that sits right next door, are perfect for use as Comic-Con panel rooms. The Concourse's Golden Hall seats 4,300 people, and the Civic Theatre seats 2,900. While these numbers aren't even close to hall H at 6,100 and only ties Ballroom 20 at 4,200, the use of these two additional venues would alleviate the stress and overcrowding in the Convention Center. These venues could be perfect for medium to large sized panels that would otherwise be forced into a much smaller panel room to make up for Ballroom 20 and Hall H being booked solid.

The Concourse also has additional space for exhibitor. A shuttle could move people back and forth, and with Comic-Con recently adding the Lyceum theatre to its list, the attendees would have quite a good reason to venture out away from the convention center, and into the heart of downtown. I can't imagine that the businesses and restaurants in Horton Plaza, next door to the Lyceum and the Civic, would be too inconvenienced with the thousands of potential customers that would now be walking past and through their stores.

Moving Up

A view of the preview night registration line.The convention has done this kind of expansion before. It started as a get-together in a basement, and then moved to the Grant building, then to its current home at the Convention Center, and it?s time to expand again. The Convention Center is a perfect place to have the heart of Comic-Con. Leave the Masquerade and Hall H where they are, but move other things out to another venue. There are lots of hotels nearby and the two places mentioned above are open as well. I see no reason why the city of San Diego can't embrace the convention fully and become a city of comics, movies, TV, and games. Turn the whole city into Comic-Con, and grow from there.

TL;DR: Comic-Con is awesome, but overcrowded. A possible solution is presented: Expand.

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