The San Diego Comic Con may well be changing its name in a few years. The contract Comic Con has with the city of San Diego expires in 2012 and in a desperate bid cities throughout the US have made proposals to host the convention after that point, most notably Los Angeles and Anaheim.
The San Diego Convention Center has always been struggling to accommodate the multitude of conventions that are interested in it. After its official opening in 1989, it took only two years for the city to decide there was a necessity to expand it. Ten years after that, September 23rd, 2001, the newly expanded Convention Center was ready for business with more than 600,000 square feet and the capacity to hold 125,000 visitors. Leading up to that point Comic Con had reached its capacity, but almost five years later, though having doubled its original space, Comic Con had outgrown it again.
Since that time, problems with the fire marshal have forced the Con to accept less attendees and raise rates, but even rising costs and a down economy have not stopped the relentless fans of this international event. Where as tickets sold out a few weeks before the convention in 2008, in 2009 tickets sold out in March, four months ahead of the convention. Not willing to be left out in the cold, for this year’s Con, fans hurried to purchase their passes early and caused the convention to sell out in the first week of November, 2009. This is despite a 25% increase in price.
Only a few years ago, sixty five dollars allowed an individual to attend all four days, including the preview night. This year that same package went for one hundred dollars, with the preview limited to only the first thousand people. Given how quickly it sold out, those running Comic Con see the need for a larger premise in order to continue to make money and that’s something San Diego cannot supply.
Aside from the obvious hindrances to expansion, such as the fact that with the revitalization of the Gaslamp Quarter most space that would have otherwise been a prime location for expansion is now being utilized, there is a strong resistance within San Diego to the financial investment expanding the convention center would take. As the state of California and the city of San Diego continue to struggle as they long have, an expansion may cost local tax payers around $53 million dollars a year to pay for 30-year construction bonds.
Though a daunting figure, the truth is Comic Con alone generates $42 million dollars for San Diego in a single week. When considering the money the city has already lost as other large conventions have left San Diego in order to seek bigger venues the total profit of not only luring those back but drawing in new and larger ones can easily be considered a sound financial investment, though certainly a painful one at the time.
However, even if San Diego can spend the money or finds the space to expand, there’s no guarantee Comic Con will opt to stay. As Director of Marketing and Public Relations for Comic Con David Glanzer told comicbookresources.com recently, “We can’t deny the fact that we love San Diego. San Diego is a great vacation destination. San Diego is a great city. That’s very true. But we also have to look at exactly what it is that we can or can not do here that another city might be able to address.”
As seen previously, expanding the convention center cannot promise long-term accommodations as the San Diego Convention Center’s previous improvements were inadequate in only a few years. Even if the Convention Center can make it from the 25th largest convention center back into the top twenty, Comic Con’s rapid growth in the last ten years may still find a more suitable location elsewhere.
Neither Glanzer, nor the Comic Con itself, wishes to leave San Diego. In fact, many of those involved in the organization live in San Diego. However, there is a certain reality for the nation’s largest convention, and that is that it may no longer belong to San Diego.
Whether or not that is the case is expected to be decided sometime this month.
While four-day passes are long sold-out, tickets for Thursday and Sunday are still available, though nearly gone. Anyone interested would be well advised to buy now.
For those who feel the need to voice an opinion, please write to William Pittman, the Vice President of Operations for Comic Con at Comic-Con International, P.O. Box 128458, San Diego, CA 92112-8458.
Buy your one-day passes to the San Diego Comic-Con before they sell out and remember the San Diego Quarterly Con is March 7th.