Well, WonderCon’s continued presence in San Francisco remains in doubt, as seen here, and mentioned here back in March, as the Moscone Center gives WonderCon the Cinderella treatment. What’s in store for WonderCon, and what are their options?
As in 2012, WonderCon will once again take place in Anaheim, scheduled for March 29-31, 2013, which also is Easter weekend.
WonderCon, originally held at the Oakland, California, Convention Center, moved to the Moscone Center in San Francisco in 2003.
In 2012, Moscone was under renovation, making space a premium. In 2013, that renovation should be complete. So what’s happening in April, 2013, at Moscone?
|04/02/13 – 04/04/13||MRS 2013 Spring Meeting||Moscone West||Convention / Tradeshow|
|04/09/13 – 04/09/13||ad:tech||Moscone West||Convention / Tradeshow|
|04/11/13 – 04/13/13||American College of Physicians||Moscone North and South||Convention|
|04/15/13 – 04/17/13||AACRAO 99th Annual Meeting||Moscone West||Convention / Tradeshow|
|04/20/13 – 04/22/13||2013 AACC Annual Convention||Moscone West Levels 1-3||Convention / Tradeshow|
|04/20/13 – 04/24/13||Cataract and Refractive Surgery||Moscone North and South||Convention / Tradeshow|
|04/28/13 – 05/01/13||SAS Users’ Group International||Moscone West||Convention / Tradeshow|
Moscone West cannot accommodate a weekend show, as the midweek shows require at least one day of moving out and moving in.
Moscone North/South? It could host WC the weekend of the 6th and 7th, or the 27th and 28th.
But Moscone can host whomever they wish. As a public venue, they are susceptible to public pressure, so perhaps a grassroots effort could be made to convince the village elders to accommodate a local cultural event. Perhaps Jerry Sanders could call Edwin M. Lee and clue him in to the amount of money being lost to Anaheim.
So, in 2013, WonderCon will once again take place at the Anaheim Convention Center to the east of Los Angeles.
Here’s the plan of the convention center:
Last year, WonderCon used Hall D for exhibition space. (Here’s the exhibitor map.) That’s 221,284 square feet. It’s a huge building, with over 813,000 square feet of exhibition space (Halls A-E). Moscone has 538,000 sq.ft. of exhibition space; San Diego, 525,701 sq.ft.
In 2011, WonderCon used Halls A-C of Moscone South for the dealer’s room. That’s 260,560 square feet of space. 2010 had the same footprint; in 2009 it was Halls B & C.
So, if Moscone disowns WonderCon like a single mother tossed out into a snowstorm, where could they relocate to?
Well, there is Anaheim, which will have hosted two shows. Comic-Con International has filed to claim “Anaheim Comic-Con” as a trademark. (They have also filed for “Los Angeles Comic-Con” and “San Francisco Comic-Con”.) There is a lot of space to expand, both in the Arena which can host “Hall H” media events, as well as a large ballroom on the Third Floor.
I attended the annual conference of the American Library Association here last June. There are numerous hotels around the area, mostly due to Disneyland. I had no trouble finding an affordable hotel room, and though the trek was a bit long, the weather was pleasant. There was no “fighting” with Disneyland tourists for hotel rooms or restaurants. The convention center was easy to navigate, both horizontally and vertically. The length of the center was not weary to walk, even on the last day of the show. I especially liked the outdoor courtyards built between each hall. There were 20,000 attendees, yet it wasn’t difficult to walk between hallways. (Of course, surf the web for reaction to last year’s WonderCon in Anaheim.)
But, where else could it go? Some local fans are criticial of Comic-Con International moving out of the Bay Area, wondering why they do not move the show to another regional venue.
First, there’s the Oakland Convention Center, which originally hosted the show from 1987-2002.
It has 48,000 square feet of exhibition space. That’s one-fifth of what WonderCon used in 2011. There’s also not a lot of space for programming.
San Jose? Located on the south side of the San Francisco Bay, it once hosted CCI’s Alternative Press Expo at Parkside Hall before it was moved to the Concourse Exhibition Center in San Francisco.
The San Jose Convention Center has 143,000 square feet. 54% of WC ’11.
Santa Clara? 112,775 sq.ft.
Now, what if WonderCon went back to its fan-based heritage, and followed the hotel-centric layout of Dragon*Con?
What’s that? A major regional convention which doesn’t use a convention center? YUP! Dragon*Con is a science-fiction convention which has grown to epic proportions! They embrace almost every fandom, and like smaller conventions, rent conference space in various hotels, decentralizing everything. Exhibitors and dealers are housed in three separate ballrooms.
Our host hotels for 2012 will again include the familiar surroundings of the Hyatt Regency Atlanta along with the legendary Atlanta Marriott Marquis, the Hilton Atlanta, Sheraton Atlanta Hotel, and the Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel.
They sell out the hotels, usually a year in advance! Which is what convention bureaus love! 46,000 fans attended in 2011, according to Wikipedia.
Could that happen in San Francisco?
WonderCon could use the Marriott Marquis, the Westin, and the Four Seasons for events (with the W and St. Regis for overflow), bypassing Moscone completely. The three main hotels are all in the same block just north of Yerba Buena Gardens (and two blocks north of Moscone).
WonderCon had about 39,000 attendees in 2011 in San Francisco (the latest year I could find). WonderCon is similar to Dragon*Con in scope and size, so let’s see what space D*C has available [click on the hotel name to go to the hotels’ meeting space pages] :
- Hyatt Regency Atlanta 113K (six different spaces)
- Westin Peachtree Plaza 51.8 K (four floors, multiple rooms)
- Sheraton Atlanta Hotel 43.4K (three floors, numerous meeting rooms)
- Hilton Atlanta 41K Exhibit Hall + 41.3K + meeting rooms (four floors)
- Atlanta Marriott Marquis 88.7K +meeting rooms (four floors
The Grand (hotel) total: 379,200 approximate square feet.
Now, realize that Dragon*Con has three exhibition spaces:
- Dealers (retailers) are in the Hyatt’s International Hall (9,150 sq.ft.)
- Exhibitors (companies) are in the Marriott’s Marquis Ballroom (21,983 sq.ft.) and the Imperial Ballroom (15,640 sq.ft.)
Now, what if we tried the same thing in San Francisco?
- Westin San Francisco Market Street 12K + smaller ballrooms (two floors)
- San Francisco Marriott Marquis 64.9K + numerous meeting rooms (five floors)
- Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco 9.4K + 4 meeting rooms (one floor)
That’s a grand (motel) total of approximately 86,000 square feet, all on the same city block.
Add the nearby St. Regis (13.3K) and the W (7.4K) and the total is 107,000 square feet. That’s a tight fit. The Marriot Marquis could host the Exhibitors space, the Westin could host the dealers. Meeting rooms might be a concern, although there are smaller boutique hotels with smaller (but not numerous) meeting rooms. Of course, that all depends on the major exhibitors. If Marvel, DC, Capcom, and/or Nintendo balk, then the show might suffer by their absence. (Of course, fans could view it as WonderCon returning to their fan-based heritage, ignoring the hyperbole which fuels Comic-Con International: San Diego.)
But there’s another possibility, further north. Sacramento.
Sacramento, the capital of California, has two major exhibition spaces:
- The Sacramento Convention Center
- Cal Expo
The Sacremento Convention Center has 134,006 sq.ft. of exhibition space, which is smaller than San Jose. So that’s not worth the trouble of moving outside the Bay Area.
It has a complex of buildings which could be utilized for a large convention, turning it into a “comic-county fair”!
Think that’s crazy? Consider CeBIT, held every year in Hannover, Germany. Held at Hannover’s Messegelände (fairground), that electronics trade show uses 5 million square feet in 27 different halls and attracted 312,000 attendees in 2012 (850,000 during the dot-com boom). CCI:SD caps attendance at 130,000.
- Building A 27,700 sq.ft., with 8,600 sq.ft. on the mezzanine. [Connects with Building B]
- Building B [identical to Building A]
- Building C 28,000 sq.ft. [column free, connects to Building D]
- Building D 20,000 sq.ft. [column free]
- The Pavilion 98,000 sq.ft.
- The Cove A shaded seating area, seats 4100, stage measures 48 x 40 ft. (Think “Hall H”.)
- Expo Center 58,870 sq.ft. Eight buildings sharing an outdoor brick plaza.
- #1 = 7,549 #2 = 5,987 #3 = 7,929 #4 = 7,860 #5 = 7,934 #6 = 7,832 #7 = 7,931 #8 = 5,848
That’s a grand total of 277,470 sq.ft. of space, larger than the 260,560 sq.ft. used in Moscone South.
The column free space of Building C and D would be perfect for the larger exhibitors. Each Expo Center building could cater to a different fandom, grouping retailers together. Or the Expo Center could be one big miss-mix-mashed bazaar, encouraging attendees to wander from one building to the next, and congregating in the middle.
Hotels? There are many north of the fairground, so shuttle buses would be used, just like at every other comic con in the country. Big Fun lists local transit options to downtown. Or, unlike most other shows, you can camp in your RV. Parking? 15,000 spaces, $10 a car.
What about the weather? According to Wikipedia, the average temperature in Sacramento for April is 47-72 degrees Fahrenheit. San Francisco? 50-64 degrees.
Will people travel from San Francisco? Well, to drive from Moscone to Anaheim takes 6 hours, 45 minutes. From Moscone to Cal Expo? 1 hour, 35 minutes. Lots of parking!
So, those are the most likely solutions for WonderCon. I’m hoping that Moscone and CCI can come to some agreement, while Anaheim can become another great regional convention.
I’ve been writing for The Beat since July of 2010.
I’ve been reading comics since 1974, collecting since 1984, and spreading the graphic novel gospel since 1994.
I’m a bookseller, a librarian, an amateur scholar, a cool uncle, and a comics evangelist.
Ask me anything!