kamandi vegas
Art by Kirby and Royer

As Comic-Con International approached, the comics media wonders: “Might CCI move from San Diego?” This year it became a more intriguing discussion for Bar-Con, as CCI’s contract with the convention center expired next year, in 2016.

My prognostication was: CCI has a great relationship with the City of San Diego. They got a 63% discount on convention center rent this year, and next year, that discount will be 67%. Local hotels are eager to give them meeting space and rooms, as this is one of the few annual opportunities hotels have to charge the legal rack rate, as rooms are scarce during the Con. I’m certain that CCI will re-up for a few more years, and give the city time to refinance the convention center expansion. Meanwhile CCI is testing both Anaheim and Los Angeles, either as a replacement city, or as a means of flipping a smaller but growing WonderCon to San Diego and Comic-Con to Orange County. If 2015 was any indication, it seems that CCI is comfortable at the San Diego Convention Center, and enough off-site events pulled people outside to lessen the crush of humanity, each performing their own hajj, circling their own tawaffs while others circle theirs.


What follows is not a specific “could CCI-San Diego become CCI-Vegas?” analysis.  That will come later, once I find a copy of this year’s convention schedule, calculate the square footage and occupancy used for panels at hotels and the convention center, and possibly the number of hotel rooms nearby. I also don’t price what the space will cost. That’s always fluid, and besides, if you can hold a Hyper-Con like this, money isn’t going to be a huge concern.

For now, this is just a “Is it possible to hold a Hyper-Con in Las Vegas?” think piece.

- Advertisement-

The short answer, is “Why, of course!” (That is, if you can manage a giant comic con, you can easily manage a giant comic con in Las Vegas.)

EDCLV2014_0622_021240-7305_CCW-1
The Electric Daisy Carnival

The longer question to that short answer, which I can’t answer, is “If it’s so easy and such a great destination, why hasn’t anyone yet succeeded in staging such a show?” The weather isn’t a problem, as the Electronic Daisy Festival has shown. (400,000 attendees over three nights (7 PM – 5:30 AM) at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.)

One should also realize that, before 2006, it was difficult to stage a large comic con in New York City. But someone cracked that nut. I wonder if they’ve ever hosted a show in Vegas?


There are three major convention centers in the Las Vegas area:

  1. Las Vegas Convention Center. It. Is. HUGE. (And getting bigger!) CCI would fit in ONE hall, leaving two extra. There’s lots of meeting space. The Westgate (formerly the Hilton) hotel next door has 2,956 rooms.  There are two monorail stations. Problem: it takes forever to walk anywhere else. (15 minutes to walk to the Strip.) Shuttle buses are parked outside in the heat.
  2. The Sands.  Two levels of exhibition halls, two large ballrooms, meeting rooms are VERTICAL, sited above the exhibit halls. It connects internally to the Palazzo and Venetian, with 7,092 rooms. It’s on the Strip. There’s an outdoor connnection to Harrah’s (2,677 rooms) and the monorail.
  3. Mandalay Bay.  Three hotels, Mandalay Bay (3,309 rooms), Luxor (4,407), Excalibur (4,008), are connected together via a private monorail. The intersection at Flamingo has outdoor overpasses connecting Excalibur to New York New York (with arena) (2,024), MGM Grand (with arena) (6,852), and the Tropicana (1,467).

Mandalay Bay is the best spot.

The number of hotel rooms nearby:

  • Mandalay Bay 3309  (#7 worldwide)
  • Luxor  4407  (#8)
  • Excalibur  4008 (#10)
  • New York New York  2024  (#51)
  • MGM Grand  6852  (#2)
  • Tropicana  1467  (#66)

MGM South StripThat’s 22,067 rooms, in one mile of The Strip.  Further north past New York New York is Monte Carlo, Aria… There are 62,000 hotel rooms on The Strip; 15 of the 25 largest hotels in the world are located there.

(For comparison, the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego has 1,628 rooms – the largest in California.  The San Diego Marriott Marquis & Marina has 1,362 rooms.)

Mandalay Bay LV plan

The Mandalay Bay Convention Center

  • 1,000,000 square feet (#5 in the country)
  • The floor plans
  • South Convention Center
  • Level One: “Bayside” ABCD  577,173 sq.ft.  2652 10×10 booths (San Diego Halls A-G = 460,859 sq.ft.)
  • Level Two: Ballrooms
    • Shorelines exhibition hall: 359,133 sq.ft. / 1789 10×10 booths (Imagine 3000+ Artist Alley tables!)
    • Mandalay Bay Ballroom 100,014 sq.ft. /  10,528 theatre seating
    • Breakers  15,138 / 1,621 theatre
    • Surf  7,920 / 845
    • Lagoon  23,985 / 2,549
    • Reef  6,708 / 824
  • Level Three: Meeting rooms
    • Jasmine  9374 / 1113
    • Banyan  5148 / 542
    • South Seas Ballroom  48,327 / 5115
    • 15 additional meeting rooms
  • North Convention Center (located just outside the South Convention Center)
    • South Pacific Ballroom 44,496 sq.ft. / 4728 seats
    • Islander Ballroom 31,536 / 3351
    • Five additional meeting rooms  145 – 741 maximum capacity, 16 breakouts
  • Additional meeting spaces in the arena and hotel towers.
  • …and a food court. As well as dining options in the main casino.

The Mandalay Bay Events Center

  • The Plan
  • 12,000 seats
  • It has hosted the Latin Grammys and Miss Universe pageant.
  • In close proximity to the Mandalay Bay Convention Center

The Luxor

  • Two ballrooms.  Nothing else.
  • When combined together, the Egyptian Ballroom has 15,680 sq.ft. and seats 1500.

The Excalibur

  • The Great Hall has 12,226 sq.ft. and can seat 853 in a theater setting.
  • There is also the Tournament of Kings Arena (dinner theater) with horseshoe seating, and the Thunder From Down Under (male strip) showroom, which appears to be more of a lounge.

New York New York

  • Eight rooms, all New York themed.  (I like the triangular Tribeca room.)
  • Staten Island is the largest: 6,467 sq.ft., 550 theater seating.  The rest: 65 – 220 theater seating.
  • Five boardrooms, which might connect to hotel rooms? 12-16 people per conference.  Sounds like a good meeting room for a corporate suite.
  • There’s a replica of the Brooklyn Bridge which can host 1,000 for a reception, or 600 for a banquet.

  • Due to be completed in 2016, the Las Vegas Arena will seat 20,000, and be located behind the casino.

MGM Grand

  • The MGM Grand is the second largest hotel in the world.  (The Venetian is #1)  This is by number of rooms, not by volume.  That said, MGM has a lot of square footage.

  • The MGM Grand Garden Arena (capacity: 16,800) is located to the west of the pool. It hosts the Billboard Music Awards, the Academy of Country Music Awards, and lots of boxing. The event floor is 49,481 sq.ft., there are ten “studios” on the first floor which seat 61-388, and another 55,195 sq.ft. of space on the second floor. Also, there’s a Studio Ballroom of 9,934 sq.ft. which can seat 1,008 in a theater configuration.
  • The conference center is located at the back of the complex, east of the pool. Three levels:
    • 1: Grand Ballroom 61,575 sq.ft.  seats 6,120.
    • 2: Meeting rooms, boardrooms.
    • 3:Premier Ballroom 49,225 sq.ft., seats 4,344; and meeting rooms.
  • Then there’s the Marquee Ballroom, which is a column free space south of the pool area with 92,000 sq.ft., seats 6,140.  Lots of restrooms!
  • That’s… 212,734 sq.ft. of space in four ballrooms. That, by itself, is enough space for a mid-size comic con.
  • The Las Vegas monorail terminates here. (It might eventually reach the airport.)

Tropicana Las Vegas

Tropicana LV meetingsThis is the one hotel/casino in the cluster not owned by MGM Resorts International. It is also one of the oldest on the Strip, constructed in 1957.

  • Trinidad Pavilion 45,648 sq.ft / 5,133 theater seating
  • Cohiba  24,456 / 2,700
  • Montecristo  4,402 / 500
  • Partagas  3,328 / 380
  • Tropicana Theater  1,200 seating

Also, there is the MGM Resorts Village, across The Strip from the Mandalay Bay and Luxor, which is used for outdoor concerts. 15 acres/653,400 sq.ft.  A good spot for food trucks, outdoor movies, flea market, music festival…

The Scorecard:

  • 22,067 rooms in the immediate area.  62,000 rooms on The Strip. (And an RV park at Circus Circus!) (Not to mention various pied-à-terre apartments available via Airbnb, plus cheaper hotels off the Strip.)
  • Three indoor arenas: 12,000; 20,000; 16,800 (Three “Hall H” sites, each twice or thrice the seating capacity of what currently exists in San Diego.)
  • At least three ballrooms which are equal in capacity to Hall H in San Diego.
  • All of those large venues have pre-function and public spaces to handle large crowds efficiently.
  • 1,000,000 sq.ft. of convention space, which serves as the Show Floor. Here’s a sample (the smallest booths are 10×10, just like at most comic cons; the largest booths are on par with the megabooths at CCI). This is just the lower level (Bayside). There’s another hall on the second floor.
  • An abundance of meeting rooms for numerous programming tracks.
  • Different fandoms can be headquartered in different hotels.
  • Each venue could sell site-specific tickets. Not interested in gaming? Just want to cosplay and learn about crafting? Just want to see the show floor? Buy only that ticket, and get front-of-the line seating over the generalists for those tracks.
  • 30 airlines service the Las Vegas Airport.  145 direct flights (and many more via connections). Many of them via Southwest Airlines!

So… who’ll be first? Wizard World has another Vegas show scheduled for March, at the LVCC. But who will be the first to max out one of the three convention centers in Vegas?


 

8 COMMENTS

  1. This can only be intelligently discussed by people who have actually been to convention in Las Vegas in the summer where the average daytime temperature is 115 or higher. A lot of people come to Comicon from other states where it has never been 115 and never will be. People attending Comicon in San Diego find it rough when the outdoor temperature is 85 and you have to go to a restaurant or back to your hotel. 25 years ago I went to a convention in Las Vegas in summer and one time I walked out of a convention center (where the temp was about 65) outside to where it was 115 and across the street into an air conditioned hotel. Within minutes I felt light-headed and almost fainted, something which hasn’t happened to me anywhere else or since, and I was obviously a lot younger 25 years ago than I am now.

  2. Are there any local factors aside from facilities (exhibition and hotel space) that make a city (Vegas or any other) particularly hospitable to a comics convention, Hyper- or otherwise?

  3. This story delves into just the pros and not the cons. If the CCI were to be held in Mandalay Bay and the hotels surrounding it, how do you keep underage people out of the casino? Open container law is another issue. The weather/temperature would be a huge issue especially those in costume. Security being a big issue, the money that would have to be spent for it would be a lot more than what is paid in San Diego. Hotel rooms? All those hotels will not cater to CCI for a 4-5 day con especially with the traffic they receive during the summer. There are quite a few other things, this is just scratching the surface.

  4. You know Wizard World did a convention earlier this year. And Amazing Las Vegas Comic Con just finished up it’s third year back in June.

  5. Ugh. The people that talk most about moving the San Diego Comic Con out of San Diego are select media sites. If Las Vegas is such a great place for a comic convention then let someone start one and prove it. LA already has a convention too. It’s called Wonder Con which is run by the same people who run SDCC so why would they need both cons in the same city. So the last option for SDCC leaving is Anaheim which I’m guessing we’ll hear for the next few years. Las Vegas may want the SDCC but it hasn’t been a serious option if you believe what’s been said by the SDCC organizers. If you don’t like going to San Diego then go to one of the many conventions around the U.S. and quit worrying about when the SDCC is moving.

    FYI, the bayside Marriott is currently expanding their convention space by a sizable amount which will be completed next year so future cons in San Diego will enjoy more in closed space as well as the convention and city looking at ways to continue to spread the whole thing out.

  6. This article is NOT about moving CCI to Vegas.
    “What follows is not a specific “could CCI-San Diego become CCI-Vegas?” analysis. ”

    Keeping kids out of the casinos: How do they do that now? Security keeps an eye on the traffic, makes sure they don’t stray from the carpeted path each casino has demarcated. (I recall Circus Circus (very family friendly) and MGM Grand both having “fairytale paths”.)

    Yup. Last year, I attended the ALA conference at the end of June. 106F. That’s why I dismissed the LVCC as a site.
    Yes, it’s too damn hot in Las Vegas in the summer. That’s why no one goes there from June-August! Except for those crazy music fans at the Electric Daisy Carnival. And the hordes of tourists on the Strip.

    That’s also why I selected the Mandalay/Luxor/Excalibur site. It’s all connected, you don’t have to step foot outside (there’s a tram), and the overpasses on Tropicana make walking to the other hotels easy. (I recommend grabbing a $1 bottle of water from the vendors as you trek across.)

    From June 2014, Las Vegas Review-Journal:
    “Las Vegas tourism on record pace in June”
    “The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority on Friday reported 3.46 million visitors to Southern Nevada for the month, a 3.1 percent increase from a year earlier. At the halfway point of 2014, Las Vegas is on pace to attract more than 41 million tourists, well ahead of 2012’s record 39.7 million.”
    “The authority also said city hotels had the second-best monthly occupancy rate of the year at 90 percent in June, 2.6 percentage points better than a year earlier.”

    Open container law? You mean people walking around INSIDE with drinks? NYCC and C2E2 (with an official beer) sell light alcoholic drinks onsite. Outside? That’s a matter for the local sheriff.

    Cosplaying? Anchor it at one hotel. I suggested that in the article… each hotel/casino could host a specific fandom via programming. Most cosplay happens near the Dealer Room (where the most traffic is), so that would mean Mandalay Bay.

    Hotels offering rooms to the convention… Don’t they offer a block of rooms for using the convention/meeting space in the hotel? In San Diego, hotels DO set aside rooms, and it’s still a major headache for attendees to get a room! (And good luck finding a room under $100!) (Or trying to park your RV!)

    As for CCI moving, return to the top of the screen and read my prognostication/analysis. CCI gets a SWEETHEART deal to remain in San Diego. Even if the Convention Center never gets enlarged, CCI will remain, so long as they get cheap rent and the hotels are happy to sell rooms at inflated prices to attendees.

  7. OK. You’ve more than adequately shown how there is ample exhibition and hotel space in Las Vegas to support a huge convention. But that’s not the same thing as showing that Las Vegas could/should support a huge *comics* convention.

    I mean, if this article is basically just a logistics exercise to figure out how you could take everything (or more) that San Diego does for Comic-Con and put it in Las Vegas, that’s fine, for what that’s worth.

    But if this exercise (or the conversation it engenders) becomes about whether or not a major Las Vegas comics/pop culture is truly viable, then I’d hope to see answered other kinds of questions that get at the marketplace need for such a show. For instance: Does Las Vegas have a particularly robust local network of comics fans that are underserved by existing local conventions? Is there a time of year in the convention schedule without a major hyper convention that needs to be filled? Those sorts of things.

    There’s got to be more to making a comics convention than just the logistics where to put the show’s elements and lodge attendees. The article is called “How to Stage a Comic-Conglomeration in Vegas.” But if anyone’s ever really going to get the opportunity to work out that “how,” they’ll first have to engage the question: “Why Stage a Comic-Conglomeration in Vegas?”

Comments are closed.