Salt Lake City Comic Con draws 100,000 to a facility that holds 82,000

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The third Salt Lake City Con was held this weekend, and it was by all measures a success, becoming the largest convention in Utah, with a reported 120,000-130,000 people attending. This is up from the 72,000 that attended the first one a year ago and the 100,000 that attended the spring FanX sister event. Stan Lee also said it was the best comic con on earth, so there you go.

This number would, of course, put it in the midst of San Diego Comic-con, New York Comic Con, and Fan Expo Canada as one of the biggest conventions in North America. The growth was not without growing pains, as documented on the show’s Facebook page and in the news:

As was predicted, Saturday proved to be the busiest in Salt Lake Comic Con history, with a line that wrapped around the entire Salt Palace by the 10 a.m. opening.

“The other two days I was in line for an hour and Thursday in line for three hours,” said Layton resident Ryan Bielik.

Convention goers logged serious hours in line Saturday, but what’s a few hours in line when you spent days working on your costume?

According to another report, 100,000 people attended on Saturday alone, leading them to shut down ticket sales, and the fire marshals to briefly step in:

The three-day event was bigger and better than before. Records were broken Saturday as more than 100,000 convention-goers attended the second annual Salt Lake Comic Con, according to event organizers.

Dan Farr, Salt Lake Comic Con founder, said the event had some hiccups.

“Not everything worked perfectly,” he said. “We had a few challenges getting everyone in on the first day because it was much larger than we anticipated.”

Dan Farr said VIP passes sold out a week in advance, and even pre-registration numbers didn’t prepare them for the onslaught of visitors who just showed up to buy day-of tickets.

“We sold out,” Farr said. “We had full capacity in the building for the current set up. We had, from everybody I talked to ,everyone had a great time.”

Without doubting for a minute the excitement and growing audience for this show, many industry observers have expressed doubts over the numbers that SLC Comic Con organizers have been claiming for attendance. Founder Dan Farr explained in a previous email to me that for FanX, children’s attendance was an estimate only. In addition, I’m told that for past shows, tickets given to retailers as promotional giveaways were counted as part of the overall attendance numbers, whether anyone used them or not. UPDATE: SLCC’s Chief Marketing Officer and co-founder Bryan Brandenburg denied this in an email to me.

So how many people were there? Not being on the scene, I can’t tell you, but lets look at some numbers.

First off, here’s some pictures of the show.

The population of Salt Lake City is 189,314. Of course, conventions draw from the outlying metropolitan area, which in SLC’s case is 968,858 according to the 2000 Census. Utah’s population is 2,900,872. By that metric, nearly 1 in 20 Utahans attended the con this weekend.

What about the convention facility, the Salt Palace Convention Center? You can see all the specs for the exhibit halls here. Some of the capacity numbers are misleadingly low however, since they refer to seating capacity.

But according to this convention center information site , the SPCC’s mazimum capacity is 82,052 people. So if 100,000 people did attend in a single day, there were some serious crowding issues.

For comparison’s sake, SPCC has 679,000 sq ft of exhibit and meeting space. The San Diego Convention Center has 615,700 sq ft of exhibit space (that’s halls A-H), a total area of 2,600,000 sq ft and a capacity of 125,000.

Did you go to Salt Lake City Comic Con? Did you have a great time? Do you think there were 100,000 people there? Let us know in the comments.

21 COMMENTS

  1. I wouldn’t believe anything a con organizer says about their own convention. And since the Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret News own the convention along with Farr I probably wouldn’t believe anything they publish about the con either. Those local TV news pieces just repeat the same lines the paper and Farr have been spreading. I would however believe the exhibitors and fans who went to the con and are providing their feedback. But you’ll have to hurry if you want those opinions since negative comments have a habit of getting erased from the Salt Lake City Comic Con’s Facebook page. Here’s a quote from the event that helps sum it up,
    “I love Salt Lake City. They have the best comic con in the world.” -Stan Lee
    “Talk about being proud. When you get that kind of kudos from Stan Lee, you’re doing something right,”
    -Bryan Brandenburg
    Did Stan Lee forget he owns an interest in Stan Lee’s Comikaze?
    I think Salt Lake Comic Con and Comikaze have more in common than just Stan Lee’s accolades. Both are exploitive cons that use the passion of fans for the genre to drive up attendance and get national coverage for their poorly run events. How many poorly run cons with 75k plus people does it to become evident that these are not “growing pains” but in fact just the way the con does business?

  2. Baltimore went at the same time and got much better actual COMICS names. I guess if you wanted pictures with Shatner’s toupee for the fifth time you could’ve gone to SL, though.

  3. SLCC’s numbers are completely shady. Their child “estimate” is way too high and the fact that they count unused retailer tickets should be a serious red flag. Dan Farr only cares about the numbers, and if anyone took just a quick look at their FB page on Thursday the comments were all the same …. No volunteers to help. No signage. No line management. Why? Because these things cost money (signage, volunteer recruitment/training, security) at that would cut into Farr’s profits. This show is just a cash grab and all Farr cares about is the numbers and tooting his own horn. Fan experience means nothing to him once your money is in his pocket.

    Shady numbers, questionable ethics (deleting people’s negative comments), and poor planning. I give Farr 2- 3 years until he sells or folds. Which is probably exactly what he wants in the first place. Get huge numbers and sell a crappy convention to the highest bidding fool.

  4. Okay, the numbers, via Wikipedia:
    SLCC 515,000 square feet
    SDCC 615,700 sq ft
    Javits 840,000 sq ft
    Toronto over 460,000 sq ft (and expanding further?)

    All of these shows use the entire facility.

    Denver CC, in its third year, drew 86,500. It used Halls C,D,E, approximately 278K sq.ft.

    (What’s the metric for event planning? Fire safety? How many sq.ft. per person?)

    So, yeah, I could see these numbers being plausible.
    8 hours to Denver, by car.
    6 hours to Vegas.
    5 hours to Boise.
    So that’s a good regional pull.
    (Toronto pulled a few of my friends from NYC.)

    BTW, there’s also the LDS Conference Center nearby… it seats 21,000.

    The King of Cons?
    Komiket.
    Approximately 600,000. Picture MoCCA Fest on steroids. All exhibitors are amateur publishers selling their limited edition comics.
    Tokyo Big Sight has about 868,000 sq.ft. of exhibition space.

    (And Heidi, I know you’re probably frazzled from Balmer, but there has been another census since 2000. Utah actually gained an electoral vote. 1.14M in SLC, 2.9 M in UT.)

  5. As a long time Denver resident, I would be amazed if this Con pulled any significant numbers from Denver. Its and eight hour drive from Denver with no mountain traffic and, to me, the United States ends at the Colorado border and doesn’t restart until you can buy liquor again.

  6. Just looking at the license plates in the parking lots, people from all over the west were there. Me and my son came from Boise. In lines, I talked to people from Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, Wyoming and even Calgary.
    Thursday and Friday were busy but Saturday was incredible. By noon, the whole Salt Palace was shoulder to shoulder and you were duck walking. We left at 130 because I realized it was getting too crowded to do anything and the holding area for admittance was packed with people streaming in.
    I don’t know how many people were there Saturday but I can tell you you couldn’t see the floor it was jammed with so many people. If there had been and emergency in there, such as a fire, I can’t see how everyone would have made it out. It was absurdly packed.

  7. I’m not surprised by the numbers posted. I attended on Saturday, and the crowd was like something I have never experienced before. There were serious crowding issues, especially at intersections. On one occasion I asked the person in front of me “Did we manage to stop at the back of a line? Or are we just not moving?” and she said “I DON”T KNOW ANYMORE!” The crowds did make it difficult to see everything or to travel from one end to another. When we left at 4:30 they weren’t letting anyone in because the fire marshal closed entrances for a short while because they had exceeded capacity. All in all, we really enjoyed it. We pre-registered so we walked right in in the morning with no line. We planned ahead what was most important to see and managed to check everything off and get in a few extra things as well. Last year was far less crowded, though.

  8. I covered SLCC this year and last for my podcast, as invited and credentialed press.
    I also cover Denver Comic Con, not only as press but as a moderator and host as well.

    I live in Colorado but when you are invited to another con, who can pass it up?

    I can honestly say, experiencing both cons within 2ish months of each other – SLCC was just under double the amount of people.

    SLCC made sure to widen the aisles to accommodate more foot traffic, even then you were in a shoulder to shoulder sea of people. From the lines to get into main events to just the downright chaos of the con floor, I honestly have no doubts attendance was 100k +

    and to those who say Denver keeps the Coloradans happy… Let me just say there is a huge difference in quality and guests when you compare a non-profit con versus a for profit con, so saying people from CO may not make the drive is a tad bit silly.

  9. Apparently they are now claiming that attendance went up to 20% after the show ended… By the way Chris F, I may be a tad silly, but I’m also right…

    http://fox13now.com/2014/09/08/comic-con-draws-mostly-local-crowds-officials-say/

    Unless you’d like to contend that the massive crowds from Denver all stayed in their cars…I’m going to say the thing that everybody commenting on this post should too… The organizers are LYING! LYING! It’s great that they have a nice con in SLC, but these guys are allergic to the truth…

  10. You are all a bunch of Bloody Idiots. Your just jealous about the Salt Lake Comic Con being better than all of your Local Cons. I am from Idaho and I went and it was awesome. 95% of all the attendees had a great time and all the celebrities who went loved the event and the fans. You can cross check the different celebrates and their facebook and twitter pages with the comments if you like. Its a great event and its just going to get better. There is no other con in the united states that has done better in their second year than Salt Lake Comic Con has.

  11. What you fail to realize Brammerhammer23, if that is your real name, when somebody lies about their attendance like this it drives up table prices, ticket prices and, once it is widely reported, causes a huge black eye to the industry as a whole. I’m sure everybody had a great time at the show, but its frustrating to those of us, who are dealers and comic shop owners, when you can’t trust the attendance figures promoters put out there.

  12. Wait… Brammerhammer23? You aren’t the one of the show’s co-founders are you? Because your user name is very similar to the last name of one of the show’s founders…

  13. I went to Salt Lake Comic Con and it was awesome. I went all three days. There was a lot of people but it wasn’t overly crowded. It was easy to see the schedules for the panels and such because of the Salt Lake Comic Con app. It was great.

  14. Craig-

    I never said the entire state of CO came out to SLCC

    I just said the notion of no one making the drive from CO to SLC because we have our own con is silly.

    In fact, I met 20+ people from CO and Cheyenne (Closer to Denver then SLC) while I was at Con, not huge numbers but if I met that many people just wandering, how many more were there?

    Also I don’t want anyone to think I was bashing on Denver. I LOVE Denver Comic Con and their mission statement – but they have a purpose to donate their funds to helping kids, so they don’t have as big of a budget for as many celebs, but typically the celebs they do get are quality but a lot of times quantity (SLC) will beat out quality (DEN)

  15. Why would anybody believe a word that Dan Farr says? When I was first alerted to the chaos of SLCC’s Thursday lines, their Facebook page was exploding with negative comments. Within hours, some of the comments started “disappearing.” These comments did not contain foul language or break and of FB’s code of conduct, they simply showed SLCC in a less than flattering light and Farr wanted them gone. This Draconian like social media strategy continued all weekend, with SLCC’s social media manager Amanda deleting unflattering comments while simultaneously posting to her own personal Twitter how the long lines were the attendee’s faults “for not planning ahead” and making snide remarks about their “horrible fans.”

    That’s neither here nor there, but what concerns me is that anyone can take what SLCC says as truth, when they are carefully handcrafting their Facebook page to ensure that those who are the most vocal are being blocked and comments about miss-management are being removed. This practice is so shady and unethical.

    The tip of the iceberg was when one of their own exhibitors write a very polite article with suggestions for improvement, and they DELETED IT from their page! It was a wonderfully written article that really gave them some constructive feedback, but instead of listening to what he had to say they silenced him. Farr and his cronies do not want to face that their show has problems, because they got the numbers they needed. That is all that matters to them. Fan experience is nowhere on their radar.

    Check out this great blog that SLCC wants silenced and remember that anyone who has to hide fan feedback is likely hiding something much larger. Honesty and truth do not matter to Farr and Co ….. it’s all about cramming people into the Salt Palace so they can “beat” San Diego.

    http://www.beanleafpress.com/?p=7988

  16. Hi, Heidi. As a guest at the con I wouldn’t be surprised if the Saturday attendance were 100,000. It was very cramped, & clearly more than the building was designed for. By the time they closed Thursday night they had to promise registration would continue until everyone already in line was registered, though I wouldn’t know whether that was because the lines were very long or the registration process was very slow or both, but Friday attendance was significantly enough greater than Thursday’s that I felt compelled to ask whether it was a state holiday. (Thursday was relatively calm until 5PM or so, when attendance seemed to have jumped.)

    I have no solid information on what the numbers amounted to. On one hand it was an extremely well organized convention, from a pro’s perspective. Getting from airport to hotel, with help from volunteers, was the smoothest I’ve ever encountered at any convention. They had an app for general information & daily updates that was very well designed, something San Diego should consider. Volunteers were, for the most part, very pleasant. On the other hand, nobody seemed to know where anything was. Trying to find the show check-in on Wednesday night became a snipe hunt, as everyone from the convention had a different answer & all of them were wrong. (Ultimately I was told to go to the place where I had started, but instead left it for the morning, when it was a snap.) The convention hall was weirdly marked, with aisles 500-1600 clearly labeled, which was great until you went looking for Steve Lieber in row 1700 or Art Adams (who may not have been there; I never saw him, nor did anyone I know) in row 300. Artists Alley was color coded for reasons no one could figure out. The volunteers I queried for directions were all very nice & as helpful as they could be, but obviously had not had much orientation since virtually no one knew where anything was.

    From my perspective, it was a pretty decent con. But I don’t sell at cons, so I have no financial requirements of them & don’t know how things were from that angle. They treated me well, & it turns out I have quite a few fans in Utah & surrounding areas (I described the group as sporadic but grateful; it wasn’t an endless flood but I wasn’t bored) who were thrilled I’d made it to the area. The show, though, has organizational problems to straighten out. Good green room too.

  17. I’m shocked to see such vitriol against an up and coming comic con, in the comments and to a lesser degree the headline. We are supposed to be a better community than this.

    They haven’t done everything right but that doesn’t mean that everything the organizers say is a lie or that no one comes from out of state.

    Oh, and Salt Lake Comic Con isn’t the only con deleting posts they don’t like, although they do seem to have done more of it than others. The gold standard of cons CCI has been guilty of the same thing.

  18. My daughter and I drove from Seattle to attend this Con for all 3 days. We’ve attended several other Cons in the past including Emerald City Comicon and Calgary’s Fan Expo/Comic Con. Before this Con, Calgary was our favorite.
    My opinion is that this one was better organized and enjoyable than even Calgary’s. Thursday seemed to be the emptiest day and the most productive. We were able to meet and get autographs from 5 celebrities in the first hour alone. Quite a difference from Seattle where we were waiting an hour or two in line for just one celebrity. We waited 15 minutes in line to get our photograph with Kevin Sorbo and had the 8 x 10 photo handed to us 2 minutes later. For comparison, Seattle took 3 hours waiting in line to pick up our photo (not counting the time before for taking the photo). So yes, SLC gets major kudos for having their act together in this area.
    Saturday was the wild day. I looked out our hotel window and saw the ticket line all the way down the street and around the corner. Did they get 100,000 visitors that day? Very possible. I’ve never seen so many people at a convention in the past. It was almost impossible to get from one end of the convention center to the other. Overall, this was the largest Comic Con that I have ever attended.

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